Build #7 Introduction
Marginalized and colonized comrades are often the target of passive-aggressive, and sometimes overtly aggressive, behavior rooted in toxic masculinity and white fragility within our local DSA chapters. In our Honolulu chapter, we decided that in order to address the lack of representation within our organizing ranks and leadership, and to truly align with leftist values and ideologies, we needed to make more space for marginalized and colonized people. Our bylaws now require a certain diversity quota to have a functioning chapter. I'm not sure how many chapters are already doing this, but I know that more and more are adopting similar bylaws.
However, with the rise of diversity quotas, the passive-aggressive behavior of white allies and colonized cis-men under the leadership of black women, women of color, and gender diverse people is becoming increasingly common. As in the broader society, we have seen that whether consciously or not, white allies and colonized cis-men sabotage diverse leadership by withdrawing their support and efforts. When engagement suddenly declines, when people volunteer less, when everyone says they are too busy to offer resources, it’s not always happenstance. Being set up to fail is an all too common experience for the marginalized. We perform the invisible labor that allows so many others to succeed, but we don’t have the same support when we step forward into leadership roles. Cis-men can continue to hold these positions based on their “individual” merits, ignoring all the ways society sets them up for success.
Being a marginalized person in a leftist organization is a balance between being considered a source of authority based on real life experiences, while also being invalidated when calling out said experiences. When we share our experiences with some allies, they will condemn those who exhibit problematic behavior, and our voices are considered valid. But when we speak out about injustices we experience within our own ranks, our actions are perceived as hostile and unconstructive. When we actively and aggressively insist on addressing behavior rooted in toxic masculinity and white fragility in our own organizing spaces as we do in the larger world, we can end up being ostracized for it.
Too often, our allies are barely held accountable for their behavior; we’re required to forgive them immediately so that there isn’t a rift in the group, because they’re still “decolonizing” and it’s a “process” and they’re “so grateful for us having the patience to work with them.” Time and time again, we are forced to put ourselves aside for the sake of the chapter instead of white allies and colonized cis-men having to take real responsibility for their actions. The only thing worse than white/cis-men saviors is white/cis-men guilt, because it still centers the oppressor and not the oppressed.
Part of what gives those of us on the margins of society the strength to constantly be working towards solidarity is that we truly believe that if we can educate people, we can include them in the fight against white supremacy and the patriarchy in America. But how can that be true if many our white allies and colonized cis-men comrades still display problematic behavior after these efforts? The most frightening thing for us is that, many of you have read the doctrine; you’ve read many texts authored by black women, women of color and gender diverse people; and you have even heard our real-life experiences when we’ve confided in you, but it wasn’t enough to truly change your behavior. What does this mean for our future?