Tag Archives: radical

Post the Seventy-Seventh or On Accountability

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work for an organization called Out Youth. As you could guess, Out Youth is a queer youth organization that strives to “promote the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well being” of queer and trans* young people. In other words, they seek to empower queer young people so that they can become leaders in their community. Out Youth is a crisis prevention organization because it gives young people the tools and community necessary to survive. It gives some young people the access to family, support and community that might not be offered at home. I know Out Youth has forever changed my life.

And it was, without a doubt, my favorite job. I got to work with amazing, inspiring young people all day long. I was constantly surrounded by a queer family that I knew had my back. I was working with some badass organizers who were working on the ground, creating safe spaces for queer young people all over Texas. I was working to empower young people to fight for the lives they wanted today and not just wait for it to “get better”. And I loved it. I would come in everyday and these young people would teach me what was really good.

Unfortunately, however, I lost that job. But it wasn’t because I was bad at my job or not meeting my goals. And it was not because the youth felt that I was oppressive or problematic and wanted me fired. I was fired for trying to hold the board of directors accountable. I was fired for organizing the young people against the board of directors. I was fired for trying to revolutionize the organization so that power was centered with the young people.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no saint. I certainly fucked up and made mistakes. I said several things that probably would have been better heard in a private forum. I’m a hothead and my sharp tongue sometimes gets the best of me. And I have a long way to go in learning how to engage to transform. However, nothing that I has ever said have been untrue. And I was always accountable to the young people that I served.

The board of directors, however, is anything but accountable to the young people that they purport to serve. And no action displays this lack of accountability more than in their recent hiring of Aubrey Wilkerson as the new Executive Director. This is the same Aubrey who was the board chair of Out Youth. You know, the same board that hires the Executive Director (I won’t even get into how shady that is). The same Aubrey who squandered a surplus, failed to raise enough money for the organization (despite being a professional fundraiser) and made only a token effort to include young people in the decision making process. This is the same Aubrey that talked down to and misgendered many youth. The same Aubrey who fails to address racial and economic justice at Out Youth and disrespected the only staff member of color on multiple occasions.

What’s more is that the hiring committee (which only had one youth member, even though a youth run and led organization would/should have had more youth than adult members on any decision making body) didn’t even recommend Aubrey to the board for consideration. When they recommended three different people, instead of picking one of those three, the Board went back to review applications and hired Aubrey. Let me repeat that again. The board of directors hired someone that had a direct influence on the decision because they were the goddamn board chair for 4 goddamn years. They hired someone that wasn’t even recommended.

I can’t even.

Now, I don’t claim to speak for the youth. Only they can speak for themselves. But from what I understand, in my time involved in Out Youth, Aubrey has never been liked by most of the youth. I have countless stories where Aubrey’s self-importance was very off putting, especially to trans youth and youth of color. I have so many stories of youth not even knowing who Aubrey was until Lisa Rogers was fired. I have so many stories of youth not feeling heard by Aubrey.

So, not only did the board hire someone who had a stake in the decision-making process (even if he “temporarily” resigned as board chair) but they hired someone who the young people don’t even like. I see where the board might be coming from. They hope that Aubrey will raise those millions that he did at his last job. But what good does millions do if there are no youth? Because that is what this decision is going to do. Its going to push youth out of Out Youth.

What, than, does accountability look like? It looks like changing the structure of the organization so that young people have more power than the adults. It means that all decisions must have final approval by the young people. It means that we empower the young people and give them the tools to drive the organization in the direction that they choose. This is more than just asking for their input. It means integrating young people into every decision making process and giving the young people the knowledge and tools to do that. It means that the adult allies must remain allies and act in support roles only.

But most of all accountability means that we, as adult allies with adult privilege, keep our privilege in check. It means that we don’t take up to much space, that we don’t dominate conversations. It means stepping back and allowing young people to take charge. It means we don’t treat young people like children or think that they can’t handle the responsibility. Accountability means that when we fuck up, because we will, we don’t get defensive. We apologize and don’t do it again.

Accountability means that we do not recreate the systems of power and oppression that exist in society within our own organizations. Within our own families.

So I call upon the Out Youth board of directors. Be accountable to the young people that you serve. Show your willingness to work with young people by renouncing your power. Show your desire to really empower young people by restructuring the organization to give them power. Show your dedication to social justice by being just.

And young people, never forget that they are nothing with out you. There is no Out Youth without youth. El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. The people united shall never be defeated. Its time to take your organization back. Force them to be accountable to you. Its time to create something new.

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Post the Seventy-Forth or I Refuse to be Silent

The other day, one of my white facebook friends posted on my wall saying that being “hateful” against white people is “racist” and that its just as bad as what white people do to people of color. This lead to an over 150 comment thread with multiple people weighing in. She insisted that we were being racist. Apparently for her, holding white supremacy accountable for its crimes means that we hated white people and that we were racist. Needless to say, we are no longer friends.

What I want to talk about here was a specific comment that was made from another person that we will call Georgia. Georgia (who is a white lady), at first, used one of MLK Jr. quotes saying something to the effect that love is good and we should all love each other. My friend’s bullshit detector went off and quickly supplied her with many, many, many other quotes from MLK that backed us up. She then replied that “negativity will only spread negativity” and that “we all bleed red”. This was after over 100 comments where we clearly disproved this. So, I flippantly replied, “Where is your reading comprehension? Want me to help you find it?”

At this point, the original post had been taken down and all of the subsequent comments with it.

But.

This white lady messages me something to the effect of, “Don’t make fun of me. You are a meany and the biggest racist I’ve ever met. White people suffer too. I’m not responsible for genocide or your oppression. I know myself but you seem pretty lost. It’s a shame that your powerful voice is wasted because you are so angry.”

This made me so angry. Like, the kind of anger that gets you thrown in jail for trying to choke someone out. The kind of anger that makes most people want to run in the opposite direction. The kind of anger that gets me into trouble. Thankfully, I was at home with no fragile and expensive objects within reach. Well, except for my laptop but I need that.

The reason why this made me so apoplectic is because this white lady, who insisted that she had suffered SO much, was deciding for me that it is pointless to speak on my experience because I was so angry. Her message was so condescending, paternalistic and steeped in privilege. She thought herself the Supreme Arbiter of Effectiveness, apparently, which somehow gave her the authority to say that what I was doing was a waste of time. Being angry about white supremacy, calling out people on their racism, saying it unapologetically and refusing to placate white people’s ego is, according to her, a waste of time. This because they won’t “hear” me because my anger and resentment has clouded my voice.

This is symptomatic of the attitude that “well-intentioned” white liberals have. They support you as long as you make them comfortable and don’t challenge their authority. They think that they have the “objective” and “logical” stand point and often refuse to see the privileges that white supremacy gives them. It is astounding how seemingly smart individuals suddenly throw all critical thinking skills out of the window when it comes to matters of race. Like a slippery eel, their minds just cannot seem to grasp the concept that white people have power over people of color. I’m starting to think that they are just willfully ignorant.

Further, since my voice does not “conform” to her vision of “love” she can suddenly decide that nothing I have to say is worth listening too. The underlying assumption here is that she has a right to dictate to me the form in which my voice manifests. She has a right to tell me what to do with my voice. Since whiteness is the pinnacle of “logic”, “reason” and “validity”, anything that strays from that is wasteful. Since I am not white and my anger is in total opposition to whiteness, that means that I have nothing good to say. She assumes that she has ownership over my voice and my body.

And if I would just be nice to her, and by extension all white people, they would just listen to me and relinquish their power and privilege. If I ask politely, massa will give me my rights.

But this totally misses the point, doesn’t it? Because this analysis of racism assumes that racism, and other forms of oppression, are just psychological processes that need to be eradicated through reform and education. Its an interpersonal, individual problem that needs to be fixed with polite discussion where the oppressed educate the oppressor. But this completely erases that institutional and systemic causes of racism. It erases the very real, very desperate, very lethal forms of racism that exist. It puts the onus on the oppressed to fix it and washes the oppressor of any responsibility to do anything. There is no need to protest or be angry or revolt because once we educate white people they will learn the error of their ways and everything will be fine! And you can’t say anything mean or angry because thats just reverse racism and it means everything you have to say is wrong.

But fuck all of that bullshit. I am the only one with the right to my body. I am the only who can decide what is appropriate and what isn’t appropriate for the use of MY OWN VOICE. I have a right to my anger and goddamn it I’m going to feel it. I am going to express it. I am going to shout it from every single rooftop and post it all over my Facebook and write every single blog entry about it that I want. I am going to keep talking about until I don’t want to anymore and anyone that has a problem with that can go kick rocks. White folks have colonized my land, committed genocide against my people and continues to consume my culture and I’ll be damned if they have anything else of mine. They will not have my anger. They will not have any other parts of me.

I refuse to be silenced.