Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression in People, by Anne Bishop

brogan7's review

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challenging informative inspiring slow-paced


This book was very interesting, with an in-depth analysis of power dynamics, the necessary ingredients for social change, and some tools for radical education.
However, I felt it was heavy on the theory and light on the practise (I would have wanted more concrete examples of activist work being done).  It can get vague so quickly, and become just about educating people so that they speak the right lingo, say the right things, but what does that look like at a transformative level?
I got tired of her characterizations of students in her education for social change workshops as "allies, guilty, resisters" -- I wanted to know how you move a person from one category to another, not a sort of yawning irritation with those who aren't progressive enough.  Or how, when you engage in work on an issue, those attitudes can transform and people can grow, not so much from theory as from experience.  

I liked that she talked about structural changes and I liked a lot of the basics (recognizing privilege and oppression; understanding the different facets of ourselves within the framework of what a society values, so belonging to different groups conveying different amounts of power or stigma; the distinction between a liberal point of view and an activist point of view, particularly the intentional blindness to power dynamics in a liberal point of view).
I'm not sure I'm left with concrete next steps as to how to participate more actively in anti-oppression work, and I thought startlingly absent was an analysis of colonialism not just for what it did and is doing to hierarchicalize people, and its legacy of racism, but also in terms of degradation of the liveable earth and how colonial attitudes lead inevitably to entitlement and destruction (now at a level not previously seen).  I guess I question her assessment that the original oppression is one of class.  I think the original oppression is one of colonialism.
A great primer - should be essential reading for high school civics classes everywhere.