I value what I have learned from the world of anti-oppression. It has shaped my development into adulthood. It has made me a better person. It has taught me ways to stand in solidarity with people I care about. These are important parts of who I am and how I move through the world.
And yet, I fear it. Not the work of dismantling oppressive structures. Not the theory, as crunchy and dense as it may be. Not even the often painful self-reflection on my privilege and participation in these systems. I fear the zealotry of the adherents of the Church Of Anti-Oppression.
This is not a fear anyone who has ever taken an Anti-O 101 workshop. This is a fear of those who approach the work of dismantling oppressive structures with fundamentalism.
I am terrified that I will say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, organize an event in the wrong way. I am terrified to make a single mistake because I fear I will be excommunicated. My anti-oppression licence will be revoked, I will loose all credibility, my reputation will be destroyed, and I will be run out of town.
There is a level of irrationality in this thinking, but I do not know to what degree. What I do know is that I let it shape my actions to my detriment. I want to express myself though writing, but it feels safer to say nothing than to use the wrong language. I want to build community by organizing events, but it feels safer to do nothing than to hold a less than perfectly accessible and inclusive event. This fear of the church of anti-oppression stops me from actually doing the work of anti-oppression.
This is not an attempt to avoid responsibility. Call me out, call me in, hold me accountable. I want that. This is an attempt to challenge a fear that I know I share with many of my peers, and to challenge the fundamentalist discourse that this fear is rooted in. Social change is not a neat and tidy process. Social change is messy and complicated and must be grounded in empathy. We are imperfect creatures but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to improve together.