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  • Writer's pictureTaylor McNallie

Keeping the Door Open

Updated: Apr 11

Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and is a topic discussed regularly in the organizing spaces I’m a part of, is the way we keep the door open to our organizing to ensure people have access to what we’re learning and practicing. This isn’t always easy, as sometimes those wanting access don’t necessarily align with our own beliefs, but it is crucial to ensure we’re not closing people off to a new experience; an experience that allows them to choose something different.


My thoughts in this moment come as we continue to learn more about Aaron Bushnell in the weeks following his self-immolation.


Aaron Bushnell was a member of the United States Air Force. This means he acted as an agent of the state, upholding white supremacy and colonialism even by simply existing within this institution. Admitting this seems to stir up a lot of emotions for people, but it’s something that must be understood and recognized. Aaron recognized this, which he so clearly stated when he said, “I will no longer be complicit in genocide.” We cannot begin to divest from and dismantle systems of oppression without recognizing our privilege within them and the ways we uphold them.


As well as being an active member of the United States Air Force, we’ve come to learn that Aaron was a self-proclaimed "Anarchist" who was very active in his local community through various mutual aid projects. Seeing headlines that say “Active Duty Air Force Member and Anarchist” is a really wild thing to read, because you cannot have both. It’s not “ACAB, but please read the fine print.” And while Aaron could have very well been the “exception,” based on what I’ve experienced and witnessed within my own area, I’m not convinced enough people understand the type of care that is required in keeping the door open this way. Oftentimes, it means the suppression and rejection of others.


I need to say it, because the irony is not lost on me: watching Black people get dogpiled on social media for weeks and being called “feds” for bringing attention to the ways anti-Blackness shows up and exists within “leftist” spaces while white leftists are seemingly organizing with actual feds is.. something. It’s the way Black people are never given an ounce of grace while exceptions are constantly made for white people - even if they’re active members of the army. HOWEVER, Aaron was only able to learn new ways of existing after someone left the door open for him to access something new.


In the organizing spaces I’m a part of, we are very intentional in the way we create and adjust our onboarding practices to keep our spaces safe while also creating paths for those new to our practices to engage. Why? Because the discarding of human beings only further upholds white supremacy in the way that sees people as disposable, and because it’s easy for someone to remain in the pit of white supremacy culture when there is seemingly no other option available to them. Community building is many things, and finding ways to keep the door open for people to learn, to grow, and to repair is one of them.


As more and more people come to learn and unlearn, we all have a responsibility to hold space for one another, even the messy parts of each other. The baggage. The history. The harm. If we are unable to practice resolution within our own spaces, how can we expect that of others? What are you doing to create and participate in spaces of learning, of healing, of humility? We must model the forms of transformation we desire. This is not to say those within policing institutions should be welcomed into our spaces with open arms. This is an invitation to both challenge the way we hold space, while also understanding boundaries and safety - and not just our own. There’s no way I would work that closely with an active member of the army, but I would hold space in a way that keeps the door open enough just for them to see something different. At the end of the day, Abolition is about undoing the cultural norms and mindsets that trap us within punitive habits and logics in everyday contexts. Our rehabilitation of white supremacy is only possible if we all participate.


Resources:


Some the folks whose work helps keep me grounded and accountable in my organizing include Estelle Ellison, Ismatu Gwendolyn, Dr Ayesha Khan, and Bad School Bad School (unfortunately do not know their name but they're on Instagram). Also, the zine Confidence. Courage. Connection. Trust. A proposal for security culture is a great resource on how security culture should make openness in our organizing spaces more possible, not less. And if you’re interested in finding a new experience, Walls Down Collective holds space through a variety of virtual events for folks to unpack, debrief, and learn. These spaces are open to everyone, free of shame and guilt, and act as a vessel for transformation and possibility.


Cover photo from Mary Tremonte, available at justseeds.org


 


"Taylor McNallie dedicates her time to seeking racial justice and collective liberation through education and hands-on work with both marginalized communities and accomplices alike. As the co-creator of Inclusive Canada, she provides education on anti-racism, white supremacy, and anti-Blackness. She is also a member of the Walls Down Collective which provides access to no-barrier resources and care such as Harm Reduction, free food programs and an alternative to local policing."


Pay Black people for their time, energy and labor.

Etransfer & PayPal: tmcnallie@gmail.com



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