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Words on Power and Powerlessness

The following essay, Words on Power and Powerlessness, was originally written by Dr. Kimberly B. George for the Feminism School newsletter. It is reprinted here with her permission.

I was teaching Nadine Naber's work from Arab American Studies this week, & she focused on dismantling oppression (she was writing on ending occupation of Palestine) through building power—lifting one another up emotionally, economically, socially, & politically.

Thinking about what this means, now, in the US, as we rush toward fascism (because that is what is happening). In the past two weeks, we have had mass murders by men with guns of Black elders at a grocery store, Latinx children at school, and Asian Americans at church. And our elected leaders will most likely, again, still choose to do nothing to restrict easy access to weapons of mass murder, and we also await the Supreme Court ruling soon to allow open carry of guns, even as it is set to overturn Roe V. Wade (abortion rights).

It is an absolutely dismal time to be living in the United States. The white backlash to having a Black president has been intense—all the violence this country is founded on (patriarchy, enslavement, white Christian supremacy, settler colonialism) is gasping to continue its abuse, even as we know that many people are waking up and want a different world.

When Dr. Naber writes that our everyday practices matter, she means that we have to change our approach to social interactions: We have to realize we have power through how we support collective mobilization in our everyday lives, within our own communities.

The idea being there is a psychic barrier to freedom, in that the abusers (whether it is the Israeli government, or the US government allowing children to be shot to death at school with assault rifles, or the Supreme Court about to reverse reproductive rights), wants you to feel powerless, and that is central to the maintenance of the status quo.

The way patriarchal versions of history are told, we erase over and over the basic, everyday care labor, the quiet but absolutely necessary redistribution of resources, the acts of grassroots organizing, that actually sustain decades long (centuries long) movements for change.

These everyday acts, according to Naber (and other feminist theorists) practice the future we want now, because we center in community based power and mutual aid.

We are not powerless. That we feel powerless is what an abusive system wants in order to maintain its control.

How will you practice your power today?

  • Whom will you support with your spiritual or economic resources?

  • Or, do you need to ask for support?

  • What are the steps to building collective power through your life?

  • How will you resist feeling powerless?

  • What is one act today that lifts up another emotionally, economically, socially, politically?

In hope for the world we are mid-wifing,

Kimberly B. George, Ph.D. Founder of Feminism School, Writer, and Bridge-Builder.

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