The Block Gas alliance, has started an internal process regarding anti-racism. Thereby, we want to process the feedback which has been given by BIPoC* people for years to the predominantly white European climate movement.
As a part of this process, we have formulated a self-understanding regarding anti-/racism and a policy on white locks which you can find below. Furthermore, we plan a set of measures before, during and after our actions to make sure our spaces are safe and comfortable for BIPoC people. The following BIPoC-only-spaces are already planned:
- BIPoC Action Training: Saturday, 25.03.23, 10:00-13:00 (in German, Kulturzentrum 4lthangrund – Alte Mensa, Augasse 2-6)
- BIPoC Action Plenary: Sunday, 26.03.23, 15:00-16:00 (German and English, Kulturzentrum 4lthangrund – Alte Mensa, Augasse 2-6)
Regarding legal aid, we’ve prepared a brochure which includes information for people without an Austrian/European passport and/or unsure residential status. If you have specific questions regarding the contact with the police or state (e.g. at the border), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
* BIPoC: Black, Indigenous, and people of color
Our Self-Understanding on Anti-/Racism
How did this self-understanding come about:
This self-understanding was written by the Anti-Ra working group and individuals of the alliance, which was founded at the start of the alliance. The self-understanding was based on several discussions inside the entire alliance about what we know about racism and what anti-racist strategies we want to pursue as an alliance. The self-understanding followed several purposes in itself: self-education, formulating a position towards anti-racism as a – dominantely – white and/or German/Austrian located alliance (and Anti-Ra working group), making transparent our limitations and where we stand with the process, what (knowledge) gaps need to be filled and which mistakes we want to learn from.
What do we understand as racism?
Racism is an ideology that produces violence
We understand racism as an ideology which categorises humans hierarchically into constructed ‘races’ based on a variety of physical and/or social markers. This rests on the belief that some ethnic, religious, or social groups are ‘naturally’ superior to others due to the belief in innate biological or social advantages. By marking those that are outside of the dominant ‘norm’ as inferior, racism serves to legitimise the devaluation and, in some cases, even dehumanisation of certain ‘racial’ groups. Racial discrimination can happen based on physical appearance (e.g. anti-Black racism, anti-Brown racism, anti-Asian racism), linguistic and cultural background (e.g. anti-Slawic racism, antiziganism) and/or religion (e.g. anti-islamic racism or anti-semitism*). Thus, we acknowledge racism as a social construct; it is ‘socially produced’ in the sense that the categorisation into ‘normal’ and ‘different’ is fabricated and not based on actual biological difference. BIPoC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) is a self-chosen term to visibilize exactly that social construction and to connect shared experiences of racism.** The social process of demarcation between the dominant (mostly white***) ‘norm’ and the ‘Other’ is termed ‘Othering’.
Importantly, racism has caused and continues to cause oppression and violence against people that are racially discriminated against. In doing so, it also produces social and economic classes because it allows some to profit from the exploitation of others on the basis of racism.
*antisemitism: While we are aware that the historical reasons for the emergence and the logic and mechanisms of modern anti-Semitism and modern racism are to some extent different, we want to acknowledge some commonalities in the expression of both forms of oppression.
***white: “White or being white doesn’t refer to biological traits, but to a political and social construction—just as the term BIPoC. Being white describes the dominant and privileged position within the power dynamic of racism.” (more information here: https://www.ende-gelaende.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Brochure_Antiracism_EG-EN.pdf)
Historical roots of racism
Racism was the driving ideology behind colonialism used as legitimation for the violent appropriation and exploitation of the colonised lands and people, whereby the ruling class of the Global North/Global Minority*– especially Western Europe – forced people of the Global South/Global Majority into slavery or low-paid labour, destroyed their community ties, forbid their culture, language and way of being. Only by dehumanising people in colonies as ‘biologically inferior’ could this be legitimised. This specific form of racism is also called ‘scientific racism’ or ‘biological racism’ which disguised itself as scientifically based even though it is a social construction to legitimize oppression.
Furthermore, we acknowledge that not only the history between the Global North/Global Minority and Global South/Global Majority but also the history between Western Europe and Central and Eastern Europe as one of oppression. The ruling classes of Western/Central Europe (in cooperation with the political ruling class of Eastern Europe) appropriated land and production, the working class and culture of Eastern Europe ever since the Habsburg Monarchy and the Fall of the Iron Curtain until today.
*In the text we use the terminologies ‘Global North/Global Minority & Global South/Global Majority’ simultanouesly because we have not yet decided which terminology to go with consequently. Also: even though we use terms like ‘Global South’ or ‘Central and Eastern Europe’, we acknowledge that these terms CANNOT portray the diversity of these regions in terms of history, culture and political/economic contexts.
Despite the formal ending of colonialism and the denunciation of scientific racism, racism continues to permeate social, cultural, political and economic structures. In todays globalised capitalist economic system we see colonial continuities in a racialized and gendered global division of labour which maintains a system of unequal exchange between the Global South/Global Majority and Global North/Global Minority. While industry and people in the West continue to be the main benefiters of this world economic order, the formerly colonized, structurally disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable continue to suffer the consequences, e.g. climate disasters. In short, modern globalised capitalism is built on the structures of exploitation established during colonialism, and can thus be considered ‘neocolonial’.
We acknowledge our fossil-fuelled energy system is an example of neo-colonialism, and an integral part of the exploitative, racialized capitalist system today. Political and economic decision making to maintain and deepen this system is dominated by people that profit off racial capitalism and rely on neocolonial relationships to create and maintain their industry and economic power. The network of dominant and often corrupt actors in the gas industry – the ‘Gas Industrial Complex’ – is illustrative of such neocolonial structures. Decision-making is dictated by small, predominantly white corporate and political elites who do not involve people directed affected by these issues. This problematically allows them the maintenance of their economic power and excessive policy influence. The European Gas Conference showcases this corruptive and exlusive form of decision-making.
We also acknowledge that the industrialised centers of the Global North/Global Minority have the highest responsibility in exploiting people and nature historically. Therefore they have the highest responsibility in producing the climate catastrophe that we are facing today on a global level. Meanwhile, the people and land in the Global South/Global Majority are the most affected but least of all responsible. Therefore, as an alliance, we commit to a climate justice approach that aims to fight against inequalities produced or aggravated by the climate crisis.
Racism is an institutionalised system
Racism as an ideology is manifested in many different ways. It is manifested in institutions like the state and its executive, the police and the military, in its borders, its constitutions and laws. It is also manifested in the way we think, speak and live as individuals and as groups, in interpersonal ways.
Our anti-racist practice
We aim to tackle racism on different levels.
We aim to include to include anti-racism as a central part of our strategy of setting up an alliance and planning these actions days together. We see our action days as a possibilty to intervene in the discourse and highlight the neocolonial, racialised, capitalistic character of the global energy system. This system depends on extracting fossil fuels, exploiting land and the working class globally, especially in the Global South/Global Majority, by directing the profits to the ruling class of the industrialized centers of the Global North/Global Minority. By tackling concrete actors who are responsible for these racist and neocolonial structures (e.g. attendees of the gas conference, their support in politics and media), we try to disturb the neocolonial status quo and reveal alternatives.
We have a great interest in strengthening anti-capitalist and climate justice movements by creating alliances that cross borders in and outside of Europe.
We are aware that our alliance is currently dominated by German speaking activists and/or white* activists and their perspectives. This means that Central and Eastern European and Global South/Majority perspectives are limited in this alliance. We acknowledge this is partly due to language and cultural barriers, differing capacities, and degrees of ‘profit’ from involvement with the alliance. We also acknowledge our responsibility in this, and the lack of important long-term partnerships and space made for self-reflection and criticism as a result. We are learning from this and are trying to create more space to ‘de-hierarchise’ normative perspectives. We are working on better reflecting Western Europe’s responsibility towards oppressed people and make a concerted effort to fill our knowledge gaps.
We are aware that a lot of us come from academic backgrounds which creates barriers in itself (e.g. by use of language in this text).
We are trying to self-educate ourselves about (anti-)racism and neocolonialism as individuals and as a group. We were supported by an anti-racist consultant.
This includes e.g. recognizing white and/or non-migrant privilege when it comes to our way of organising and conducting actions, especially when it comes to state and police violence. You can find educational material on anti-racism – especially for people in white positions – in activist contexts here. A Legal Aid brochure including information for those with non-EU citizenship or an unclear residency status, is available here.
We are trying to spread awareness, broadening the possibilities to participate in planning and conducting the actions, and create safer spaces for people affected by racism and neocolonial structures. All offers are listed here.
We are aware that we are in a process of learning where we will make mistakes and have already made mistakes. We are open and appreciate criticism and feeback (see Point Conflict Behaviour). We will give ourselves time to engage in a collective process on any criticism or feedback we receive.
How we want to react to external critique
We think criticism is necessary and appreciated because it expresses the need to be heard and an interest in changing the way we think, organise ourselves and do politics together.
When we are criticised as an alliance by external actors, we engage in a collective process that reflects on the critique, formulates an answer and a change in our behavior as an alliance. We do not leave individuals or separate working groups alone in responding to any critique.
We are aware that some answers need time for reflection yet critics will also want a quick response. We will try to be fair to our process and give us time to reflect as well as be fair to our critics and let them know of the status of our process.
We want to be transparent that we cannot respond to every critique but will prioritise critiques that directly address our alliance and the topics we speak on in our external appearance (including our self-understanding, actions consensus and so on). We will also prioritize critiques coming from groups that are affected by the topics we work on.
We will try our best to set up spaces for us internally as well as externally before, during and after the action days to engage with (self-)critique.
If you want to express criticism at any time, please contact email@example.com.
During our action days the awareness-team will be approachable for expressing criticism. More information about our awareness-concept can be found here.
Policy on white locks
As an alliance, we will implement a policy around white locks* during our action days.
Locks were and are for many people a symbol of black people’s resistance against white oppression. Please bear in mind that it can be hurtful to see white people using this symbol.
For that reason, we will ask during our actions for people to cover their white locks. Our awareness team will approach people with white locks proactively.
Please do not randomly ask black people during the actions to explain you what the problem with white locks or cultural appropriation is. We will provide enough educational material at an info point and the awareness team will carry info material during the actions.
You can also find more information here.
* There are different positions on the term “dreadlocks” and we feel unsure about its usage. The word “dread”, borrowed from “dreadful”, can evoke a negative connotation. Therefore, its use is criticized by some black people. Since “locks” is also understandable and we want to use the most sensitive language possible, we use the term “locks”. “White locks” refers to when a white person has locks.