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Collective Support Letter for Ryan Clover

Collective Support Letter for Ryan Clover

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Published by greencircleas
Document containing many lies being disseminated by Julian Drix and others in support of Ryan "Clover" Owens.
Document containing many lies being disseminated by Julian Drix and others in support of Ryan "Clover" Owens.

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Published by: greencircleas on Mar 21, 2014
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03/27/2014

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Those of us who wrote and signed this letter are publicly standing with and supporting Ryan Clover, who is  being targeted by a character assassination campaign against his organizing, his music, and his job. We are friends and comrades who have known, worked with, and organized with Ryan for many years. We vouch for his character and know without a doubt that the things he’s being accused of are false and are based on lies and slander. Ryan is someone who truly walks the talk and is dedicated to building strong movements and supporting leadership in others. He is one of the most self-reflective white men we have worked with and is known for holding himself and others accountable, politically and interpersonally. Beginning in summer/fall 2013 and through the winter of 2014, an insular group of people in the Ithaca area has been attacking Ryan’s character and reputation. They are manipulating and abusing the language of anti-racism and transformative/restorative justice and disrupting organizing efforts across the country, including projects that Ryan is not involved in. Specific accusations change form depending on the audience, but this group has accused Ryan of:
“being a known white supremacist”, “known to attack women of color”, “consolidating power and not supporting the leadership of others”, “avoiding an accountability process”, and “refusing to acknowledge his privilege.”
 These accusations are untrue, have no foundation, and disrespect the realities of women of color who have been attacked within organizing circles. We are alarmed, not only by the false accusations against Ryan, but also by the problematic use of  privilege politics by his accusers. In a letter written by Chris, a “queer white cis guy currently living in Ithaca,” he writes to a visiting band asking them to boycott and cancel a show scheduled with Ryan. Chris speaks on behalf of an unnamed “group of people” accusing Ryan of a “long series of manipulative actions” and asserting that Ryan is “acting in oppressive ways to perpetuate patriarchy and white supremacy in our community.” We find this interesting, since in his letter Chris admits that he is a newcomer to Ithaca, had only met Ryan once or twice, and yet feels entitled to represent “our community” to touring out of town musicians. Chris also tells this band that, “Ryan Clover was the main actor in forcing out a queer person of color collective member into a homeless situation.” Chris was not part of the collective and not present during the incidents he refers to, but bases his letter on the assumption that Ryan had the intention and power to force someone out of the house. Ryan was never a homeowner, and was in the process of moving out of the rental house – the landlady decided not to rent to his accusers after meeting them to review the lease. Without speaking with Ryan, and refusing to discuss the details with other collective members as well, they blamed Ryan, destroyed his furniture and paintings, wrote accusations on items throughout the house, and began spreading stories that Ryan was responsible for what happened.
 
So what is going on here? Who is helping to spread these untruths and why? For example, in his letter Chris is doing his (privileged white cis man) best to prove that he is the quintessential white ally. He’s using privilege politics to cleanse himself of his own racism by condemning Ryan as a white supremacist. This is what tokenization looks like, and frankly we’ve seen this dynamic happening across many leftist or radical communities. These are the kinds of actions that were established and used by COINtelPRO in the 70s, and the effect is to spread distrust and disrupt organizing. In the case of what is happening to Ryan, we recognize this as an example of people trying their best (or not) to develop their critical race or gender politics, but referring to theories and big words to hide the fact that they likely do not have authentic and accountable relationships within communities and movements. This is based on white supremacy and patriarchy, and in the end the people who get harmed are women and  people of color. Rather than organizing to dismantle the systems that create privileges in the first place,
 
this privilege-politics, oppression-olympics nonsense creates dynamics where white people are meant to confess the sins of their privilege, judge the privileges of others, and strive to present themselves as the most oppressed as possible–the purest of allies. These dynamics exist because of white guilt and racism. What we have here is a situation where anti-racism is being used to maintain White supremacy and the very structures of oppression Ryan’s accusers claim to fight: dismantling Ryan, an ally and an organizer replaces the real work while providing the illusion of progress. The language of restorative/Transformative Justice is for us, particularly for women and queer folks of color. When you abuse this language you make it difficult for the rest of us to develop and maintain accountability processes within our own organizing circles. In other words, leave your white guilt at the door, or deal with it on your own time, and don’t think you can  become “cleansed” of it or score “ally points” by being the loudest condemner of someone else. Actively dismantling community and organizing efforts does not make you an ally. And if you’re a person of color in majority white spaces or organizing circles, be careful of allowing yourself to be that tokenized voice that depends on an army of “white allies” to uphold and verify your  political identity. In the end, these white allies can walk away at any moment and you will be left looking like the (isolated) “crazy” woman of color who stirred up all this drama. See? White people still win, even when they’re attacking one another. Andrea Smith, co-founder of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, wrote an article on this titled “The Problem with Privilege,” criticizing the individual privilege  politics based on identity confessions. (see: http://andrea366.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/the-problem-with- privilege-by-andrea-smith/) She writes:
 
“It was never quite clear what the point of these confessions were… It did not appear that these individual confessions actually led to any political projects to dismantle the structures of domination that enabled their privilege. Rather, the confessions became the political  project themselves… The goal became not to actually end oppression but to be as oppressed as possible. These rituals often substituted confession for political movement-building.” What is happening here is a classic example of what she saw happening elsewhere. This is a real problem, and it is a problem that  blocks, not builds movements. Through this recent conflict, we have gained an even deeper sense of Ryan Clover’s integrity as we’ve witnessed him experience this character assassination. Despite having someone demand that he leave the Earth First! Organizers Conference in Florida, despite having his grandmother’s furniture smashed and the words Patriarchal White Supremacist written on his things, and despite having a letter sent asking for a  band to remove him from a bill – Ryan has held true to his anti-racist and anti-sexist values. Even through this conflict he continues to be self-reflective and intentional in his response, refusing to play into discrediting the people who are accusing him. After travelling all the way to Florida for the Earth First! gathering, he voluntarily left so as not to escalate a situation with one person and thereby allow this individualized conflict to disrupt the whole gathering. We are not saying that Ryan, or anyone, is perfect. We have known him to make mistakes in the past, and we have called him out. But he always responds authentically and responsibly, treating mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow. Because of this record and history of honesty and accountability that we have experienced first hand, we know that the allegations against him are not true. Ryan has never been the kind of person who insists on proving himself as a white ally – he just lives the  politics in humble and real ways, and we appreciate him for that. Beyond that, he is doing some vitally important organizing work on the rural frontlines of fracking and is meeting rural white folks where they are at to help them develop a holistic anti-racist political consciousness through the anti-fracking struggle.

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