Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

For Enlightened White Guys

I was very impressed with the following thoughtful and deeply aware passage from an enlightened white male.

It is humble, conscious and canny and aware of the dynamics of social groups, recognising that some purportedly progressive movements may only reproduce the sexism, domination, and marginalisation of others that they expressly reject in their politics, and how this may also be reinforced by the sometimes exclusive privilege accorded to the white male voice.

It is excerpted from a wonderful book entitled The Global Activists Manual: Local Ways to Change the World ed. Mike Prokosch and Laura Raymond (2002), pp. 96-97.


Tools for White Guys Who Are Working for Social Change
… and other people socialised in a society based on domination by Chris Crass

1. Practice noticing who’s in the room at meetings–how many men, how many women, how many people of colour. Are the majority heterosexual … what are people’s backgrounds? Don’t assume to know people, but also work at being more aware.

2a. Count how many times you speak and keep track of how long you speak.
2b. Count how many times others speak and keep track of how long they speak.

3. Be conscious of how often you are actively listening to what other people are saying as opposed to just waiting your turn and/ or thinking about what you’ll say next.

4. Practice going to meetings focused on listening and learning; go to some meetings and do not speak at all.

5a. Count how many times you put your ideas out to the group.

5b. Count how many times you support other’s ideas for the group.

6. Practice supporting people by asking them to expand on ideas and dig more deeply before you decide to support the idea or not.

7a. Think about whose work and contribution to the group gets recognised.
7b. Practice recognising more people for the work they do and try to do it more often.

8. Practice asking more people what they think about meetings, ideas, actions, strategy and vision. White guys tend to talk amongst themselves and develop strong bonds that manifest in organising. This creates an internal organising culture that is alienating to most people.

Developing respect and solidarity across race, class, gender and sexuality is complex and difficult, but absolutely critical–and liberating.

9. Be aware of how often you ask people to do something as opposed to asking people “what needs to be done”.

10. Think about and struggle with the saying, “You will be needed in the movement when you realise that you are not needed in the movement.”

11. Struggle with and work with the model of group leadership that says that the responsibility of leaders is to help develop more leaders, and think about what this means to you.

12. Remember that social change is a process, and that our individual transformation and individual liberation is intimately connected with social transformation and social liberation. Life is profoundly complex and there are many contradictions. Remember that the path we travel is guided by love, dignity and respect–even when it is bumpy and difficult to navigate.

. This list is not limited to white guys, nor is it intended to reduce all white guys into one category. This list is intended to disrupt patterns of domination that hurt our movement and hurt each other. White guys have a lot of work to do, but it is the kind of work that makes life worth living.

14. Day-to-day patterns of domination are the glue that holds together systems of domination. The struggle against capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, and the state, is also the struggle towards collective liberation.

15. No one is free until all of us are free.

3 comments on “For Enlightened White Guys

  1. Curtis
    15 November, 2006

    Especially I like No. 14.

    Did you ever read Skinner’s Walden Two?

  2. peoplesgeography
    15 November, 2006

    I appreciate getting book recommendations, no I haven’t yet. Great! I shall look it up and report back to you. Thanks my learn’d friend (who has a refreshingly dynamic worldview in light of new information) ;)

    Wow, that Skinner and the title is a direct reference to Thoreau’s Walden. I’m intrigued and have ordered a copy. Thanks again for the tip.

  3. Curtis
    15 November, 2006

    It’s an easy read—I know you must be horribly pressed for time, but it seems to me that the content would be particularly of interest based on what I’ve gleaned about your field of study. This book is about subsidiarity to the max! Well, I won’t say another word and I hope you enjoy it.

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This entry was posted on 14 November, 2006 by in Activism, Federal Reserve, Gender, Peace and Justice, Race.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"