Some people may have seen this article already, which has been making its rounds on Facebook and the blogosphere, but INCITE! blog editors loved it so much that we wanted to share it here. The piece was originally published in make/shift magazine’s Spring/Summer 2010 issue and written by Courtney Desiree Morris.
In January 2009, activists in Austin, Texas, learned that one of their own, a white activist named Brandon Darby, had infiltrated groups protesting the Republican National Convention (RNC) as an FBI informant. Darby later admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and during the convention. He testified on behalf of the government in the February 2009 trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, after Darby encouraged them to do so. The two young men, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, each faced up to fifteen years in prison. Crowder accepted a plea bargain to serve three years in a federal prison; under pressure from federal prosecutors, McKay also pled guilty to being in possession of “unregistered Molotov cocktails” and was sentenced to four years in prison. Information gathered by Darby may also have contributed to the case against the RNC 8, activists from around the country charged with “conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism.” Austin activists were particularly stunned by the revelation that Darby had served as an informant because he had been a part of various leftist projects and was a leader at Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans–based organization committed to meeting the short-term needs of community members displaced by natural disasters in the Gulf Coast region and dedicated to rebuilding the region and ensuring Katrina evacuees’ right to return.
I was surprised but not shocked by this news. I had learned as an undergrad at the University of Texas that the campus police department routinely placed plainclothes police officers in the meetings of radical student groups—you know, just to keep an eye on them. That was in fall 2001. We saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, watched a cowboy president wage war on terror, and, in the middle of it all, tried to figure out what we could do to challenge the fascist state transformations taking place before our eyes. At the time, however, it seemed silly that there were cops in our meetings—we weren’t the Panthers or the Brown Berets or even some of the rowdier direct-action anti-globalization activists on campus (although we admired them all); we were just young people who didn’t believe war was the best response to the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t silly; the FBI does not dismiss political work. Any organization, be it large or small, can provoke the scrutiny of the state. Perhaps your organization poses a large threat, or maybe you’re small now but one day you’ll grow up and be too big to rein in. The state usually opts to kill the movement before it grows.
And informants and provocateurs are the state’s hired gunmen. Government agencies pick people that no one will notice. Often it’s impossible to prove that they’re informants because they appear to be completely dedicated to social justice. They establish intimate relationships with activists, becoming friends and lovers, often serving in leadership roles in organizations. A cursory reading of the literature on social movements and organizations in the 1960s and 1970s reveals this fact. The leadership of the American Indian Movement was rife with informants; it is suspected that informants were also largely responsible for the downfall of the Black Panther Party, and the same can be surmised about the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, these movements that were toppled by informants and provocateurs were also sites where women and queer activists often experienced intense gender violence, as the autobiographies of activists such as Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrate.
Maybe it isn’t that informants are difficult to spot but rather that we have collectively ignored the signs that give them away. To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence  as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved. There are serious consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do).
The Makings of an Informant: Brandon Darby and Common Ground
On Democracy Now! Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and cofounder of Common Ground in New Orleans, spoke about how devastated he was by Darby’s revelation that he was an FBI informant. Several times he stated that his heart had been broken. He especially lamented all of the “young ladies” who left Common Ground as a result of Darby’s domineering, aggressive style of organizing. And when those “young ladies” complained? Well, their concerns likely fell on sympathetic but ultimately unresponsive ears—everything may have been true, and after the fact everyone admits how disruptive Darby was, quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with. There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization.  Darby created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his “dedication” to “the work.” People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant. Even Rahim, for all of his guilt and angst, chose to leave Darby in charge of Common Ground although every time there was conflict in the organization it seemed to involve Darby.
Maybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles. I’m not talking about witch hunts; I’m talking about organizing in such a way that we nip a potential Brandon Darby in the bud before he can hurt more people. Informants are hard to spot, but my guess is that where there is smoke there is fire, and someone who creates chaos wherever he goes is either an informant or an irresponsible, unaccountable time bomb who can be unintentionally as effective at undermining social-justice organizing as an informant. Ultimately they both do the work of the state and need to be held accountable.
A Brief Historical Reflection on Gender Violence in Radical Movements
Reflecting on the radical organizations and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s provides an important historical context for this discussion. Memoirs by women who were actively involved in these struggles reveal the pervasiveness of tolerance (and in some cases advocacy) of gender violence. Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown, each at different points in their experiences organizing with the Black Panther Party (BPP), cited sexism and the exploitation of women (and their organizing labor) in the BPP as one of their primary reasons for either leaving the group (in the cases of Brown and Shakur) or refusing to ever formally join (in Davis’s case). Although women were often expected to make significant personal sacrifices to support the movement, when women found themselves victimized by male comrades there was no support for them or channels to seek redress. Whether it was BPP organizers ignoring the fact that Eldridge Cleaver beat his wife, noted activist Kathleen Cleaver, men coercing women into sex, or just men treating women organizers as subordinated sexual playthings, the BPP and similar organizations tended not to take seriously the corrosive effects of gender violence on liberation struggle. In many ways, Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, has gone the furthest in laying bare the ugly realities of misogyny in the movement and the various ways in which both men and women reproduced and reinforced male privilege and gender violence in these organizations. Her experience as the only woman to ever lead the BPP did not exempt her from the brutal misogyny of the organization. She recounts being assaulted by various male comrades (including Huey Newton) as well as being beaten and terrorized by Eldridge Cleaver, who threatened to “bury her in Algeria” during a delegation to China. Her biography demonstrates more explicitly than either Davis’s or Shakur’s how the masculinist posturing of the BPP (and by extension many radical organizations at the time) created a culture of violence and misogyny that ultimately proved to be the organization’s undoing.
These narratives demystify the legacy of gender violence of the very organizations that many of us look up to. They demonstrate how misogyny was normalized in these spaces, dismissed as “personal” or not as important as the more serious struggles against racism or class inequality. Gender violence has historically been deeply entrenched in the political practices of the Left and constituted one of the greatest (if largely unacknowledged) threats to the survival of these organizations. However, if we pay attention to the work of Davis, Shakur, Brown, and others, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and create different kinds of political community.
The Racial Politics of Gender Violence
Race further complicates the ways in which gender violence unfolds in our communities. In “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence,” Rachel Luft explores the disturbing pattern of sexual assault against white female volunteers by white male volunteers doing rebuilding work in the Upper Ninth Ward in 2006. She points out how Common Ground failed to address white men’s assaults on their co-organizers and instead shifted the blame to the surrounding Black community, warning white women activists that they needed to be careful because New Orleans was a dangerous place. Ultimately it proved easier to criminalize Black men from the neighborhood than to acknowledge that white women and transgender organizers were most likely to be assaulted by white men they worked with. In one case, a white male volunteer was turned over to the police only after he sexually assaulted at least three women in one week. The privilege that white men enjoyed in Common Ground, an organization ostensibly committed to racial justice, meant that they could be violent toward women and queer activists, enact destructive behaviors that undermined the organization’s work, and know that the movement would not hold them accountable in the same way that it did Black men in the community where they worked.
Of course, male privilege is not uniform—white men and men of color are unequal participants in and beneficiaries of patriarchy although they both can and do reproduce gender violence. This disparity in the distribution of patriarchy’s benefits is not lost on women and queer organizers when we attempt to confront men of color who enact gender violence in our communities. We often worry about reproducing particular kinds of racist violence that disproportionately target men of color. We are understandably loath to call the police, involve the state in any way, or place men of color at the mercy of a historically racist criminal (in)justice system; yet our communities (political and otherwise) often do not step up to demand justice on our behalf. We don’t feel comfortable talking to therapists who just reaffirm stereotypes about how fucked-up and exceptionally violent our home communities are. The Left often offers even less support. Our victimization is unfortunate, problematic, but ultimately less important to “the work” than the men of all races who reproduce gender violence in our communities.
Encountering Misogyny on the Left: A Personal Reflection
In the first community group I was actively involved in, I encountered a level of misogyny that I would never have imagined existed in what was supposed to be a radical-people-of-color organization. I was sexually/romantically involved with an older Chicano activist in the group. I was nineteen, an inexperienced young Black activist; he was thirty. He asked me to keep our relationship a secret, and I reluctantly agreed. Later, after he ended the relationship and I was reeling from depression, I discovered that he had been sleeping with at least two other women while we were together. One of them was a friend of mine, another young woman we organized with. Unaware of the nature of our relationship, which he had failed to disclose to her, she slept with him until he disappeared, refusing to answer her calls or explain the abrupt end of their relationship. She and I, after sharing our experiences, began to trade stories with other women who knew and had organized with this man.
We heard of the women who had left a Chicana/o student group and never came back after his lies and secrets blew up while the group was participating in a Zapatista action in Mexico City. The queer, radical, white organizer who left Austin to get away from his abuse. Another white woman, a social worker who thought they might get married only to come to his apartment one evening and find me there. And then there were the ones that came after me. I always wondered if they knew who he really was. The women he dated were amazing, beautiful, kick-ass, radical women that he used as shields to get himself into places he knew would never be open to such a misogynist. I mean, if that cool woman who worked in Chiapas, spoke Spanish, and worked with undocumented immigrants was dating him, he must be down, right? Wrong.
But his misogyny didn’t end there; it was also reflected in his style of organizing. In meetings he always spoke the loudest and longest, using academic jargon that made any discussion excruciatingly more complex than necessary. The academic-speak intimidated people less educated than him because he seemed to know more about radical politics than anyone else. He would talk down to other men in the group, especially those he perceived to be less intelligent than him, which was basically everybody. Then he’d switch gears, apologize for dominating the space, and acknowledge his need to check his male privilege. Ironically, when people did attempt to call him out on his shit, he would feign ignorance—what could they mean, saying that his behavior was masculinist and sexist? He’d complain of being infantilized, refusing to see how he infantilized people all the time. The fact that he was a man of color who could talk a good game about racism and racial-justice struggles masked his abusive behaviors in both radical organizations and his personal relationships. As one of his former partners shared with me, “His radical race analysis allowed people (mostly men but occasionally women as well) to forgive him for being dominating and abusive in his relationships. Womyn had to check their critique of his behavior at the door, lest we lose a man of color in the movement.” One of the reasons it is so difficult to hold men of color accountable for reproducing gender violence is that women of color and white activists continue to be invested in the idea that men of color have it harder than anyone else. How do you hold someone accountable when you believe he is target number one for the state?
Unfortunately he wasn’t the only man like this I encountered in radical spaces—just one of the smarter ones. Reviewing old e-mails, I am shocked at the number of e-mails from men I organized with that were abusive in tone and content, how easily they would talk down to others for minor mistakes. I am more surprised at my meek, diplomatic responses—like an abuse survivor—as I attempted to placate compañeros who saw nothing wrong with yelling at their partners, friends, and other organizers. There were men like this in various organizations I worked with. The one who called his girlfriend a bitch in front of a group of youth of color during a summer encuentro we were hosting. The one who sexually harassed a queer Chicana couple during a trip to México, trying to pressure them into a threesome. The guys who said they would complete a task, didn’t do it, brushed off their compañeras’ demands for accountability, let those women take over the task, and when it was finished took all the credit for someone else’s hard work. The graduate student who hit his partner—and everyone knew he’d done it, but whenever anyone asked, people would just look ashamed and embarrassed and mumble, “It’s complicated.” The ones who constantly demeaned queer folks, even people they organized with. Especially the one who thought it would be a revolutionary act to “kill all these faggots, these niggas on the down low, who are fucking up our children, fucking up our homes, fucking up our world, and fucking up our lives!” The one who would shout you down in a meeting or tell you that you couldn’t be a feminist because you were too pretty. Or the one who thought homosexuality was a disease from Europe.
Yeah, that guy.
Most of those guys probably weren’t informants. Which is a pity because it means they are not getting paid a dime for all the destructive work they do. We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them. When queer organizers are humiliated and their political struggles sidelined, that is part of an ongoing state project of violence against radicals. When women are knowingly given STIs, physically abused, dismissed in meetings, pushed aside, and forced out of radical organizing spaces while our allies defend known misogynists, organizers collude in the state’s efforts to destroy us.
The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused? Or when you have to postpone conversations about the work so that you can devote group meetings to addressing an individual member’s most recent offense? Or when that person spreads misinformation, creating confusion and friction among radical groups? Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist.
What the FBI gets is that when there are people in activist spaces who are committed to taking power and who understand power as domination, our movements will never realize their potential to remake this world. If our energies are absorbed recuperating from the messes that informants (and people who just act like them) create, we will never be able to focus on the real work of getting free and building the kinds of life-affirming, people-centered communities that we want to live in. To paraphrase bell hooks, where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice, because we will inevitably continue reproducing the same kinds of injustice we claim to be struggling against. It is time for our movements to undergo a radical change from the inside out.
Looking Forward: Creating Gender Justice in our Movements
Radical movements cannot afford the destruction that gender violence creates. If we underestimate the political implications of patriarchal behaviors in our communities, the work will not survive.
Lately I’ve been turning to the work of queers/feminists of color to think through how to challenge these behaviors in our movements. I’ve been reading the autobiographies of women who lived through the chaos of social movements debilitated by machismo. I’m revisiting the work of bell hooks, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Gioconda Belli, Margaret Randall, Elaine Brown, Pearl Cleage, Ntozake Shange, and Gloria Anzaldúa to see how other women negotiated gender violence in these spaces and to problematize neat or easy answers about how violence is reproduced in our communities. Newer work by radical feminists of color has also been incredibly helpful, especially the zine Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.
But there are many resources for confronting this dilemma beyond books. The simple act of speaking and sharing our truths is one of the most powerful tools we have. I’ve been speaking to my elders, older women of color in struggle who have experienced the things I’m struggling against, and swapping survival stories with other women. In summer 2008 I began doing workshops on ending misogyny and building collective forms of accountability with Cristina Tzintzún, an Austin-based labor organizer and author of the essay “Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival.” We have also begun the even more liberating practice of naming our experiences publicly and calling on our communities to address what we and so many others have experienced.
Dismantling misogyny cannot be work that only women do. We all must do the work because the survival of our movements depends on it. Until we make radical feminist and queer political ethics that directly challenge heteropatriarchal forms of organizing central to our political practice, radical movements will continue to be devastated by the antics of Brandon Darbys (and folks who aren’t informants but just act like them). A queer, radical, feminist ethic of accountability would challenge us to recognize how gender violence is reproduced in our communities, relationships, and organizing practices. Although there are many ways to do this, I want to suggest that there are three key steps that we can take to begin. First, we must support women and queer people in our movements who have experienced interpersonal violence and engage in a collective process of healing. Second, we must initiate a collective dialogue about how we want our communities to look and how to make them safe for everyone. Third, we must develop a model for collective accountability that truly treats the personal as political and helps us to begin practicing justice in our communities. When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.
As angry as gender violence on the Left makes me, I am hopeful. I believe we have the capacity to change and create more justice in our movements. We don’t have to start witch hunts to reveal misogynists and informants. They out themselves every time they refuse to apologize, take ownership of their actions, start conflicts and refuse to work them out through consensus, mistreat their compañer@s. We don’t have to look for them, but when we are presented with their destructive behaviors we have to hold them accountable. Our strategies don’t have to be punitive; people are entitled to their mistakes. But we should expect that people will own those actions and not allow them to become a pattern.
We have a right to be angry when the communities we build that are supposed to be the model for a better, more just world harbor the same kinds of antiqueer, antiwoman, racist violence that pervades society. As radical organizers we must hold each other accountable and not enable misogynists to assert so much power in these spaces. Not allow them to be the faces, voices, and leaders of these movements. Not allow them to rape a compañera and then be on the fucking five o’ clock news. In Brandon Darby’s case, even if no one suspected he was an informant, his domineering and macho behavior should have been all that was needed to call his leadership into question. By not allowing misogyny to take root in our communities and movements, we not only protect ourselves from the efforts of the state to destroy our work but also create stronger movements that cannot be destroyed from within.
 I use the term gender violence to refer to the ways in which homophobia and misogyny are rooted in heteronormative understandings of gender identity and gender roles. Heterosexism not only polices non-normative sexualities but also reproduces normative gender roles and identities that reinforce the logic of patriarchy and male privilege.
 I learned this from informal conversations with women who had organized with Darby in Austin and New Orleans while participating in the Austin Informants Working Group, which was formed by people who had worked with Darby and were stunned by his revelation that he was an FBI informant.
Liberté Locke, a Starbucks Workers Union organizer, writes about how violence at work and in our personal lives are similar, how domestic abusers and bosses use the same techniques of control and that we need to fight both.
TRIGGER WARNING: sexual violence
(Cet article en français)
I was raped by a boyfriend on August 18th, 2006. The very next day I held back tears while I lied to a stranger over the phone about why I was unavailable to go in that day for a second interview for a job that I desperately needed. When I hung up the phone I saw a new text message. It was from him. “It’s not over. It will never be over between us…”
The next day I went in for the second interview. It was inside of the Sears Tower Starbucks in Chicago. I took the train to the interview constantly looking around me and shaking. I needed work. I had just been fired from Target two weeks prior and had no prospects. I knew I would have to go through a metal detector in order to enter the building so despite every instinct in my body I did not bring a knife with me.
“What would you do if you caught a coworker stealing?”
My mind is racing. I’m thinking that I risked my safety by leaving my house for a stupid job that pays $7.75/hr. Aren’t I worth more than that? Aren’t we all worth so much more?
“I’d tell management right away, of course. I’ve never understood why someone would steal from work…”
I tell them what they want me to.
I started working at Starbucks on August 22, 2006. That was a little over five years ago. Every year we have annual reviews where I generally get to argue with someone younger than me who makes significantly more than do about why my hard work, aching back, cracking hands, sore wrists, the bags under my eyes, the burns, the bruises on my arms, the cuts on my knees, the constant degrading treatment by the customers, the “baby, honey, sugar, bitch”, the “hey, you, slut…I said NO whip cream!”s, the staring, the following after work…I get to argue why all that means I’m worth a 33cent raise rather than 22cents, Degrading for any worker. Degrading especially for a woman worker. Only for me, I get to do this every year just four days after the anniversary of when someone I was in love with raped me. My annual review is truly the only reason I’m reminded of the anniversary of the assault.
I wish I was exaggerating but truthfully I’ve just toned down how I really feel about it. Since we’re talking about labor, I could also mention how when I was raped I didn’t leave the house where it happened until the morning because of two main reasons 1) I feared riding the subway home at 3am and 2) I was getting picked up in the morning by my then best friend (and my boyfriend’s other partner) to head to her wealthy parents’ house in the suburbs where they were paying me to clean. Desperately needing to sell my labor in exchange for simple cash kept me laying awake next to my attacker. Not wanting to lose the gig had me lying to him. Promising that I’d never tell anyone. Promising not to leave him. Promises that at the time I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t keep.
It was when I was on my hands and knees literally scrubbing the floor of her parents’ house that it occurred to me that being poor was truly enough of an assault.
I stood up. I told her everything. I didn’t hear any supportive words. She said she was jealous. I wanted to throw up. I told her to take me home and that I’d rather starve than clean her parents’ house that day.
She gave me the cash even though I was no where near done and drove me home. Both from her guilty conscience, I’m sure. I resent her less these days realizing that his manipulative behavior had gotten to her too. But it was worse for her than me. I was getting out. She was deciding to stay and betray another woman in the process. That’s some pretty heavy manipulation.
In the months after the assault I went to therapy for free through a domestic violence program. I went through exercises that forced me to relive some of my happy memories of him and I together. I didn’t want to. We dated on and off for a couple of years and had definitely had some wonderful times. I wished they’d never happened. I wished I’d never met him. I didn’t want to remember his face, his voice, his scent. I purged my life of everything he gave me and everything that reminded me of him. My therapist wanted to get to the root cause of where the assault came from because I blamed myself so entirely. Thinking things were great before that one night that hit me out of no where. Or so I thought.
After nearly six months of therapy we hit a revelation. He was always manipulative, always verbally abusive. He preyed on my self-esteem and wanted me miserable so that I felt I needed him. So I’d crave his approval and attention. The few days leading up the assault I had started standing up for myself, not taking his shit as much. Refusing sex when I thought he was being an asshole when in the past I would had caved even after he would insult me. My therapist presented the idea that he raped me because he felt he was losing his control over me. It was meant to break me…as you would a horse.
Through therapy I started to feel like I was worth something and that he was the sad loser. Not me. He wanted something from me and getting that something wasn’t enough. He wanted my spirit and body. Ownership over things uncontainable.
When I started to feel stronger and less afraid I really stopped being able to put up with rude customers. Not putting up with rude customers meant facing the bosses’ wrath when the customers complained which then meant I had to stand up to my bosses. Finally the real opportunity came and not wanting to live as a victim anymore took the form of signing a union card with the Industrial Workers of the World.
I learned about organized labor. I decided that if I’m not meant to be some man’s slave than why be a slave to a boss, to a corporation, to a customer?
I looked at bosses as they sat in desks, sipping coffee drinks that they had me make them, pouring over sales numbers they got because of the hard work of me and my coworkers. We worked ourselves to complete exhaustion. Mothers I worked with talked about missing their kid’s first step while making lattes. I’ve known many pregnant women who have worked while dilated, risking their unborn child’s well being and their own, because maternity leave is so short and they wanted as much time as possible with their newborns so they were holding out. I knew the bosses and the company were responsible for the state of things.
The bosses were very manipulative. Abusing you for many shifts in a row, refusing you breaks, calling you stupid, promoting people that sexually harassed you, giving you schedules that made sleep impossible, refusing raises based on petty things like whether you always remembered to wear the required black socks or cover your tattoos. Then when we started organizing they would do this behavior for days and suddenly throw a pizza party. The majority of workers would thank the boss and talk for weeks about how much they really cared about us. How kind they were. How lucky we were.
Suddenly all the abuse faded away and grudges were dropped. Bosses were welcomed back into group conversations and invited to baby showers.
I see no difference between this scenario and the boyfriend hitting his girlfriend in the face and then showing up with flowers & candy and the cycle starting all over again.
I am not ashamed of being raped or manipulated by my ex. I am also not ashamed of leaving him and trying to heal. I am not ashamed of what horrible abuses I’ve experienced and witnessed since beginning to work at Starbucks. I refuse to accept them back after a simple pizza party.
I don’t want pizza. And I don’t want flowers. I want freedom from a life of servitude. I want an end to the abuse.
Yes, I could quit and liken it to breaking up with an abusive boyfriend but the next job would recreate the cycle. The next job would be the next abusive partner.
So I stay. And I fight. I fight through organizing with other survivors of the abuse, my coworkers. Well, at least the ones that have reached rock bottom and now want to climb out. No, not everyone is ready when I meet them to break up with their oppressor. I’ll be here when they are. When they, too, find the courage.
We work together to improve working conditions. Refusing to give them what they want when they are being assholes. Refusing them our labor. The use of our bodies for their own desires.
Under this current system we must make money to survive. To make money we must sell our labor. This is already unjust and disgusting to me. I’m fascinated by the creativity, the skill, and genius of the human mind and body. I feel great pride in being able to make something, teach something, to speak, to write, to learn. How wonderful it is to know humans are capable of so much greatness. The fact that someone was smart enough to exploit this greatness out of others for their own means with as little return to the person who created it as possible is so very heartbreaking. It’s the same heartbreak I feel when I learn of a person staying with an abuser and doing everything they say only to be beaten down again. I always wonder when they will leave. I wonder when they will fight back. I feel this way when I hold a coworker who is sobbing from being yelled at by a boss. I wonder when they will stop taking it. Many workers have. Workers who have started and joined unions. We are survivors.
These past five years have been amazing. I’ve healed from the abuse and degradation of that relationship. I healed through applying my therapist’s teachings to my life at work.
I refuse to be a victim any more. I’m determined to remember my worth and to try to help others heal from years of abuse at the hands of employers and customers. It isn’t enough to walk away if you still haven’t realized your worth because low self-esteem for our labor can just put us continually in the same fucked up situations. Before we know it we’ve been broken down quite literally and have nothing to show for it. The big bosses will have the property they purchased with the money they kept from us. They will have the best doctors, their kids will receive the best education, their parents will be provided for, and they will enjoy the fruits of our labor while we starve. It is no different than the significant other that swipes your paycheck.
The burns from the extra hot milk don’t hurt any less when I realize that drink cost my hourly wage but in one hour I will have made over a hundred of them.
Don’t listen when a boss or an abused coworker tries to make you believe that your labor is worth is nothing. Don’t believe them when they belittle your job because it’s in fast food, or retail. Whether you sit at a desk, deliver a pizza, clean a toilet, sew a pair of pants, or act on stage in order to pay your bills…remember if the bosses could do it by themselves they would. Remember they need you way more than you need them. Yes, the abuse can get worse when you stand up and fight back. Much like what happened to me. But if it took being raped to get away from such a horribly destructive relationship than that is simply what it took. If it took recovering from that to teach me about liberation and refuse servitude then so be it.
I will not be a slave. I will not be a servant. I do not consent to the abuse of my mind & body or the belittlement of my spirit. When they try to divide us it is like the partner that says you can’t see your friends. It is to isolate you so you feel alone, helpless, like your screaming and no one can hear you. Don’t let them do that. Refuse isolation. Reach out to your coworkers. Refuse to do unsafe work. Demand the money you deserve. Those that do the most work should live in the most luxury. We earned it. It is ours.
If you’ve found a way out of an abusive relationship or situation in your life than you know how badly you needed out. You’ve gone over in your mind a thousand times just how bad it could have gotten. You feel grateful to have walked away with your life. Imagine if all the horrible treatment at work ended. Imagine you didn’t dread clocking in. What if the boss now feared you? What if they wouldn’t dare hit you again, call you a name, harass you? What if they gave you all your breaks on time and didn’t refuse your overtime pay? What if you set your schedule and decided the tasks you’d take on? What if you set your pay rate?
What would it be like to finally be free?
Originally posted on December 4, 2011 on Facebook. Shared with permission from author.
Kansas City IWW & Friends
2017 MidWest Skill Share
Work | Home | Street | Community | Prison
March 25th & 26th
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!!
- IWW Do-It-Yourself Workplace Organizing! Learn how to organize your own workplace!! your job, your voice, your union!
- Incarceerated Workers Organizing Committee. Prisoner organizing and the 2017 National Prisoner effort!!
- Building a Poor People’s Survival Movement. Presented by Jonina Abron Ervin for Black Autonomy Federation
- Pod networking and direct action; possibilities for survivor-centric justice
- The coming Repression: Solidarity, Resistance, & Liberation in the Age of Trump
- As resistance builds against the Trump regime and its white nationalist visions, state repression of our movements will also increase. This presentation and discussion will examine some of the recent history and trends in political repression, as well as strategies and tactics for building resilient movements and defending our communities.
Friday night – social
9:30am – 1:00pm brunch / grazing
10:30am – 11:30am – Introductions
11:30am – 12:30pm – Intro to IWW / whatever
12:30pm – 1pm break
1pm – 3pm JoNina Abron Ervin presenting for Black Autonomy Federation
3pm – 4pm break
4pm – 7pm survivor pod
7pm – 8:30pm dinner
8:30pm – 10:00pm iwoc
9:30am – 10:30am breakfast
10:30am – 1:30pm confronting state repression
1:30pm – 3:00pm lunch
3:00pm – 6:00pm iww workplace
Victim still in Harborview Hospital; Shooter is well-known right wing gun activist.
From the Twin Cities GDC
SEATTLE, WA, January 25, 2017 — Social media activists claim to have identified the person who shot an anti-racist organizer on the University of Washington’s Seattle (UW-Seattle) campus on Friday, January 20, 2017, as a well-known right-wing gun activist attending white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos’ event with his wife, also a gun activist. Although the shooter shot a person in a protest situation, University of Washington Police have refused to make an arrest, and released the shooter and the person who accompanied them to turn themselves into the police early Saturday morning. King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg has not indicated any plan to pursue prosecution. Local politicians have remained ominously quiet.
The victim is an anti-racist and anti-fascist activist, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and the IWW General Defense Committee (GDC). His lawyer has confirmed that he was there to protest Milo Yiannopoulos’ hateful speech and violent incitement. He had been seen de-escalating conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters before he was shot. He remains in Harborview Hospital.
Social media activists allege the shooter is a well-known local right-wing gun activist who sent Yiannopoulous multiple facebook messages that evening. This person claimed in those messages that a protester had stolen a beloved “Make America Great Again” hat, and requested a new, autographed one from Yiannopoulos. In these messages he claimed a protester had ‘sucker punched’ them.
Multiple witnesses have reported that this person appeared drunk that evening, and had aggressively and repeatedly sought confrontations with protesters. This behavior can be seen on videos released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and others. Media sources have reported that the suspect has claimed they shot in self-defense and that they originally thought that the person they shot was a ‘white supremacist,’ but UWPD deny these reports. The reporting of these sorts of unsubstantiated claims has clouded the facts, and allowed undue credence for the right-wing narrative of fear.
People have questioned the University of Washington administration’s handling of this situation. UW administrators justified the event on the basis of the principle of freedom of speech; it is unclear however that the administration would permit self-proclaimed nazis to speak on campus and encourage the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the United States. We question why the administration permits people who have merely rebranded themselves as members of the alt-right to encourage similar violence against our fellow humans. UW President Cauce’s statement denied administration responsibility, and offered no support, condemning ‘violence’ in general and reaffirming support for the event’s approval, as well as the police handling of the situation.
Multiple press accounts from witnesses indicate that the police made no serious attempts at crowd control that evening, and were unprepared for the event. At the same time, observers have questioned the prosecutor’s unwillingness to charge the shooter, even after they turned themselves in. Our comrade has expressed his empathy for the shooter and his desire to engage in a restorative justice process rather than cooperating with a criminal prosecution. This indicates his deep opposition to the violence of the police and the state. The police’s complicity with the shooter indicates their willingness to protect those who create violence.
There is a double-standard for violence in America: right-wing activists may shoot protesters with impunity. We appear to be in a period when the right wing can murder unarmed protesters and claim self-defense. This was the supposed defense of the white supremacists who shot five people in Minneapolis at a protest against police murder. These violent right wing activists will even call us the ‘nazis.’ As they have done in this case, the media will collaborate unintentionally.
Finally, we are disturbed by the total silence from Seattle’s political establishment. We expect conservatives to ignore or even celebrate violence against us. However, the silence and lack of support from liberal, progressive, and radical members of the city council – especially socialist Kshama Sawant – is damning.
Our comrade continues to recover, and we are deeply grateful for the support shown him by generous people all over the world. His pain and sacrifice should not be in vain: we call on all people opposed to fascism and racism to demand accountability from the UW, the police, and the politicians. While we hold them accountable, we must also take responsibility for our own collective safety. It is clear that the police and the politicians have no interest in our safety.
Americans often like to say ‘there is no room for racism.’ It is past time to move beyond statements, and make it a truth.
Those who wish to financial support this member’s recovery may donate at this link.
Originally posted on: Twin Cities GDC
On the evening of Friday, January 20th, a comrade of ours was shot in the stomach in the most public place on the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle – a place called “Red Square” for the color of its bricks rather than its politics.
This Fellow Worker (what members of the IWW call ourselves) and Defender (for GDC members) is a longtime anti-fascist and dedicated activist, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the General Defense Committee of the IWW. He’s currently in critical condition at Harborview Hospital in Seattle. They have a Level One Trauma center, so it’s likely he is receiving the best quality care available, for which we are deeply grateful.
How do we respond? We are building an expanded anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-fascist presence in Seattle, and this person was spearheading that effort. Will others are willing step up and replace his effort while he heals? Our response will help determine that.
There is a limited amount of time for us to make clear to the world what is clear to us: we are under armed attack. The fascist right knows where to find us – protests such as anti-Donald Trump events, or actions against police brutality. In the Twin Cities, the trial has just begun of Allen Scarsella, one of the white supremacists who came to the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis in November, 2015 and opened fire, shooting multiple people.
We don’t have confirmation that the person who shot our comrade was a counter-protester angry at those protesting Milo’s hateful white nationalist misogyny. We do know that he turned himself into the police several hours later, claiming ‘self-defense.’ This, of course, is exactly what Scarsella did as well.
Our friend will have enormous hospital bills and undoubtedly some legal costs as well. There will be a significant loss of income. Let’s raise him so much that he won’t have to worry about that angle of things. Please give. All money will be controlled directly by them and their partner; none will go to any other cause, excepting any fees associated with the fundraising service used.
Please don’t just give; please tell your friends and families and organizations to give. That may sound daunting, but here’s why they should:
- This isn’t just about one guy. Your friends and families know that the situation has changed dramatically. They know that things are changing fast, and have heard the word fascism a lot since Trump was elected. They may even suspect that the breakneck pace of media revelations and executive decisions is intended to distract them and make them feel helpless.
- This is about protecting those who have already been putting themselves on the line protecting us. Who have been organizing for us and got there even before Donald Trump was elected. This is about protecting them. This is about emboldening OUR side to organized to protect ourselves, rather than simply beg for protection from fascists and racists. Some of whom are now in political power.
- We need to ensure widespread support for them, and we need to do it in the name of organized anti-fascism. We must demonstrate that no matter our own political analysis or identity – progressive, liberal, leftist, radical, etc. – we support anti-fascism, and we support antifascists. We will not leave our own behind. We will support antifascist efforts, most of all because they are needed more than ever, and not supporting them at this crucial point would be a disaster.
Thank you for reading all the way to the end. It’s hard to hear that a comrade has been shot. We may not have expressed everything in the most organized or best way above, and if that is the case, please accept our apologies.
We hope you will consider making a contribution, and perhaps writing letters or calling to the President of the University of Washington and expressing support for the victim of the shooting and the protesters, and criticism of the UW administration for permitting an event they knew was going to promote violence against minority groups. Now they’ve gotten what they should have known was coming. Call or write the County Attorney and demand aggressive prosecution. Call Seattle City Councilors and ask them to issue a public statement of condemnation of violent attacks on anti-racist and antifascist protesters, and support of our Fellow Worker.
Tell your neighbors the truth. Change the narrative that they will try to spin on the media.