Oppression is generally created by the (often unconscious) assumption that a certain group of people is inferior – be it in their capabilities or knowledge because of their race, gender, age,... If a privileged person behaves in a way that overtakes the power from others, it perpetuates the discrimination problems in our society.
Nobody is perfect! We all make mistakes and that is totally fine. The important thing is to acknowledge that and to be willing to listen and learn. This structure was created to deal with people who are persistently acting oppressively and don’t accept critique.
We have an awareness-team on the Biketour that tries to make sure that everybody feels good in the group and to mediate conflictive situations. It is important that it exists not only when a problematic situation comes up but even when there are no obvious conflicts happening at the moment. In that way, it is possible to address issues before they become too complicated.
We created this stricter frame of rules because we made bad experiences in the past. Not having agreed on a way how we act towards oppressive situations, meant that we first had to discuss it before we would be able to do something. When the group is changing constantly, this process becomes especially difficult.
Anyways, it is rather proposed to be an orientation and a collection of ideas and tools and it will be up to the actual group to apply it how they want to.
Important things to take into account:
awareness about oppression must be created. Often people don’t realise that certain behaviour is oppressive.
can the situation be solved straight away?
people change constantly, process must be documented/transparent
be aware that being called out can be a very violent situation and try to be empathic and give space to the oppressor to digest
this procedure is an ideal way how we imagine a conflict to be dealt with. It is very important to listen to the needs of all involved people and to maybe adapt the procedure.
Structure/procedure how to deal with oppression
When an oppressive situation happens…
1. inform/find out about oppression. different tools:
oppression sheet (people writing down their experiences awareness team checks it and reads it out in circle [anonymously])
awareness team (if opressive behaviour is from an awareness team member, that´s why they are three )
silent-box (awareness-team checks if there are some letters and decides how to deal with them)
shout-box (circle-facilitator checks and reads the content out to the circle)
email-address (firstname.lastname@example.org) but thats not helpful during biketour, I think. some people might use their phone and email instead of writing experience on a paper directly.
if someone witnesses an oppressive situation, they can tell the awareness team. The Awareness-Team can ask the opressed if they want to resolve the situation.
2. Talk to the oppressor(s) and try to solve the situation
Awareness-team asks the oppressed how they wish to proceed.
In some cases oppressive behaviour can happen with no one directly being affected. In that situation there is no “opressed person”, but the behaviour is still contradicting our guidelines (and there might be someone joining in the future who might feel oppressed by a situation like this happening again), so it still needs to be worked on. In this case, the awareness team should make the decision how to proceed (and can be supported by the person who observed the oppressive situation).
Either the oppressed talks alone to the oppressor (the resources in this booklet could be helpful)
or they might not want to have contact to the oppressor,and only the awareness-team talks to the oppressor.
or the oppressed talks together with members of the awareness team to the oppressor. In that case, the awareness team can follow the following procedure.
Clarify with the oppressed person (or within the awareness team if there is no person who is directly oppressed):
the objective of the talk, that can be to firstly exchange opinions and to talk again later – or to find a resoloution
the communication limits to the oppressor (for example: don’t shout, don’t deny feelings, don’t give stupid excuses, …) and what will happen in case we cross those limits.
Talk together with the oppressive and oppressed person:
If there is more people present, take notes!! and facilitation also can be very useful
Clarify the procedure and inform the oppressor about the objective, the limits and the procedure of the talk
First give the speaking turn to the oppressed without interruption and let them express what happened and their feelings. Encourage to talk about what the person felt, being subjective rather than accusing.
The facilitator then asks the oppressor if they recognised anything that was said and gives them the opportunity to give their point of view and feelings.
Discussion: talk dynamicly as short and clear as possible about thoughts and feelings.
Try to find a solution to the conflict/oppression happening.
Afterwards the oppressed and the oppressor should individually feedback to the awareness team about how the meeting went and if a solution was found.
3. Feedback to the circle and further steps
If a solution was found then feedback to a circle what happened (anonymously if wanted). Identify how this situation is affecting community dynamics. And how the community is involved in the situation.
If no solution was found then first feedback to a circle if oppressed people don’t disagree. Then:
try talking again, optionally in another way (for example if the talk happened just between oppressor and the oppressed before then try involving the awareness team for the next talk).
or ask oppressor to leave
4.No solution/improvement, ask oppressor to leave
For a while or definetly, with opcional conditions they can come back.
Awareness team shall start a decision process, then it´s up to the circle to decide
how do we decide?
consensus (would be the best, if we find a way the oppressor understand and agree)
If consensus failed, then consensus -1
if consensus -1 failed, then solid majority?
Inform oppressor in detail about the decision and reasons.
How to create an environment that makes people aware and empowers them to speak out?
welcome-team introduces to this topic
frustrations-round in the circle (tool for everybody to express their frustration in a circle)
theatre of the oppressed=> try out the procedure, other workshops
put this in the booklet
have an awareness-book (with to-do-list, recources and notes)
The awareness team should…
be at least 3 people and around a 6th of the group, rotate it step by step
initiate/facilitate a talk with oppressive person (with or without the opressed, depending how they feel)
keep track/make notes of procedure (awareness-booklet)
ask opressed people how it should be fed back to the circle, be careful here! opressor should also be informed
should initiate awarness-circles if needed
make sure awareness-tools are existing and working /check out message boxes, mail adress, oppression sheet
optionally make workshops happen around the topic (idea : making a theater of conflict resolution process)
Well this is all our thoughts how we would deal in future with oppression. Of course they are theoretical. We will see how they actually turn out when applied into practice.