NOMAS EMPOWERMENT and ACCOUNTABILITY PROCESS
Phyllis B. Frank and Wayne Morris
History: When I walked into a NOMAS meeting along with other men and women, I picked up an attitude of arrogance and superiority from one of the white men. This is not an unusual experience and I acted as I most often do. I ignored it and attempted to go on with business as usual. My resentment, however, kept me from hearing what he had to say, even though what he had to say was very important. I can hardly explain the sensation of knowing that I was not alone when another man of color expressed his sense of the white man’s attitude. The white man listened and considered this feedback, but this was at the end of the meeting.
I realized suddenly how much time is wasted and clearly how ineffective we will continue to be without coming up with a process to address these occurrences better. It has to be noted that in a situation with oppressed and oppressor groups meeting together, internalized, publicly unaddressed attitudes held by the oppressor group will have profound and stifling effects on the oppressed group.
It feels important for me to say that I believe that the person with the arrogant attitude doesn’t think about it or intend to do harm, but he also has no sense of his impact on the oppressed groups that are around him. For myself, I didn’t know if the white man’s attitude was directed at me, if the man thought he was better than me, or if he was just a person with good, high self esteem. What I did know was there was no positive structure in place to address that situation.
Wayne Morris, NOMAS Council Member
Problem Statement & Rationale
Wayne’s story refers to an atmosphere that usually does occur whenever a multi-cultural group of men and women assemble. Perceived offenses go unmentioned and tiny resentments wind up escalating, adding to the minor and major indignities that people of color or women, Gay men, Lesbians, etc. experience every day in the real world.
Having an attitude in NOMAS that we are beyond this kind of atmosphere serves to perpetuate the problem. We may even end up arguing, attacking, or become oppositional on substantive issues without ever addressing the deeper problem.
This process creates a format to address racism, sexism, heterosexism and other issues of oppression when they are committed (however unintentionally) within NOMAS Council/Leadership Collective meetings.
To be true to our stated principles, to affirm anti-racism as a basic tenet and to enhance our ability to work together productively, we must incorporate a process that will enable us to expose and acknowledge these practices.
Knowing that a process exists to address an actual or a perceived injustice, will allow work to proceed ethically. Our goal is to create a process that is educative and informative while being sensitive, respectful and responsible.
NOMAS Process Sessions, well suited to addressing our personal interactions, are not structured in a manner most effective to the goal of examining and eliminating the even more subtle dynamics of the isms.
A session will be held once during every Leadership Collective meeting period. It is suggested that the second half of each morning, afternoon or evening meeting period begin with this session, not to exceed 30 minutes.
Material processed is to be limited to interactions that take place during the current meeting session.
3. Speakers and listeners:
It is a general rule that speakers will be people of color, gay men and lesbians and/or women, about issues of racism, heterosexism and sexism. Infractions against other marginalized groups may be brought up by members present of that group.
If a non-member of a marginalized group feels a disparagement against a marginalized group, he/she should not raise it. He/she should leave it to the wisdom of that group’s members who are present. If no members of the disparaged group are present – this information might be brought up for discussion at another time – but not during the empowerment process.
Though interactions discussed may be attributed to a specific member, it is not that member’s education that is the goal, but an information sharing to the whole about the kind of subtleties done by the oppressor group that result in maintenance of the oppression and harm to the members oppressed group.
An important part of this process is that even if the oppressed group member misheard or misunderstood it is more important that the group hear and learn from the speaker, than that the person who made the remark or mannerism defend themselves.
NOMAS process guidelines will be generally, but not exactly followed. NOTE: This DOES NOT replace process time, where related issues, not appropriate for this newly developed session, may be brought up.
C/O VCS Community Change Project, 77 S. Main St., New City, NY 10956
Phone: 845 634-5729 Fx: (914) 634-7839 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Passed unanimously as part of the NOMAS Process Guidlines, NOMAS Council, Mid-Winter 1994 Leadership Collective Meeting, Providence, Rhode Island