Recommendations on Anti-Oppression Work within the Work That Reconnects

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by Joanna Macy

Ecological destruction is inextricably linked with the decimation of human rights and welfare.

We see more clearly every day how ecological destruction is inextricably linked with the decimation of human rights and welfare.   As witnessed by the climate justice movement, the war on nature means war on people, ripping up lives and cultures.  It is essential that the Work That Reconnects support people in uncovering and responding to patterns of oppression in which they take part. I myself acknowledge that my privilege has impacted the formation and facilitation of the WTR. I deeply regret any harm that has ensued. I apologize to each person who has been hurt by my facilitation and/or from the practices I created.

We can help each other acknowledge privilege and patterns of oppression. I, for example, am helped by colleagues in the U.S. who have long acknowledged the reality of white supremacy and the need within the WTR to honor the experience and aspirations of people of color.  Let’s remember that patterns of oppression vary from culture to culture, region to region, with diverse historical, religious, and ethnic roots. And these patterns of oppression are all exacerbated by corporate globalization, with the military industrial complex backing it up. 

Here are some specific challenges and guidelines that I as a white US American want to offer to other white US American facilitators.  I invite those of you from different lands to see what relevance these points may have to the fault lines of oppression in your own society. 

I would urge you to:

  • recognize how deeply white dominance, indeed white supremacy, is rooted in the creation and history of our nation.  Founded on genocide, it drew its wealth from a stolen land with the labor of a stolen people.  For both the suffering and the privilege that ensue from this, I believe we whites share in a collective responsibility.   
  • learn how white privilege has limited our perceptions of other’s lives and our impact on them.  This expansion of consciousness is integral to the Great Turning.  I am benefiting greatly from participating in a “White Awake” group, and urge you to join such an effort, too.  Long-term structured group learning is invaluable.   Check out these excellent educational resources: whiteawake.org for a group work manual, blogs, consultations, and White Awareness Insight Curriculum for Uprooting Privilege (WAIC UP!), a Dharma and Racism Study Program.   Don’t miss the special issue of our own Deep Times Journal and the conversation between its three guest editors:  http://journal.workthatreconnects.org/2017/08/29/in-conversation-patricia-st-onge-ann-marie-davis-and-aravinda-ananda/ 
  • conduct your workshop with a co-facilitator of color, if possible, and/or one with anti-oppression training and skills—in addition, of course, to being skilled in the WTR.  This may be a tall order, but it’s worthwhile to hold that intention; it propels us in the right direction. 
  • consider engaging a consultant in anti-oppression work.  The value this can provide  is emphasized by Aravinda Ananda:  “…we ended up meeting with A and K five or six times before the workshop, using on-line video conferencing.  They helped us with workshop design, but most important was helping us see and attend to the power, privilege and oppression dynamics between us as a facilitation team.  I appreciate that they used an intersectional approach, and it was not just about racism, but we did not shy away from racism.”
  • prepare your workshop participants for issues of diversity by providing them some preliminary readings and resources, so that harms to people of color are minimized and white resilience is increased.  I have found that this fosters learning even in workshops consisting entirely of white-identified people.  For resources, see : (https://workthatreconnects.org/category/evolving-edge/)

Isn’t this a remarkable and beautiful moment in our history?  Slowly, by fits and starts, we are beginning to wake up to the suffering we’ve caused ourselves and each other.  We are starting to walk out of our separate isolation cells of fear and shame.  The Great Turning is calling us back to the solidarity we yearn for and need if we are to survive. 


Joanna Macy, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a groundbreaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science, explored through her books, audio-visual resources, and teachings on the Great Turning. 

 

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