Intersectional Inclusion: Perspectives from the Resistance Manual

Resistance Manual - A Project by Stay Woke

One of the topics in my upcoming Open Source Bridge presentation Grassroots Activism is Hard.  Can Open Source Help? is

Highlight techniques from projects like Resistance Manual that take an explicitly intersectional focus

You can see the work-in-progress list of techniques on the OSBridge wiki.  This post focuses specifically on the Resistance Manual.

I first ran into Resistance Manual co-founder Aditi Juneja on Twitter, in a thread started by Anil Dash.  At the time, the only people who had interviewed her about Resistance Manual were women.   After I offered to break the pattern*, it turned into a three-part series on Civicist**:

One of the reasons I was so interested in talking to Aditi is that I’ve been fascinated by wikis for years.***  Even more than that, though, I wanted to understand the perspectives of an grassroots organization co-founded by the Black Lives Matter activists of Stay Woke that explicitly took an intersectional view.

Those perspectives start with the very good reasons they focus on intersectionality.  First of all, they themselves lead intersectional lives – as Aditi said to me, she’s a woman of color with disabilities, so her identity is intersectional.  And there’s also a key strategic reason.  From the interview:

Jon: Why is intersectionality a guiding principle for Resistance Manual?

Aditi: In order to have a movement in this moment, we need to be very purposeful about coming out of issue-based silos, and seeing how the issues relate each other. Drawing these connections makes the movement stronger and more sustainable. It helps people form coalitions, and reach out to people they may not have thought of before.

Just as important as the commitment to intersectionality, though, is the intentional approach to ensuring the principle is institutionalized in the organization’s structure and processes.  There are several good examples in the interview, for example

  • actively looking for multiple intersectional perspectives on issues
  • routing information to multiple teams to ensure it’s in the right place as well as being cross referenced appropriately.
  • highlighting disparities in impact from policies
  • making intersectionality and inclusion everybody’s responsibility, not just assigning it to a specific team****

There’s a lot more detail in in the Resistance Manual’s Shared Principles, Policies and Community Guidelines document, such as Community Guidelines that include

As someone who is part of this community, you agree that:

  • We are collectively and individually committed to safety, inclusion, diversity and intersectionality.

And there’s lots of other good stuff there as well.  So if you’re in an activist group that’s looking to be more inclusive or take a more intersectional focus, there’s a lot to learn here!


* although Wesley Lowrey wound up beating me to it with Turning away from street protests, Black Lives Matter tries a new tactic in the age of Trump, co-authored with Janell Ross.  Still, I think I’m the first guy to interview Aditi specifically about RM, so that counts for something 🙂

** Thanks to Jessica McKenzie for the editing help!

*** some of the activism-focusd wikis I helped create back in 2006-2009 include Get FISA Right#p2 and the no-longer-available Stop Real Id Now and Voter Suppression Wiki pages.

**** echoing a lesson from the computer security space.  Organizations that see security as “the security team’s job” are much less effective than companies that see security as everybody’s job, with the security team as experts.

Also published on Medium.

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