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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

'Rage against the machine'

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Thank you for writing about the Mountain View Neighborhood in Bernalillo County, N.M. (HCN, 2/01/10). It is rare that communities suffering from the injustice of disproportionate levels of environmental degradation are given attention in the media. I cringed to read about our deficiencies as activists and community organizers. Nevertheless, you captured the challenges that face our community.

I need to clarify some of the statements attributed to me in the article. As a white woman, I have been organizing within and alongside communities of color for 35 years. We have lost and we have won. The times when we win have certain common characteristics.

First is the recognition that there is racism, sexism and classism in our movement as well as in the world. For example, white folks, typically men, tend to dominate discussions and decision-making processes. People of good will and energy who want to fix the world have a moral obligation to work on the perpetual crisis of power inequities.

Second, a diverse array of people must gather to focus on the issue at hand and leave our weapons outside the door. It is essential to agree to disagree and respect each other and our different life experiences. Otherwise, we chase our tails in a perpetual cycle of blame, self-protection and, again, blame.

My fatigue and frustration with the emphasis on our differences rather than our common vision came out in some of my statements to HCN. In the final analysis, however, it was rage against the machine, not the people I work with.

Marla Painter
Albuquerque, New Mexico

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