Thursday, March 3, 2011
4 Weeks of Cultivation!
I'm still feeling sick, so this isn't the Glamour Shots inspired photo I hoped to have for this commemorative occasion. I'm also not feeling up to writing much, either. I just want to take a nap. So enjoy my head . . . I'm off to lie down some more.
I stayed up and wrote. This is what came out:
I got news today that a job I applied for and was really hopeful about is not being offered to me. It was hard to hear the news because unlike with some other jobs, I really thought I could do this one, and do it well. The position excited me and seemed well within my abilities. I was also hurt because I guess I misunderstood some signs from my interviewer - like introducing me to the staff, indicating that they wanted to call my references right away, and initiating a hug as they bid me farewell (all signs that I, in my past duties as an interviewer, would never have dreamed of giving someone unless I was fairly certain we would at least be asking them back for a second interview.) I felt hopeful, and my hopes were dashed today. I haven't yet been able to let go of the feeling that they made the wrong decision. I would have been fantastic at that job.
This scrambling for a job in the Non-Profit Industrial Complex is really starting to wear on me. There is a lot of injustice happening, all over the world, and I am committed to being part of the solution. But in terms of what I get paid to do, I am currently part of the problem. In order to pay the bills, I work part-time at a cafe/pub that is basically a gentrifying business with white and well-to-do clientele in an otherwise poor and black/brown part of Oakland, with no apparent analysis of their position or much of a sense of moral duty to the community. I am stuck in capitalist survival mode. While I do this, I am actively searching for a job that is more like "real jobs" I have had in the past and tell myself I want in the future, namely, in non-profits, doing program work involving education or organizing. This slice of the job market is oddly competitive, and as far as I can tell, unwilling to check itself on its own racism, classism, and problematic hierarchical systems.
One of my smartest friends has been a fisherman for the past few years after years of trying to find a decent job in a non-profit as a young person. Many of my friends who are women, queer, trans, or people of color and who work in non-profits are office managers, assistants, or organizers who can barely pay their bills and live paycheck to paycheck, but are expected to devote their lives to their work anyway. And I can think of so many white and middle class to upper middle class people I know who are in positions of power and leadership. Executive directors, development directors. Maybe it's just my slice of the world, but these people seen unaffected by the economy. They quit a job, they get another one within months. They're nice white ladies and older white guys with advanced degrees . . . something I haven't been able to convince myself to go into insurmountable debt to chase after.
I see that in "movement work" and in the NPIC in general, the same people who are in these positions of power are the same people who, for example, go to the same conferences year after year. They present, often on the same things, over and over, and sometimes with a "new twist" on the same thing. They have conversations about getting the right people in the room or at the table, and how do we make our movement more intersectional or accessible? Meanwhile, so many potential leaders are waiting tables for a living, with not enough resources to attend the conference and not enough name recognition to teach a workshop, because the movement has no room for us.
So much of our worth as progressives is attached to our organizational affiliation and our job titles. But until we are willing to face that no matter how much we talk about access, getting on a leadership development track in the progressive/lefty movement is simply not accessible to everyone. As far as the eye can see, the same people will keep having the same conversations in the same spaces year after year, with occasional new blood from bright-eyed young interns in suits whose parents help pay their rent and who help coordinate the volunteers. Elsewhere, other potential leaders work in service jobs, or worse, turn to corporate America, in hopes of making enough to get by, and one day, somehow have space and time in our lives to meaningfully organize and contribute to a love-based, accessible, movement for progress, social justice, and equality.