Image Description: The background is hot pink. There is a gradient pink and yellow circle with a giant yellow “angry” emoji/emoticon in it. The title text is yellow and reads “The Place of Rage Part 3”. The links in black are “lukayo.com” and “patreon.com/lukayo“. The other title pages are yellow circles or gradient yellow-pink circles on a hot pink background with a yellow border.
Content warning: trauma, police, prisons.
Mabuhay! If you haven’t already checked out part one and two, I suggest you listen to them first. The links are in the video transcript, along with links to writers that informed this series.
This week we’re focusing on the question of “what happens when expressions of anger have harmed someone in a space?” Especially if it’s a space that you’re facilitating or leading for skill-sharing and educational purposes? My approach tries to take into consideration two core concepts: trauma and ethics.
Before we get into it, I just want to put a content warning up, since we’ll be talking about trauma, prison, and police systems.
So why are we talking about trauma? First of all, my understanding of trauma was covered in a previous Troubleshoot Tuesday article, which I’ve also linked in the transcript. To sum it up in a really basic way, trauma is a reaction to being or witnessing wounding and harm, and it messes up your threat response. The idea is that we have the capacity to choose our threat response when we are threatened or harmed (like fight, flight, freeze, appease/fawn, etc.) but when we are traumatized, a threat response gets “stuck” and starts automatically before we can even think about it. This is what being “triggered” means in trauma theory. So for me it’s important to introduce concepts like triggers and trauma into my workshop early on, like in the Community Agreements, and discuss how to hold space for those stuck threat responses. That way when anyone does get triggered, whether they know if they have trauma or not, other people in the workshop are prepared and there’s some guidelines in place on how to support everyone.
But how about when folks can choose their behaviour when they feel threatened or when they witness or experience harm? That’s ethics. There’s so many concepts out there about what folks think are moral, i.e. “good and bad”, so I’m just gonna cover some of my own ethics and how that’s informed my responses in my workshops. I’m hoping that this sharing will help you figure out or rethink your own courses of action in your teaching spaces.
In my previous video on The Place of Rage, I talked about considering power dynamics in the space, which I think is foundational to intersectional anti-oppressive ethics. My ethics is also relationship-based, and is part of a decolonial and disability justice framework. Lastly, I believe in transformative justice (TJ), and I think that TJ makes sense as a form of ethics that also comes out of, if not the same as, intersectional anti-oppression, decolonization, and disability justice.
My understanding of TJ is informed by workshops run by the Just Practice Collaborative in Chicago, writings by the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective in Oakland, California, and the zine and book The Revolution Starts At Home (all of these linked in the video transcript below). As well, transformative and restorative practices are deeply embedded in the practices of many Indigenous peoples to Turtle Island, and their teachings in informal and formal gatherings, in social media and over messenger, and the hard and necessary work that is done alongside the settler colonial Canadian prison industrial complex with Gladue sentencing, also has informed my understanding, and I owe a debt to them as do many settlers and non-Indigenous to Turtle Island folks when trying to practice transformative justice. Though I will not cover it in this series, my understanding of transformative justice is deeply informed by ceremony with my own people and indigenous peoples in Turtle Island and in the Philippines.
The first thing I try to do when responding to harm in a workshop space I am facilitating, a harm traced directly from someone’s expression of anger, is that I try to slow down or redirect any responses I have that come from my own trauma, and focus on consequences and the impact of the harm on everyone involved, and perhaps communities that aren’t even in the space right now but are connected in some way.
Thinking and feeling about consequences is important, and I try to go there instead of immediately wanting to punish, exile, and control. My understanding of the settler colonial and racist prison and police systems that I’ve grown up in is that they operate on systems to control that are enforced through punishment and exile– “I’m going to make this person hurt, I’m going to make this person lose, I’m going to make this person feel worthless and take away as much of their humanity as possible because they are bad and wrong”. These systems got into my head, mixed up with my trauma, when I was growing up, and it takes a lot of practice and conscious effort every day not to fall back on them. I don’t want to make people disposable because this is against my values of intersectional and decolonial anti-oppression and disability justice. I don’t want the prison and police in my head to win, because I believe there is another way to go about things.
Want to listen to/read the rest of the video? Please subscribe for $10 per month to gain access to weekly interactive posts where you can ask questions about the creative process and troubleshoot your anti-oppressive workshops. Supporters will also receive a mailed package with print-outs of anti-oppression activities and posters. All funds raised go to healing work among my communities.
- The Place of Rage Part 1: https://www.facebook.com/lukayo.estrella/videos/10102215790371035/
- The Place of Rage Part 2: https://www.facebook.com/lukayo.estrella/videos/10102220796254205/
- Rhizome Syndrigast Coelacanth Flourishing: https://www.patreon.com/RhizomeSyndrigastCoelacanthFlourishing
- So You’ve Been Publicly Scapegoated: Why We Must Speak Out On Call-out Culture by Katherine Cross: http://feministing.com/2015/04/16/so-youve-been-publicly-scapegoated-why-we-must-speak-out-on-call-out-culture/
- Boundary Setting vs Tone Policing by Miri: https://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/03/24/boundary-setting-vs-tone-policing/
- Troubleshoot Tuesday: When Participants Get Triggered: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10102039078033975&set=a.10100432157904795&type=3&theater
- Just Practice Collaborative: http://www.shirahassan.com/just-practice-collaborative
- Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective: https://batjc.wordpress.com
- The Revolution Starts At Home Zine: http://criticalresistance.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Revolution-starts-at-home-zine.pdf
- Decolonizing Restorative Justice by Denise C. Breton: https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/decolonizing-restorative-justice/
- Spirituality as decolonizing by Judy Iseke: https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/des/article/view/19142/16235