Path to Collective Liberation


These guidelines turn the Four-I’s of Oppression (Internalized, Interpersonal, Institutional, Ideological) into a path to collective liberation. They are not meant to be prescriptive or obligatory, but rather are intended to offer some assistance in creating a positive cultural shift and a truly inclusive community.

“If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” –Lila Watson

Internalized- Action:

  • Invest in noticing the ideas we hold inside about ourselves, our worthiness, our intelligence, our goodness, whether we feel we have a right to speak and take up space and people’s time or tend to defer to others and why. What beliefs and assumptions about the ways we need to look or conduct ourselves have we internalized? What are we denying within?
  • Commit to investigating our own social locations and the ideas we hold about ourselves in relation to those positions, to engaging (rather than avoiding) areas in which we have privilege and are more likely to have influence. Acknowledge that the lens through which we perceive a situation is never neutral, and that our own social locations, and lived experiences, may hinder our ability to perceive various perspectives.
  • Notice any tendency at all to be dismissive of anyone’s perspective or experience. Recognize we are deeply socialized to dismiss non-dominant perspectives, and that it usually requires acute mindfulness to notice when we do it and courage to do things differently.

Interpersonal- Action:

  • Commit to reaching out to and connecting with more members of the community- ANYONE. We all have complex identities and contribute to the diversity of Naropa. Reach out across divisions of staff, faculty, administrator, student and across campuses and programs.
  • Read about microaggressions and familiarize yourself with common examples. Pay attention to interactions you witness and engage in that potentially reinforce an oppressive dynamic or assumption. Practice interrupting everyday oppression in situations in the office, classroom, at businesses, social gatherings and events, as well as at home.
  • Take time to acknowledge and greet (with a smile or perhaps a hug) your colleagues even if they arrive late. Affirm one another’s humanity by asking folks how they’re doing before diving into work. Take time to do personal check-in’s. Actively listen and practice empathy. Share something about yourself. Allow yourself and others to express emotions that are present without judgment.
  • Practice naming your social locations at the beginning of meetings, presentations, courses, articles, etc. Acknowledge that these identities matter, and that our own perspectives are shaped by them, and are not necessarily shared by people from different locations.
  • Hold yourself and each other accountable: Listen closely and with an open mind-heart to actually hear the impact that our words, behavior or action has had on someone else. Refrain from defending yourself. Acknowledge the impact, no matter your intention. Make every effort to repair harm done or heal any rupture that has occurred. Recognize that feedback, even and especially in the form of criticism, is a gift and opportunity to be challenged enough to catalyze growth.

Institutional- Action:

  • Sacrifice one project to make time to join a working group or commit to attending and participating in one weekly diversity event. Check in with folks already doing this work and lend support and collaboration to initiatives already happening.
  • If you are an instructor, interrogate your own course materials and pedagogy for signs of ethnocentrism, ableism, patriarchal assumptions, audism, heteronormativity, gender binary thinking, erasure of certain groups, and cultural appropriation. Revise as needed.
  • Create a Brave Space. Demonstrate warriorship and the courage required to stand up against the status quo, to have unpopular views, and to break silence in pursuit of positive cultural transformation. Be willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations and make mistakes with one another, rather than avoid difficult topics.

Ideological- Action:

  • Commit to learning the history of how various ideas about superiority in race, gender, ability, citizenship, culture, religion and sexuality have been established and propagated. What ideologies of superiority and inferiority do you see embedded into policies and practices at Naropa? Into classroom norms? Into curriculums? Into the demographics of the administration, staff and faculty? Into the laws that we are required to abide?
  • Engage in to critical consciousness-raising. Commit to reading books and articles, watching films, and listening to interviews and narratives that confront issues of racism, patriarchy, transphobia, able-ism, heteronormativity, immigration injustice, and neo-colonialism.