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Confronting Race and Power Issues in NYC Free Pacifica Movement 5-1-01

From: Renteria22@a...
Date: Tue May 1, 2001 11:16 am
Subject: Confronting Race and Power Issues in NYC Free Pacifica Movement

This is a grave subject, and I hope that people will not respond to this email with a series of charges against one another. In a word, I am not writing this so that people will have a soapbox from which to attack and defend, but in the hope of calling attention to some much needed healing.

It is time that an encounter occur in the movement to free Pacifica in NY. It's time for a diversity training and encounter session to be held here so that people can begin to take responibilitly for unraveling the hurts that have occured in the movement and so that the dynamics of charge-counter charge, blame-counterblame, and mutual exclusion can come to an end, and so that the beginnings of an atmosphere of mutual trust can be established.

There has been a long history in NY of escalating charges of opportunism on one hand, and countercharges of racism on the other hand, that must come to an end.

The struggle in NY around WBAI is in a new stage now, and its time that everyone took account of where things stand.

People who once may have played an opportunistic and mistaken and harmful role vis a vis our struggle are now in the forefront of leading a radical charge that could well have the impact of lierating Pacifica as a whole. All attacks against these people should end. Now.

At the same time honesty demands that the effort to single a handful of members of the movement as racist are counterproductive.

It is especially the case that white people laying these charges need to take a long look in the mirror and grapple with their own imagined superiority on these questions.

There is not a single white person in the United States who is not deeply affected by having grown up in the most profoundly racist country in history.

To single out certain individuals to wear the Scarlet "R", in lieu of dealing with this struggle in a more comprehensive context, is, on the part of these white members of our community, an act in itself of unconscious racism, yet another way to claim a moral, psychological and politcal superiority that is repugnant, and that is not too far removed from other forms of white superiority, in my view.

For any white person to lay blame for racism at the doorstep of another white person is as absurd as any given German laying the blame for Nazism at the doorstep of individuals there. It's not real. The problem lies not with individuals but with an entire community, an entire country, for which every single member is responsible, since every single member is part of the dynamic.

Any white person who has gone through an authentic and deep reaching healing process around racism - their own racism and the structured inequality of society at large - any such person knows that there is no room for finger pointing, that racism becomes embedded in white people from a very early age, at an age when children are terribly vulnerable.

The same is true with respect to the internalization of self blaming, race based shame on the part of people of color, and of internalized, repressive sexism on the part of women.

By the same token, and on the other hand, those who may have taken opportunistic stands re the Pacifica struggle should be held to account if and to the extent that they may have used charges of racism against others to defame and discredit those who called out that opportunism.

This is a delicate matter, because any charge of racism on the part of persons of color must be taken with utmost seriousness, just as a charge of sexism or sexual harassment, when raised by women, must be taken with utmost seriousness.

There has been, of course, a lot of denial on both sides of these issues, and it is natural in that context that it has fallen to certain memers of the relatively new Pacifica Listeners Union in NYC to mediate these contradictions.

I would like to take this opportunity to urge all concerned to back away from the cycle of blame in this situation, and to call for a diversity training and encounter session to be arranged, so that an outside healing agency can be brought aboard to create the space for a new level of unity in the movement here.

I promise all concerned to do my utmost to create the space for such healing and for honest dialog and mutual acceptance between all the parties to this dynamic. I hope others will join me in this effort, so that our work - toward a liberated, people's Pacifica, can move forward with greater love, unity and efficiency.

Amor y Lucha,
Rafael Renteria

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