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(en) US, A lighter shade of brown: Reflections on the First Bay Area - By Tomas

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 13 Jun 2004 09:45:53 +0200 (CEST)

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I have been asked too many times to count why people of color
need or want their own spaces, their own places outside or
beyond the presence of whites. And when I point out the benefits
and needs of other communities – women, workers, queers,
and so on - to meet independently of what they might
consider "other," people normally claim that some how
the analogy is false, that it smacks of elitism, segregation, hell
even reverse racism. They demand, "why do activists or
anarchists of color want to further ‘divide' themselves by
creating these exclusionary events"? And it came up again at
the Friday night meet and greet event on the eve of the first Bay
Area Anarchist People of Color (APOC) conference. I was
amazed to walk in to the Long Haul and see not one or two
people of color, the number usually present at typically anarchist
events, but easily forty. I was stunned, flabbergasted. I knew
maybe five or six people; so much for me thinkin I get
around… and then a young woman, white, walks in and when
someone explains to her that it is a people of color only space for
the evening, she is appalled, disgusted. "I'm an
activist," she stammers. "I'm working for equality for
everyone." She left eventually and we continued to talk, to
eat, to ponder what would come of such an event.

Needless to say I was excited by the turn out and the energy in
the room; it had been a quick and tumultuous journey to plan the
April 16th and 17th event. It started with losing the initial
community college space because the college administration
associated anarchists with a risk to safety and security. We
seemed to always be under pressure, but people are amazing and
as each issue popped up, someone stepped up to tackle it; and so
Saturday morning finally arrived. Amidst the flying blue and gold
balloons of UC Berkeley's annual open campus day with
thousands of parents and prospective Cal students milling about,
I saw the sign " Anarchist People of Color gathering this
way" in black and red.

The opening session was inspirational seeing so many people
(many more than the event Friday night), hearing the powerful
stories of people's political development, people's
experiences, people's fears and excitements about a
gathering such as this. I can't help but think back to the
young woman complaining, chiding us that this is divisive; I
can't think of an equally powerful event from which so many
people would leave able to work more intimately with other
activists and/or anarchists as well as to understand their own
connections to their own communities. This can only be
beneficial to everyone.

Then, as with many conferences, the workshops ranged from
traditional to educational to interactive. At times, I question our
dogged adherence to conference type events, which seem to
mirror every other conference from self-help seminars to
anarchist gatherings. Some important conclusion could be drawn
from this. But for me, most of the excitement was during the
in-between times, outside of caucuses and workshops, in the hall
ways, sitting in a circle talking about parenting over homemade
tamales at lunch, relaxing in the sun discussing past experiences
with predominately white activists, volunteering at the check-in
table exploring white skin privilege and shame, arguing with an
African American kid selling the Worker's Vanguard with his
white friend and him proselytizing that class is the only issue, and
he like the white activist earlier fearing we are being blinded by

As I left the event Sunday afternoon, I realized that it is fear that
prevents us from trusting others to solve their own issues, to
reach their own conclusions; this fear is in many of us who grew
up in this society saturated with a disempowering dependence on
authority and outside structures. It is this fear which is dominant
particularly in liberal circles ranging from the politically correct
fear of discussing difference within classrooms or the activist
notion that we should all agree, be on the same page, reach
consensus about issues that are multifaceted, about people or
cultures marginalized and consistently and endlessly under attack
by institutionalized racism. It is this fear that causes people to
balk at the notion of separation as a good, empowering, necessary
ingredient in the struggle for creating a more egalitarian,
cooperative, and trustful society.

Events like the Bay Area Anarchist People of Color conference
aren't a sign of divisiveness but of connection, of recognition
that we are different (in many various and internal ways) and yet
we see our difference in relationship to others, to other issues. In
our mutual differences is our similarity. More events like this are
needed and are coming. So far there's been one national
APOC conference and two regional ones, there's already
been a police attack on a benefit for the NYC APOC, and
there's talk of APOC gatherings in other cities and at up
coming protests like the Republican convention and the
biotechnology conference in SF. And it shouldn't end with
people of color. There's been talk of re-starting a
woman's night again at the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley,
there's a queer and trannie night already on Monday there
[not a separatist event], and we even joked at the last Slingshot
meeting about a men's night. I can only fantasize about what
would come of more people coming together, talking about shit in
an environment of safety, trust, honesty, and respect, and then
stepping out to talk to and work with others
Copied from infoshop.org

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