I have been heartbroken by the vitriolic attacks experienced by many members of our activist community – not in one situation, but in several, both online and offline. For several months I have been listening and supporting targeted individuals, helping with safety plans, reaching out to community accountability trainers in other communities for advice, and other such emotional labor. I want us to stop harming each other. Some of us are organizing and fundraising to bring a community accountability workshop to the area, details TBA. I have also been thinking about co-creating voluntary standards for how we treat one another in the movement. While I should have been sleeping but couldn’t because I love our people and was upset about harm, I drafted MY COMMITMENTS to YOU. It is my hope that all of our formations-collectives-organizations in the movement will have conversations and develop commitments as to how we treat each other. These will not all look the same. I hope that some of the language below catalyzes these important dialogues. We cannot succeed in building a just world if we are not reflecting those same values within our activist communities.
I commit to treating others as fully human…
Because no one is disposable; because suicide is real; because our people have been through enough trauma; because even if we imagine what we believe or hear is the whole Truth, it can only be a partial truth; because all of us are human; because all of us are valuable; because all of us make mistakes and cause harm; because it’s easier to tear down than to build up; because the real “enemy” is white supremacist patriarchal capitalism, not one another; because relationships are not “zero sum” – for one person to be right, valuable, justified does not mean the other is wrong, invaluable, unjustified; because there is room for differences of identity, tactics, and beliefs; because the distance between humans in the online space engenders more vitriol and less understanding; because black and brown lives matter; because fear of being shut down silences voices we need to hear; because leading with love is revolutionary…
- I will not participate in or condone bullying of any human being, online or offline. Specifically, I will not spread rumors, expose secrets, threaten, dehumanize, or recruit others to dislike specific individuals.
- I will practice “both/and” thinking. No one knows everything or has the whole truth. Together we know a lot.
- I will practice self-focus language, using “I statements” rather than imagining that I speak for others or have access to some universal truth.
- I will be aware of both my intent and impact. When someone tells me I am causing harm to them or others, I will listen, seek to understand, and take responsibility for changing my behavior when appropriate. I will apologize sincerely.
- I will defer to “calling in”, not “calling out.” When someone behaves in a way that challenges my values, my first response will be to invite them into awareness rather than dismissing, shaming, or shunning them. I will ask someone to support me with this if I can’t/choose not to do it myself.
- I will practice self-care. I will be patient and gentle with myself. I will take space when I need it, so I can show up fully.
- I will ask questions before assuming. The best way to understand the choices, actions, or intentions of one another is by asking.
- I will defer to face-to-face or voice-to-voice communication to resolve interpersonal challenges, rather than social media or mass email.
- When others are in pain, I will show up for them and support them, to the extent that I am able.
- I will not imagine that I have a monopoly on pain or that my suffering takes precedence over the suffering of others in my community.
- I will not perpetrate violence against others – whether physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural, or verbal. I will not seek to harm other humans.
- I will respect people’s emotional boundaries by obtaining explicit verbal consent before discussing personal or potentially triggering topics with them.
- I will respect people’s physical boundaries by obtaining explicit verbal consent before touching them.
- I will ask for help when I need it, not assume that others know what support I need.
- I will be aware of my prejudices and my privilege and make space for others to be heard in the community.
- I will take a deep breath before I speak or act, asking myself, “What do I seek to accomplish?” and “Will this action alleviate or cause harm?” I will be patient and present in my decision-making. .
“We must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” ~Assata Shakur