by Alex Smith
December 26, 2012
THE ESSENTIALS OF ADVOCACY
1. Understand that oppressed minorities have complete say in how their
freedom from this oppression will be won. COMPLETE. Their bodies, souls,
and minds are being bombarded DAILY. Only they can say how this war
against oppression should be fought. Anything else is in direct
opposition to this pursuit of freedom.
2. When an oppressed
minority is speaking about issues of oppression, you listen, you don’t
“debate”. This isn’t a game of one-up-manship, this is your chance to
further your education, which in turn will further your advocacy.
3. Advocacy isn’t about getting everything “right” or trying so hard
not to be contradictory. There are many overlapping issues involving
race, gender, class, sexuality, ableism. There’s no point in trying to
line everything all up in a row into some kind of “belief system”.
There’s enough systems out there. The only thing that matters is that
oppressed minorities are SAFE from oppression and that they have the
tools to free themselves from this oppression. Further, and this is
really important: Don’t challenge oppressed people by saying, “but what
about this group doing this?” because that is venturing far, far away
from the point, and that point is THAT YOU ARE IGNORANT AND NEED TO BE
4. Give up some of the tools that will lead towards
freedom from oppression! Jesus, even the dumpster-divingest lowly white
punk rockers can manage to carve out space, to find resources, to put
on shows for bands where 8924234 people attend in this system. Why not
put on a workshop for free? Or just give oppressed people your tools and
money to help build their own communities in their own way? Why is it
so hard to donate your money and your actual, physical time to
communities that advocate for freedom of the oppressed? Understand, if
those same packed out basement shows or even the Occupy movement
featured mostly people of color, the city would have a serious problem.
Use your privilege to help.
5. Don’t expect to be educated by a
person your privilege oppresses. The oppressed classes of people have
better shit to do than to dredge up years of emotional, messed up stuff
in order to help you to process something you might not even be thinking
about in a serious way. If you’re white, don’t seek out arguments or
conversations with black people looking for answers. VOLUMES have been
written about the subject. Read one of them. (And read them with
openness and not your usual, privileged, sheltered “defenses”).
6. Understand anger; be angry WITH them. Don’t internalize any harsh
words, especially if you’re not in any immediate threat. If an oppressed
minority says something that seems to generalize the face of their
oppressor, don’t internalize it but examine how the systemic nature of
it impacts their daily lives. Remember, you have the power to simply
ignore it. Undoubtedly you won’t experience this feeling again for
awhile, but every time you do, understand that this is how oppressed
minorities feel everyday, multiple times a day, all of their lives.
7. As well, understand ways that you *are* contributing to systemic,
unconscious, or even, yes, outright oppression.; because, trust me, you
*are* doing it. DON’T LET YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK! Keep and sustain a
general level of consciousness and realize that years of this can’t be
undone in an instant.
8. Be a vocal advocate. Challenge
people in your position of privilege on their stuff, even if it makes
you uncomfortable to do so. It doesn’t mean getting all indignant, but
why claim to be an advocate if you won’t actually speak up? If someone
who shares your privileged class says something out of line, grow a
spine and calmly explain why this isn’t cool. Your attempts at educating
someone in a similar position of privilege, for instance white people
calling out other white people, is the best way you can “fight racism”
or any other ism.
This isn’t a definitive list. Advocacy and
allyship never end. For the record, I’m speaking about the nature of the
relationship of white people to people of color; men to women;
heterosexual identified to gay/queer folks; cisgendered to
transgendered; abled to differently abled. You get the point, so don’t
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