Monday, October 26, 2009


I just finished a training for trainers (through Training for Change, an organization started by George Lakey) and learned a lot about leading workshops, especially where my growing edge is and how to grow my skill.

The 20-person group was somewhat diverse and filled with very passionate people working for social change. The workshop is actually called "Training for Social Action Trainers." The majority of the group could have walked into a Quaker meeting, and most Friends would not have thought they were out of place.

This fine group of people were respectful about gender and race, giving lots of room to people of color, and acknowledging the fact that we were overwhelmingly female. It was the first time I was in a workshop where men did not act like they owned the room, and where people of color got lots of floor time. But there was no mention of social class except when I brought it up (which wasn't often).

We had a diversity evening, but all that seemed to be discussed openly was race, as if diversity was code for race. We did one exercise about being mainstream and outside the mainstream, and then another where small groups did skits to demonstrate aspects of the mainstream to the rest of the workshop participants, who had to figure out what we were trying to portray about the mainstream. I strongly encouraged my group to do a skit specifically around social class, and we did so. Others tried to do things around gender and race. The list we made as we talked about what was trying to be portrayed was all about social class.

No one, including me, named it as such, though.

I kept myself from saying as much as I would have liked around social class because I knew we were there this weekend to learn workshop leader skills, not hash out issues of oppression. Even my workshop "buddy" Demetria (assigned the beginning of the weekend) noticed that I was censoring myself a lot.

It was hard being in a room of very bright, passionate, well-intentioned people who mostly have no conscious clue about social class. It made me feel profoundly grateful for all of you, people who read my blog, people who want to be an ally, the growing group of people from my meeting who support me.

When I started on this social class journey, I thought I would find a river of people moving toward economic and class justice. I thought I'd find people farther along the journey willing to be a light, and people who are in the same place I am, and people behind me, pushing me forward.

I thought I'd find a community similar to the one when I realized the depth to which the patriarchy had impacted my life. I thought I'd find a built-in, ready-made group of people to socialize with and commiserate with like I'd found when I came out of the closet as lesbian.

But it's lonely out here.

I can't hang out with working class people because I'm too brainy. I listen to NPR and watch PBS. I like films in foreign languages with subtitles. I don't end sentences with prepositions. I can't hang out with people who grew up poor or working class but are now middle class because I have some traits they've learned to disdain, and because I'm challenging the system that bestowed privilege onto them. And when I'm in a room full of aware and passionate activists who see race clearly but don't see social class, I see how truly solitary I am.

I realized this weekend that you're my river, pushing me forward. You're my community of support. You're helping me carry this light to the world.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Quakers & The New Yorker EDITED!

There have been two instances recently when Quakers were mentioned in The New Yorker.

First there was an article about Carrie Fisher in The Talk of the Town where it mentioned she dated one of the producers of Star Wars, a Quaker named Gary Kurtz. I've wondered for a long time about whether my attraction to Quakerism is connected to my love of Star Wars and its "theology", so I did a little research. Turns out Kurtz had some influence on the series. In an interview here, the author implies as such:

"Mark had said to me that there was a lot of agonizing going on between Gary Kurtz and Lucas over the amount of violence that was in the film. And I think, as I remember correctly, what Hamill was saying was that there was a lot of Quaker influence. Now I don't know whether Lucas was a Quaker or whether it was Gary Kurtz , but there was a spiritual basis for this film and they were concerned that the non-violence message that they were trying to get across was going to be compromised by a lot of the shoot 'em ups that were going on. The reason why I mention this was I think these guys were really very unusual in what they were trying to do with their motion picture making. I think they really had a vision of the world which was pure. They wanted to present some kind of legend looking ahead into the future. It really was some reflection of good vs. evil, not seeing it very simply as good being interior and evil being exterior. We all as human beings are wrestling with it inside ourselves. Like the relationship between Skywalker and Vader. The thing that I really did feel was that there was, going back to what I said earlier, the way in which they handled people in that production, they looked after their people very, very well. To me that's the essence of great leadership and creative ability. I give them full credit. Definitely they were talking about a spiritual dimension and trying to come up with a non-violent message."

I don't think it was the non-violence message that came across to me, but the sense that there's something that connects us all, and if we only quiet our minds and hearts, we can hear it...

Yeah, I know. What does that have to do with social class?

It doesn't. But the next mention does.

In the September 28th issue, Briefly Noted mentions a biography of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Penn State professor Lori D. Ginzberg. The book apparently makes connections between Cady Stanton, and modern feminism's problems with social class and race.

An abolitionist more out of political convenience than conviction, she not only abandoned the movement for black male suffrage after the Civil War to focus on white women’s suffrage but increasingly made vitriolic attacks on immigrants, the working class, and African-Americans in her writing and speeches. The consequences of Stanton’s racism and √©litism were “deep and hurtful,” Ginzberg says, and she attributes the continuing difficulty of incorporating race and class differences into gender politics, in large part, to Stanton’s mixed legacy.

Ginzberg writes about two issues that impact me personally, sexism and classism, and therefore I am most passionate about. I can't wait to read this one. I just hope it's not too heady for me. I found the last New Yorker Briefly Noted book about Quakers too academic and inaccessible

EDIT NOTE: This was a big mistake--Cady Stanton wasn't Quaker!!! Why didn't any of you tell me this? I'd assumed that she was. Mistakenly. Sorry for that.