There is an inherent conflict that amounts to Civil Rights Struggle, in the on-going efforts supporting Diversity at Lane. One of those conflicts often revolves around whose rules of order should be in operation. I suggest Longhouse Rules.
Longhouse Rules of Order
“We bring our de-colonized human Selves into spaces that have been colonized, whose intent is to specifically deny our humanity.” – Jim Garcia
From a communication about the difference between a predominately white organization which uses Robert’s Rules of Order, attempting to engage with an older Sovereign Indigenous Nation: “Funny, how when you are with people who respect each other there do not need to be “rules of order.” There is the respect of interaction that is inherent in the relationship and the interaction. Those who are respected simply remind others on how to treat each other, if the need arises and all is good. The rules are there because there is power in conflict and the only way to “try to contain the devil” is to make rules. But, alas, you can’t unleash the devil and expect him to behave.” – Ruth Bichsel, Ph.D. (Dine’), FABPS, FACFEI, AHTA, HS-BCP CERT
I witnessed a historic event at the Diversity Council which met on Martin’s actual Birthday, Wednesday January 15th 2014. In short, the historic event was the attempt led by two or more white men, to expel or disempower two or more ethnic minorities from membership in, and leadership of, Diversity Council. In all the decades that Diversity Team, and then Diversity Council existed, no one had ever tried to expel another member for any reason, because no one ever saw a reason to until now. The following meeting, in Black History Month, brought proposals for creating term limits for members. Where following the Longhouse custom, term limits had never been applied. Those who are on a Council serve as long as they are willing, able, and share the respect of other council members. Other council members who do not try to remove them, because of a disagreement.
Diversity Council’s charter allows for it to expand its membership as necessary to achieve its goals. To me it was utterly predictable if it ever happened, who would attempt to, counter this tradition. I hate being right. In the spirit of what I call CCK, Columbus, Cavalry, Klan, certain demographics come with a historical and current dehumanizing predisposition. This in effect, denies history, agency, credibility, and occupies a stance of assumed superiority. This stance can negate traditional or longstanding practices, by which formerly dehumanized groups, use to assert their humanity, and practice equity, in what amounts to Civil Rights Struggle. The creation of the governance system, allowed for the initial exclusion of some of those who had down foundational diversity work, and allowed those who had never actively supported beleaguered diverse “others”, to be appointed on the council.
Knowing the meeting was going to be contentious, girding myself for battle, putting on my game face, before the meeting, I decided to check in with Jim Garcia, who as the first Diversity Coordinator, facilitated Diversity Team meetings, collaboratively developed Diversity Plans, and set certain standards for the college like Terry Cross’ Cultural Competency Continuum.
“We bring our de-colonized human Selves into spaces that have been colonized, whose intent is to specifically deny our humanity.” – Jim Garcia
While General Henry Martyn Robert, was the son of a man opposed to slavery, who became the first president of Morehouse College, i.e. not explicitly colonialist, racist, sexist, classist, his rules of order do not explicitly recognize similar, more inclusive older rules of order among civilizations and civilized nations older than Europe. These forms of democratic governance, which existed among indigenous and other nations, practiced degrees of inclusion, that I would name as Longhouse Rules of Order.
Robert’s Rules, have not exactly been used to advance the purposes of Diversity, either in America, or at Lane Community College. I would advance the notion that any technology or process that doesn’t interrupt colonialism, perpetuates it. Diversity Council, has traditionally operated in a way to interrupt colonialism
Longhouse Rules of Order are based on Indigenous Democratic principles formulated on this continent around 1100 AD when Europe was in the Dark Ages. They required inclusion and consideration of human and non-human points of view, and did not recognize exclusion on the basis of gender, gender expression, race, class, disability, age, religion, spirituality, national origin, or other systems of discrimination prevalent in cultures based in European and Western Colonialism. Indigenous Democracy required that you build relationships based on honesty and trust, as well as knowing the history, strengths, vulnerabilities, and opportunities for growth, in yourself and your fellow citizens. Even if you have a historically adversarial relationship, you are expected to reasonably work out your differences towards shared agreed goals. The realpolitik of “All My Relations” is different from that of “We The People”, in that All My Relations includes in the polity all recognized intelligences including non-human ones, and We The People only recognizes a polity composed of wealthy white men.
Longhouse Rules of Order require an inclusive engaged diversity to operate. One that is mindful of past, present, and future, strengths, alliances, and opposition. Without articulating Longhouse Rules explicitly, Diversity Team, influenced Diversity Council, to cleave closer to Longhouse Rules of Order, more than Roberts.
“Be strong of mind, O chiefs: Carry no anger and hold no grudges. Think not forever of yourselves, O chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground”.- The Peacemaker. The Peacemaker as he as known in the Iroquois Confederacy, over 800 years ago brought warring tribes of the Northeast together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. The Peacemaker’s work is preserved in the Confederacy’s traditional constitution, which had a largely unacknowledged (by mainstream historians) impact in shaping the American Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. The teachings of the Peacemaker remain vital today, offering an inspired model for consensus-building among nations and peoples throughout the world.
The Chiefs, the Peacemaker is addressing, are selected (And / or unselected) by the Clan Mothers, who see to it the Chiefs serve not only the people, but past and future generations. In addition to feminine leadership, there was explicit incorporation of human diversity in all its senses. These are the people of the Eastern Longhouses, (There is also a Western Longhouse tradition native to Oregon), and also some of those who follow the Code of Handsome Lake, which among other things requires living a revivified sober indigenous life (Wellbriety Movement), counter to the alcoholism, addiction, classism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism supported by mainstream American society. Roberts Rules of course, address only temporal efficiency, the issues of equity, and justice, are unquestioned by Robert’s Rules of Order. The process by which we meet and do business, must free us, make us fuller human beings, and undo the damage being done by our larger society which attempts to and often succeeds in processes and procedures which dehumanize us.
Because those of us who were not wealthy white men had to fight to regain the recognized equality we possessed before colonization and slavery, part of our strategy as American citizens, was to recognize our own forms of democracy, which were present before our exposure to European Contact, Colonization, Genocide, and Slavery. Indeed, since many Europeans (Irish, Scots) had some nascent forms of inclusive egalitarian democracy before conquest by more patriarchal cultures, these ones could also feel welcome in Diversity Team. Diversity Team at Lane Community College was composed of committed students, employees, and community members to form a place to support remaining and thriving at Lane, a place we were not always experiencing as diversity friendly, even to certain types of white people. Diversity Team membership was open, inclusive, and volunteer, there was no need to be selective, or to set term limits. If you showed up, and were willing to learn from the pain and experiences of others, work through your own pain and suffering, and teach others to learn from you, you were welcome. A good deal of time could be spent hearing people’s experiences of workplace pain and suffering, which could not be, or was not being alleviated by the complaint processes.
The unions, as part of the college community, minimally or negligibly participated in D-Team, whose issues and purpose for existing, they historically ignored, even though they had a legal mandate to protect their vulnerable members from known modes of discrimination, in a hostile work environment. A number of us, found D-Team to be a refuge and a place we could vent and problem solve our frustration with union negligence, or the slow pace of change at Lane. We in BASE (Black American Staff, faculty, and Employees of Lane Community College) had formed our own informal ethnic specific organization in 1999, to deal with this internally, as well as formulate self-care responses, and policy and system change to benefit, students, employees, and the community. It was informal because we were refused both an inclusive seat on the board, nor were we approached by either bargaining unit, to understand why African-Americans might form such an organization at Lane.
Twenty Five years ago, a number of faculty of color, community members, students, and staff, following the principles laid down in Cross’ Cultural Competency construct, felt some sort of training was necessary. We felt this would be predictably resisted, and began our own R&D to be implemented independently. Mandatory training has its limits, particularly with the resistant. But for those who were early adopters of advanced culturally proficient technologies, certain initiatives like the Longhouse, weren’t simply symbolic, but representative of the type of active refuge we sought.
This refuge feature of D-Team remained part of the conditions when D-Team members were originally excluded when the structure of Diversity Council was first outlined in detail. This initial D-Council structure, included the unions which had ignored our concerns and working conditions and excluded those of us from D-Team, who had put in many person-years of effort over the years, including myself . I publicly asked the question “What kind of structured process creates a “Diversity Council” with no Black people on it?” “And think that’s normal behavior, and purports to be credibly using the term Diversity?”
A union, and (I use IATSE as an example) assumes and supports basic skill maintenance (stage craft, carpentry, electronics, audio, video, computer literacy, scientific and technical literacy) as well as physical, emotional, and psychological, safety procedures (show up sober, rested, not under the influence, respect your and the artists crew regardless of gender, gender expression, race or class). A union, bound by law, representing us except within a grievance process, which can only respond to the legal remedies, i.e. illegal overt discrimination based on evidence, is still a culturally blind response and less than the full support mandated by the science. They stop calling you nigger, kyke, or faggot, and illegally discriminate in hiring, in the workplace, or engage in microaggressions as detailed in the literature, both psychology and desegregation case law. The answers to here’s what happen when you desegregate, diversify, and here’s what you do to desegregate, are not “rocket surgery”. My medical student daughter, used the meme rocket surgery, to illustrate that in order to do rocket surgery, you have to know anatomy, engineering, physics, and be a creative interdisciplinary generalist, because some things aren’t in the “book”. In the Longhouse Book, we expect resistance, we plan for conflict, the obvious retention problems and often hostile meeting climate, often serve to thin members who wish simply to have their projects continue.
When we finally merged with D-Council, our previous culture of inclusion merged with it, and we never saw the need to set term limits (which come from a colonized sensibility in any case), nor did we see the need to develop a process for exclusion or expelling members because of our historical working relationships and mutual respect, trust, and skill in discussing difficult issues that could not receive a hearing in any other council. Indeed our charter allows for expansion of membership if our council deems a person or position necessary to do its work. Given the evolving and inclusive definitions of Diversity, this is a necessary feature of our council. Many employees of color feel our unions are at best culturally blind, if not culturally blind, allowing culturally destructive behavior: i.e allowing illegal racially discriminatory hiring, or racially hostile work environments, to exist. Knowing these patterns and places exist, one could reasonably point new hires of color, to be mentored by more senior employees of color, at least where such networks exist. Since neither the college as a whole, nor the bargaining units do this, nor recognize that discrimination exists and is ongoing, many employees of color rightfully assert, the unions do nothing to protect them. The comments which the led to the attempted deposing of Elizabeth Andrade as D-Council chair, on Jan 15, 2014, were not her own thoughts in isolation, but echoed by a great many of us, including myself. Since my position on D-Council derives from the same D-Team, D-Council merger, 10 years ago, therefore my membership is of the same basis as Elizabeth, an attack on her, is an attack on me. Which those of you who know me, know I will not be passive against such incursions on my sovereignty.
As a maroon in the tradition of Al Hajj Al Malik Shabazz, I believe in self defense in meeting verbal violence assertively, articulately, on the levels that it occurs, and this creates peace. Also, while meeting such incursions, maintain a safe place to retreat to, like a Longhouse.