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.