Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's in your knapsack?

- by Stacey Prince

When most of us first begin to learn about racism, we focus on interpersonal acts of meanness or harassment. We also focus on the oppressed individual and their disadvantages, rather than on the oppressor. Many white people have been known to say things like, “racism is not a white person’s problem, because I have no race”. This denial of whiteness as a racial identity (the flip side of which is confirmation of whiteness as the norm), and denial of the unearned benefits that come along with being light-skinned, are taught to us from a very young age. It can be a difficult transition to move from a focus on interpersonal oppression and the disadvantages that others face, to an examination of one’s own privilege and the systemic nature of structures and institutions that solidly hold the privilege gap in place. That is what I want to focus on here.

In an article that has since become a classic, Peggy McIntosh in 1988 began to deliberately explore and delineate the unspoken, unearned benefits of whiteness. Many of these are hard to see, because they are often the absence of something (barriers, hindrances) than its presence. You don’t feel doors as you move through them if they open wide for you; you only notice them if they are locked, or get slammed in your face. In the article Peggy McIntosh describes the “invisible knapsack of privilege,” as follows:

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

With this invisible knapsack the white person’s passage through the world is profoundly changed, both on a moment by moment, daily level, and in terms of the larger trajectory of their life: career, building a family, moving about the world geographically, borrowing money, getting an education—all are impacted by the invisible knapsack of special (and unearned) privilege.

To read entire article click here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Post-Election Blues

- by Stacey Prince

What did last week’s election mean to you? How did you feel about it? What do you think it signified for the future—for yourself, for the people you work with? Personally, I felt deflated. While I was relieved that WA state would continue to send a democratic Senator to DC, and happy to hear the news that the greatest number of out LGBT individuals in history were elected to public office, the rest of it was pretty demoralizing. With the GOP controlling Congress, I worry about what’s going to happen with healthcare reform (and their “no compromise” talk doesn’t help to allay those fears), immigration, and a return to big tax bailouts for the wealthy. I wonder if all of the hard won victories around Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, domestic partner rights, and adoption by gay and lesbian parents will be repealed (and the Iowa debacle doesn’t help allay those fears). My fantasies of fleeing the country, quiescent since 2008, have returned.

But there is something more, a cultural shift that I am trying to grasp. After all of the tremendous excitement around the election of Barack Obama, what does it mean that just two years in, we can already see the end of this era? What does it say about racism in America, and the ever-widening resource gap between rich and poor, between Euro-Americans and people of color, between the wealthy white people at the top of that pyramid and the rest of us? To help me understand this sinking feeling in my stomach, I turned, of course, to the internet. I found two articles that helped me make sense of things.

To read entire article click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Retreat 7: Leadership Council Sets Out to Clarify TJP Vision

by Liz Goodwin

Last Saturday October 30, the TJP leadership council - including Stacey Prince, Nathan Shara, Briana Herman-Brand, Anne Phillips, Keren Lehavot, and I - gathered to talk project vision. Prior to the meeting, and since the last Retreat 6 (Somatic Transformation day-long with Staci Haines), we met several times to get acquainted, discuss the role of the council, and share and learn about each of our political and social identities and histories. From these series of meetings, it became clear that we needed to spend more time getting clear about the vision, goals, objectives, and process intended for TJP. We agreed that, instead of a large-group retreat, it made sense to hunker down together and spend a day getting clear. It was expected to be a full day – emotionally and mentally – and we even wondered if there would be some conflict as we each expressed our different ideas about what TJP should focus on and how. Our last meeting before this full day retreat consisted of sharing our different conflict styles, defense structures, and requests we might have for others in moving through and staying connected.

Turns out, we hit very little conflict, really. And our visions seemed less far from each other than we may have anticipated. Stacey got us started with her take on what TJP is and where we might go. She presented a diagram of What? How? Why? – with corresponding circles, concentric style. The why is often difficult to answer, she said - and answered it. The big Why question, or the statement of grand purpose of TJP, is to end oppression and the trauma associated with it. Stacey shared about how TJP would be a hub, as she’s seeing it, where this work of how psychology weaves into ending oppression, would be the mission of TJP. She listed different areas of focus, as spokes from the center questions and answers. These included creating transformative space for healers and activists - “intentional community of transformative practice,” impacting higher education psychology programs, community organizing and political advocacy.

To read entire article click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What does Project Runway have to do with your work?

- by Anne Phillips and Stacey Prince

* SPOILER ALERT * Do not read this if you have not seen the finale of this season's project runway and do not want to know the outcome.

Well, everything. Let us explain. I (Stacey) really love Project Runway. It's been a guilty pleasure since the very first season, offering three things I love: beautiful clothes, beautiful people, and complex interpersonal relationships. This season was no exception. The three finalists couldn't have been more different: Andy, a 23 year old first generation Hawaiian whose family immigrated from Laos whose clothes ranged from edgy to elegant; Gretchen, a European-American Northwesterner with an earthy crunchy, indigenous influenced ready to wear aesthetic, and Mondo, the 27 year old, HIV+ gay man whose family is fifth generation Mexican. All worked their asses off and fought to get to fashion week. I think I can safely say that the majority of viewers thought that Mondo was a shoe-in. His designs were spectacularly innovative, playful, creative, awe-inspiring.

What a shock when the winner was Gretchen. What was even more shocking was the deliberation between the judges to make that decision. Racism and xenophobia in action. What enraged me the most was Michael Kors and Nina Garcia REPEATEDLY saying "this is where fashion is now, this is where fashion is going" (regarding Gretchen's designs). What they were really saying was, this is where we want fashion to stay--bland, boring, and ready to wear. None of this Orientalist (Nina's word for Andy's final show) or Mexican stuff (Mondo's final show was influenced by Day of the Dead and featured a crucifix). The irony is, this is NOT where fashion is going. These two judges' denial and marginalization of the multiculturalism of this country was profound. And I won't even comment on the abhorent parallel they drew to food - "it's subjective--you either like Chinese or Mexican!" To their credit the other two judges argued in favor of Mondo, but somehow in a triumph of privilege over authenticity and in a scene that we were not privvy to, they were out-argued and Gretchen was crowned the winner, the next big thing in American Fashion. And please note that this was not just an empty title: the win came with money ($100,000), opportunity (help launching their own design line) and connections. The link between personal and systemic racism and heterosexism was as glaring as Michael Kors' fake tan.

To read entire article click here.