Monday, October 26, 2009

Gratitude

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.

2 comments:

Hystery said...

Jeanne,

I'd love to tell you all about my experiences teaching my courses with an emphasis on social class. I'd love it more if you could be there. It is frustrating to feel resistance or incomprehension coming even from students I know to be working class students to the idea that class can even be an issue.

Nashville Friends Meeting said...

I'd love to hang out with you! I just returned from a trip to Indiana to visit my extended family who are wonderful, intelligent, loving people and working-class to the bone. I love them and love to spend time with them. The whole time I'm with them, though, the question that keeps running through my head is, "how did I wind up who I am?!". They are all fundamentalist evangelical Christians who have very conservative social and political values (Al Gore bashing is a favorite activity).
I enjoy foreign films and NPR. I don't watch tv and READ instead! But I also love roller-derby and punk music (how totally unQuakerly and decidedly not middle-aged middle class).

You've raised my awareness about so many things I've taken for granted my whole life and helped me deconstruct so many assumptions I've accepted as I've "moved up" in the world. I was talking with my 14 y/o last night about how glad I've been to be able to guide him and his brothers to question what society presents to them as correct or "right". It may be exhausting to always critique things but I'm very happy that my kids don't follow without knowing who they are and how they fit--they choose for themselves. You have certainly helped me to see our chosen religion with fresh eyes and in doing so, you're helping me to slowly, slowly find ways to communicate an outsiders perspective to my spiritual community (as well as my son's school community). Girlfriend,if I'm a drop in your river, float on!

with love,
Mary Linda