Transition Café – Social Justice in Transition Towns

–By William Mutch
The issue of Social Justice is coming up a lot, and certainly should be, so I thought we’d have another formal conversation about it. Specifically, what should the role of the Transition Town Community be in conversations around Social Justice, especially in an era when the white supremacist movement is so openly supported by our national government? (I understand that it has been covert policy for a very long time, but the current brazen support for it is alarming, to say the least)

A quick survey, online, offers the usual diversity of definitions for Social Justice. A rough summary would probably be: “equal treatment under the laws of the land”, without regard for culture, ethnicity, gender, religion, spirituality, economic class, sexual preference(s), etc…

The Transition Town Community is very much of a grassroots movement, but with a mandate to work to influence conversations at the local, state, and national levels. Working at the grassroots level, we are in a position to influence people in ways that are simply not available to folks working at the policy and government levels–through conversation, relationship, shared projects.

For those of us who are members of a culturally-dominant group, or who can pass as such, it is easy-ish to say “well, I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, or to draw attention onto myself, so why don’t ‘those people’ just learn to stick up for themselves?” It is a great feeling, though, to know you have an ally in the room, to know that folks support you for who and what you are, instead of turning away because they don’t want to “cause trouble”. When was the last time you allied with someone who needed it? How many times have you turned away, or said it’s “not my problem”? How about this one: “I’m not prejudiced, I just don’t want *those people* (in my neighborhood; taking *our* jobs; dating my children; dressing like *my people*, stepping out from the kitchen, from behind the counter, etc…)

Lots of folks who make those comments, and they happen all the time, genuinely don’t see themselves as prejudiced or in any way responsible for the current state of affairs, and many probably would even say they object to Trump making similar comments. However, each time we allow a comment like that to pass unchallenged, or call the police to remove one of “those people” from “our neighborhood”, we enrich the soil from which Trump and his organization grew.

Every time we look away from situations where Black and Latino folk are arrested or killed for being in “the wrong place at the wrong time”, where someone shouts at someone “Middle Eastern looking” to “get out of my country”, we empower such things to happen again. If you are White, you can make the choice of whether to intervene, or to look away, believing that Trump’s people, or folks like them, will not someday be coming for you and your family. Or, maybe just think that this person is a human being, like yourself, and might like to be treated the way you would want yourself and your children to be treated, and say something because it’s the right thing to do. Of course, we’ve all stood by when we probably could have intervened, or intervened when it was inappropriate or in an inappropriate way. So, we own it, make appropriate reparations, and move on.

What role could Transition Towns have in this conversation? How can we better empower and support our members to speak up for themselves, and for others? A number of us took to wearing safety pins, after Trump announced his candidacy and hate crimes skyrocketed as an aspect of the “Trump Effect”. What does that mean? Do you still wear yours? Prominently? Why or why not? How can Transition Towns influence the conversation at state and national levels?

This feels like a messy e-mail, but then, it’s a messy subject. Come on down to Red Rock, and talk about it. Social Justice in Transition Towns, at Red Rock Coffee, this Friday, 16 February.



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