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STUDENT HANDOUT

Exploring
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Eco-Privilege
that applies
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My family has or could, if we wanted ro, buy energy efficient products to reduce our home energy consumption energy star appliances). (i.e.: compact fluorescent lightbulbs, low How shower heads, or
to,

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My fiunily docs or could, if we decided
panels or mini-wind

generate our own clccrriciry by installing
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solar in my

turbines on our propen)'. wind turbines
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3
4

I often sec homes and businesses with solar panels or
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borhood. a local store
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it is f~ljrJ.y c:tsy for me LO find organic food and fresh produce (I can go and assume that these products arc carried, or 1 call go specifically for the purpose of buying org-anic food).
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a stone ill .my neighborhood
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.lfl wanted

I could pay the extra rnoney

to

purchase an orgauic product

"conventionally

grown product.

.J 'here arc rcsta u rants near my place of residence rha t have 0 rgan j c food on the III en LI. My farni.ly, frimds, or neighbors have invested in hybrid, bio-diesel, vcggle-niJ, en other
vchi clcs rha t run on alterna ci ve fuels. My city has invested in alternative fuel vehicles for public transportation ci ry vehicles. and!or official

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If I want, I can fairly easily find wheat-free food, natural skin products, sugar alternatives, raw foods, and susrainably co ffte, organic co rton/hernp). harvested. products (i.e.: bamboo cutting boards, fair-trade

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10 Upon finding these products, I could afford to purchase them. 11 If we wanted to, my family could parricipate ina green power pricing program or purchase

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green tags

to

offset our carbon emissions. having to get on a waiting list at a

12 I have been inside of a certified "green building"

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If J wanted to, I could grow my own food without
community

garden.
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I have access could (if

groups of people that are actively engaged in "susrainability" issues, and

J wanted) participare in groups that discuss buying local, goi ng carbon neutral,
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reducing our community's "eco-footprinr, " etc. I am semi-regularly or regularly invited conferences, lectures, etc. attend eco friendly functions
- workshops,

16 People in my family or group of friends/acquaintances
can affol'd and find organic cotton, hemp clothing,

talk about or would know what or ocher susrainably harvested

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greenhouse gases are, what climate change is, and why alternative fuels are important. materials if I want to.

18 TO am a woman: I can afford to purchase organic feminine products (it. tampons/pads/
gladrags/ keepers/ erc.) member to teach me about gray

D 19 If I wanted to, I could find a neighbor or community water sySTems or composnng.
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~i'l RECLAIM rA'JIUu! FUTURE

continued ~>

STUDENT HANDOUT

Al VI 'f

ExpiOrifl

1

Eco-Privilage

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20 There is a center nearby that offers resources and education for sustainable healthy communities
and ceo-systcms.

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21 And if so,

that

material is available in my family's primary language. that I live in and access a natural setrll1g (mountains,
to my

22 1 can easily leave the urban environmcur

lake, forest, beach), or J live close to these places already,

23 24

lliveiwork

in an environment

[hal is not toxic garden" rs

health.

There are trees and greenery in my neighborhood.
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D 25 j\·lycommuniry's "cornmuniry
or bulldozed. D

in da.nger of being sold, raken back bYr rhe owner, s)[stcms.

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26 My 27 My
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family has easy access to dean water and/or can uff()[d purificarion/filrrarion family has access to a safe, green, open, recreational space near my home.
related to [he air

arn no! at risk for asthma or other health complications

quality of my

neighhorhood.

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I have easy and consisrenr access to recycling (which includes: batteries, computer pans, and
waste oils in addition

to paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum).
sranon or pollution

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30 ;'v'1y 31 My

ci ry or com mun i l'y provides green waste, mulch, and cornposring services. horne is not next to a waste transfer

producing industry.

'< Please note: The temp/tile fin thi., Ii.,t WII" ill,pired by Dr. Peggy Mclntosbs groundlm'tlking piece enrided, "White Prh"ilc'ge: Unpacking the 11m/sible Knapsacl: "

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"4£ the FUTU RE

~JI' ECLAIM R

(From Handbook :for Nonviolent Action, published by theWar Resisters League) We jive in the wealthiest country in the world, but the greatest percentage of that wealth is in the hands of a tiny percentage of the population. It is environmentally and technically possible for everyone to enjoy a good standard of living if wealth were redistributed, exploitation ceased and the arms race abandoned. The inequitable distribution of wealth prevents the whole society from enjoying the full benefits of people's labor, intelliqence and creativity and causes great misery for working class and poor people. I Classism is the systematic oppression of poor people and people who work for wages by those who have access to control of the necessary resources by which other people make their living. Classism is also held in place by a system of beliefs which ranks people according to economic status, "breeding," job and level of education. Classism says that upper class people are smarter and more articulate than working class and poor people. It is a way of keeping people down, it means uppermiddle class and wealthy people define for everyone else what "normal" or "acceptable" is. Many of us have come to accept this standard as the norm and many of us have bought the myth that most of the country is middle class. Criteria for determining class identity is subject to debate, being variously defined by origins, workforce status, income and/or outlook. For example, some consider all who derive their income from wages members of the working class; others exclude that I percentage of the workforce which constitutes the professionals and managers whose incomes are high enough to provide a stake in the capitalist system. Depending on the breadth of one's definition, 70-85% of the population can be considered working class. This is true despite the fact that the individuals themselves might identify as or with the middle class. These individuals, however, are not beneficiaries of middle class privileges. Class affects people not only on an economic level, but also on an emotional level. Classist attitudes have caused great pain by dividing people from one another and keeping individuals from personal fulfillment or the means to survive. Consequently, the process of rejecting such attitudes and their accompanying misinformation is an emotional one. Since people tend to hurt each other because they themselves have been hurt, and since most forms of oppression are accompanied by economic discrimination, class overlaps with many other social issues, all of which move as w1e unravel how we've been hurt. The stereotype is that poor and working class people are unintelligent, inarticulate Jnd "overly emotional." A good ally (a non-working-class committed supporter) will contradict these messages by soliciting the knowledge and histories of poor working class people, being a thoughtful listener, trying to understand what is being said, and

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not criticizing how the message is being presented or responding with automatic defensiveness. Distrust despair and anger are common consequences of oppression: it is the test of a true ally to remain undeterred when these flare up and to refrain frorh withdrawing support at such. points. When targets of oppression believe the lies about ourselves, we are "internalizing our oppression." To begin to undo the damage caused by classism, it is useful for everyone to examine our own feelings about money, I education, privilege, power, relationships, culture and ethnicity. This advice applies to organizations as well.

For general discussion:
As a movement, who are we and who are we trying to reach in terms of class? How? To whom do our literature and events appeal? How are poor people's needs being me:t in our organizing? What steps are being taken to change people's attitudes about classism? Are poor and Third World people invited to participate in organization planning? What is being done to reach and involve organized and unorganized workers? What are we doing to support poor, workingdass and people of color in their struggles? I The Situation for poor and workingclass people in our movement and

organization:
Is classisrn evident in who does what work in the organization? Are poor and workingclass people tacilitators, spokespeople and/or media contacts and leaders, land not just relegated to cleanup crews and collating mailings? Are organizing expenses paid upfront, or promptly reimbursed?

Meetings and events:
Make meetings and events known and accesssible to poor and workingclass people. Be aware of how the length, time and frequency of meetings affects full-time workers, especially those who parent. Arrange for transportation. Routinely provide childcare and sliding scales. Ask people what they need to be able to attend meetings and events. How does income-level and dass composition affect the development of resourcesl the dates of demonstrations, the levels of commitment and power working people can tl1ave, the events sponsored? What are the cultural offerings? Who are the speakers and enterta iners? Process: Make sure that process isn't actually being used to tell poor and working class people how to behave by "proper" etiquette. Is consensus being used so that decisions favor those who can stay the longest, oJ who are used to getting their own way and will block to do so?

Watch that group hugs and rituals are not imposed--allow people to interact with eich other in whatever ways feel comfortable to them. Civjl disobedience (CD): Does class determine who is able and who is unable to commit civil disobedience?' How can we make it economically possible for those who want to commit CD to do so? How do we keep CD from being a movement privilege, with activists who can afford to t$lIy arrest counts granted subsequently more political prestige? How do those who arel arrested relate to the regular prison population (taking into account how class figures in their treatment)?

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Be aware of how police are dealing with people of color, gay, lesbian, and known I movement people during arrest situations. Be prepared to come to the aid of anyone who has been singled out by the police and may be receiving harsher treatment than others. Realize that during the booking process questions that are being asked to determtne whether or not people can be released on their own recognizance, are particularly I discriminatory. These questions concentrate on your economic, social, sexual and prior arrest standing. I Realize that bail is the most blatant example of classism. Those who have money get out of jail--those who don't stay in. . I -tiom articles by Donna Warnock and Laura Briggs

Elitist Language
by Peter Gelderloos The problem of elitist language often comes up when people from a middle-class, university-educated background attempt to communicate with "the general public" If those attempting the communication are engaged in a commercial venture, they can simply dumb their language down to the common denominator shared by the median target audience, perhaps appropriate some of that audience's slang and cultural symbols, and they are assured of a good sell.

However, if the motive is more altruistic, for instance that of middle-class activists attempting to communicate with activists from other backgrounds, or to share information, resources, and opinions with some General Public, the problem becomes more complicated. For good reason and with plenty of I history, the language of academia, with which many middle-class activists are comfortable, can alienate or confound people who did not receive an advanced university education. Yet the problems of our {vorld from patriarchy to imperialism are systemic pathologies that demand serious effort and attention to I comprehend. And directly opposed to our comprehension of Ihese problems is an unprecedentedly powerful cultural apparatus that manipulates our values, our ideology, our history, even our langua~e in order 10 protect the status quo. How can we explain complex, obscure ideas in a simple language which is already heavily controlled by the culture industry conveyed in brief and easily digestible segments sensitive to The General Public's decreasing attention spans?

I think the obvious answer is that we can't. We need to recognize that language in our society is used as a tool of control, and the trend towards smaller vocabularies, simpler syntax, and shorter attention spans is one of the most effective forms of disempowerment ever devised. Resisting the dumbing down of language and developing our ability to think critically is as important a long term goal as winning community autonomy and economic self-sufficiency. Language needs to be a locus for revolution; i~is a necessary weapon for all social struggles. Our duty as middle-class activists is to use our education to make complex language accessible, rather than passing off everything not immediately accessed With ease by the majority as inherently inaccessible.

But to return from the consideration of the theoretical long haul and face the present context, there is substantial validity to the criticisms about inaccessible language. These have all been stated elsewhere, and they generally involve recognizing that thorough education is a privilege retained by few (predominantly the white middle class), and that by speaking in the sophisticated language that accompanies our education we inhibit the comprehension and sympathy of those without that education, and intentionally or unintentionally preserve influence within radical organizations and movements irt the hands of the educated elite. Turned into doctrine, this criticism is usually (mis)understood at the basic level that long words and complex sentences are indicative of privilege, and privilege is bad. Lacking from the popularized version of this criticism is the understanding that while the existence of privilege is wrong, there is a good kind of privilege: one Ihat should be enjoyed by everyone Education is one of thesl.

If the underlying goal of these criticisms were to challenge elitism in language, then we'd see a conscious combination of language of greater and lesser sophistication in radical literature, so every literate person would have material both within and beyond, their level of comfortable apprehension, to welcome them and challenge them. We would see privileged activists consciously using their language in a way that invites understanding. In reality, we either see educated radicals ignore the problem and ignore less educated segments of their potential audience, or attempting to avoid the problem through a knee-jr,rk avoidance of polysyllabic vocabulary, complex analysis, and thorough (read: lengthy) discourse. Education is anathematized as bourgeois, or in more current parlance, ?exclusive,? and instead of

solving the problem, activists join sides with Fox News, USA Today, and public schooling, to contribute to the intellectual massacre of people they are supposed to be empowering.

To inform a tactical consideration of elitist language, we should consider some of the assumptions inhering in the criticism against such language One of the most fundamental is the myth of the Genieral Public. It goes like this: the General Public are uneducated, and using big words alienates them. Bul where exactly do we draw the line between what is elitist and what is not? Do most people use the \~ord elitist? Oh gosh is the word elitist itself elitist? What about writing? Granted, most people in the. U st are literate, bu, ma ny are not, through no fault of th eir 0, wn. Is writi ng I,hings down elitist? Shou I,dactiv istS not t make up pamphlets and fliers any more? I! certainly excludes people who can't read In a very I condescending way, educated activists are setting a level of acceptable stupidity; even as they reject academic language, they uphold the elitist morality by retaining a hierarchy of intelligence, and theylwill only go so far down the ladder in order to cater to the less educated. Anyone who is still excluded is simply left out of their conceptualization of normal people.

The effect of the General Public myth is that when we leave our bubbles, most activists talk down to people they assume don'! have a university education, and in practice the easiest cue is if the aUdidnce is poor, or not while. J think many activists aren't even aware of how condescending they usually are, ~nd how obvious it is when they attempt to speak a language that clearly isn't their own. Then they turn around and talk about elitism?

A prohibition on what is understood as elitist language also assumes thai people from poorer backgrounds with fewer opportunities for quality education either cannot or do not want to learn . In reality, attaining a good education is seen as a form of empowerment in many poorer communities, yet fewi activists. attempt to diffuse that :ducat~on when .communicating ;",ith less pr!vileged ~eople. By a~oi~ing academic language and analysis outside of their own Circles, privileged activists maintain a retationshipof dependency, in which they act as gatekeepers to knowledge, forever necessary 10 translate law, scientific studies, political analysis, el cetera, into ?plain language.?

The other assumption inherent in the criticism is the idea that certain types of language are inhe,enL elitist Larger vocabularies and more complex syntax are in fact very helpful tools, though people require more education to be able to use them. H is not the language, but this country's capitalist, racist education system thai is elitist. The job of educated activists is to make that education accessible, and hand IMat language over as a popular tool. We don" want made-for-the-masses Orwellian newspeak, we wan', languages that are liberated and demystified. I

Unfortunately, educated activists continue to romanticize plain language, and they also continue to complain wnen The Masses are fooled yet again into support for the latest war or draconian policy shift by the most transparent, even cliche tautology and sophistry communicated by politicians and relayed by the media. Removing the many forms of language from the current hierarchy of privilege, and placing them in the appropriate landscape of diverse and equal cultures is a crucial act (one that first requires allowing the differenlcullures in our society to enjoy equality). But recognizing the validity of non-academic languages the language of east coast urban blacks or Appalachian Whites does not mean putting them in a museum. Revolutionary empowerment will cause these languages to change, to develop much oi the complexity heretofore monopolized by white academia, because that complexity itself is empowerrrjent. Skeptical? Just compare the lyrics of Puffy to those of Mr. Lit. Compare the Indian Chief of white : su prem acist Ginem a, who only said "How?", to American India n Movement activist and professor Ward Churchill, who talks about pathological pseudopraxis (1). While other communities exist in economicI subservience, while other cultures lack autonomy, while other forms of language lack an unshackled,

empowered complexity, revolulionariesfrom those communities will appropriate what tools they need to build language that is a stepping stone 10 an autonomous culture

In effect, many existing criticisms against elitist language are themselves elitist, because they serve .to preserve the monopoly on analytical discourse in the hands of the institutionally educated (who are th em selves generally institutio nalized, rathe r tha n rad ical, hence not on our sid e). Educated radical Si disavowal of language that smacks of sophistication serves to dumb down radicals themselves. . Uneducated radicals are not more proletarian, or more inclusive. They are simply more ineffective(2~.

Wouldn't it be more effective to subvert education, and educate subversion? To expose and overcome the patriarchal norm that makes an intellectual crime of asking: "What does that mean?" We should use the forms of language we're comfortable with, academic or otherwise, as long as we do it lucidly,in ~ way that invites learning and sharing of that knowledge. Those around us would be better off for it. Similarly, we can benefit from learning the differenllypes of language that other people use. Recognize the variety of languages, but upset the economic, racial, and gendered hierarchy in which these languages have been placed.

Footnotes (1) In each example, the firs! element represents an essentialized form of an oppressed group's language, either marketed or created by white supremacist cultural institutions Hollywood or the major record labels. The second element of each example does not necessarily represent the language of' an oppressed group, but is meant 10demonstrate a trend of revolutionaries from oppressed communiti$s adopting "educated" language., either as a whole or incorporated into their own language. (2) No, this is not to say that radicals from poorer backgrounds are less effective than privileged radicals. On the contrary, note that lower-class radicals typically educate themselves, and are more intellige~t for it. E.g. George Jackson was in prison when middle-class activists are usually in college, but still a major part of Jackson?s intellectual stature came from reading Marx, Malcolm X, Fanon?

Class and Social Change: Becoming Aware & Strengthening Our Organizations
by Felice Yeskel A movement strong enough to bring about a more just and sustainable world must inevitably be la cross- class movement-not just a multiracial movement and not just a movement led by women as well as men. But social change organizations are filled with folks who have grown up absorbing the lessons of a racist, sexist, heterosextst, and classist society. While social change organizations msv have done some work on racism, sexism, or heterosextsm, it is rare to find any that have done much work on classisrn .. Many of us grow up lrn complete class segregation, without being aware of it. We absorbed the cultural attributes of our class of origin-the language, the worldview, the expectations, the communication norms, and the work styles-and now we make assumptions or judgments about other people that reflect our class perspective. So many things that we believe are "the way things are done" are really Just the way OUf class does tbinqs. When we become activists, we bring our class cultures and conditioning into our organizations. The way our class has affected us is often invisible to us, but may be quite obvious to others from different class backgrounds. Unlike coming to understand our gender socialization or becorrunc aware of the ways we've in.ternalized racial superiority/dominance (if we're white) or racial subordination (if we're people (If color), .many o.f us ha~e not had the opportu~it:y to b.ecome self-aware.about class: We do not I recog ruze the In tern a ltzed cl ass p rl VII eg es 0 r Intern a Iized class 0 ppress Ion t ha t we In ad ve rte ntl y ca rry , Like every other form of oppression, classlsm is not only present in the world at large, but is also alive and well within our organizations. I When I lead workshops, I usually ask people to raise their hands if they've graduated, from a four-year cOlle.ge. I am nOlo.nger surprised when, in one group, the vast m.ajorltv rais.es their han.ds, whilel in another group hardly anyone raises their hands. In 2005, only 28% of folks over the age of 25 grad.uated from a four-year college. I am rarely in groups with the same mix of graduates and nongraduates as the population at large, however. If we use "college-educated" as a marker of class, this means that most groups do not have much class diversity. Instead, there are predominantly middleclass (and above) groups and predominantly working- class groups. I find that most progressive organizations are led by people who were raised in professional middleclass (PMC) families. (See page 6.) Even unions with working-class members and community grdups in low-income neighborhoods often have staffs or boards that are mostly or entirely PMC. Chroniblly poor people are especially absent from leadership positions, but often so are working-class people. Owning-class people are under- represented on non-profit staffs as wei'! (since they often hire rnlddleclass professionals to manage organizations for them.) There are some obvious reasons for this imbalance in the leadership of proqressive non-profits. Working in these organizations can be very meaningful and satisfying, but their positions are not very well paid. Generally professional middle-class folks, who have reliable financial backup, are able and willing to make these financrel sacrifices. For young people who have huge school loans, single ' moms/dads, or those who arehelpl.ng younger sibllngs or caring for parents, meaningful work might have to take a back seat to cash. I The narrowing of the path to a progressive non-profit career starts early, even among those who've graduated from college. The candidates who are most attractive to a hiring committee are likely to be I those who have gained relevant experience through intern- ships and volunteer activities, both on campus and off, But only some students are able to take these unpaid internships. I PMC members of social change movements may be confused about their class status, because they

are earning below their potential, These may be folks from middle-class families who have relativelv low incomes because they chose to work part-time and volunteer 'lots of time on social change efforts, or folks who have trouble making ends meet because of the low pay in movement organizations. They may think that they at the Salvation Army or privileges they still have, back- up they have from are in the same boat as poor or working class people because they also shop eat rice and beans every night. They may fail to recognize the various class the extent to which their Situations a re the result of their choices, or thb family or other social connections,

If we have a hard time even correctly

identifying our class position, how do we negotiate the complex class dynamics that play out in our organizations? Even when our mission statements include working to eliminate inequality in the form of racism, sexism, and heterosexism, we may be replicating classism in our organizations and in our relationship with the communities that we work with or organize, Working for social change in the world demands that we address class ism in our organizations, We can start by assessing our organizations' class cultures, Formal workshops and trainings dealing with classisrn are helpful, as are regularly scheduled staff meetings where people talk honestly about :their class backgrounds, the way class impacts their lives currently, and the complications of classism 'in social justice work. Initiating, di~IOgUe is an important first step in addressing class issues, .

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We can also Identify and revise institutional policies and practices that may reinforce class lnequalitv. While cognizant that we are operating in a larger economic context, we can begin to question cer;tain assumptions and ways of doing business. We offer the questions on page 5 as a tool to get startrd. Gaining greater awareness about how class affects what we do and how we do it is an ongoing process. The more contact we have with folks from across the class spectrum, the greater the opportunities forgaining awareness. As with every other form of oppression, those of us who ar~ poor or working class have greater access to the "outsider" perspective, and a greater chance to see and understand classism ..
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