Leadership of those most impacted
“The personal is political” -Second wave feminism
When we talk about leadership of those most impacted, what do we mean?
Intersectionality tells us that oppressions are not additive, they interlock and take new shapes to keep people from being treated as fully human. This can take the form of being marginalized (pushed aside) or tokenized (uncomfortably centered). Both are harmful because they do not represent real inclusion. Real inclusion means offering opportunities and supports for leadership while respecting people’s boundaries around what they want to share when, how much they want to teach, and when they want to lead. Respecting us as humans means treating us as equals.
We need to understand two things:
- Liberating the people most targeted by interlocking oppressions will lead to the liberation of us all;
- The people most equipped to lead the struggle against systems of oppression are those most familiar with systems of oppression.
So where do we go from here?
Leadership of those most impacted requires that we be willing to be led. It requires humility and authentically paying attention, especially to people we may consider “unworthy” of being in leadership. Sick and disabled people, those of us who can’t get out of bed, those of us who are disabled and… Disabled and Two Spirit, disabled and poor, disabled and a Black trans refugee who speaks English as a second or third language…we are the ones who appear “unproductive” because we move more slowly or speak less fluently or don’t live up to capitalism’s automated standards. It’s easy to disregard people like that. People like us. But going as slowly as the slowest person will make sure everyone gets to come along.
Leadership of those most impacted means being willing to learn new ways of being in community. Ways that maybe our ancestors knew. Ways that many of our communities haven’t forgotten.
Still, it’s a constant practice.
This principle of disability justice reminds us that the people who most need to get free are the ones who will get us all free. The people who are most impacted are the ones where the material conditions of their lives are most impacted–they are denied the most resources. Resourcing them and paying attention to them will support the liberation of us all. It requires that we not be selfish–that we maybe put off our individual win for the collective win. Because that collective win will be a doozy (one-of-a-kind).