Practice #3: Presume competence
Oppression requests that we see those with less power as incompetent.
Ableism requires that we treat people who need support as lesser because they need help. As if being interdependent is a moral failure, rather than an integral part of building strong communities. Ableism and ageism – those two are buddies. So watch out for that.
As if we didn’t get help getting here. (Who changed your diapers, buddy?)
We treat older people – particularly older women as if they’re ignorant and incapable. Calling them sweet and adorable is just bigotry with a smile. This trope de-fangs powerful women whose strength lifted us to this place. Tearing down older women with that nonsense takes us all out at the foundation. Sexism! Ageism and sexism! They need each other.
It takes time to learn patience, to hold space for multiple voices, to reflect on what we’ve gone through and use it to inform our actions. These are strengths. But bias against older people – and anyone with experience navigating complicated situations, tells us that these strengths are a weakness.
Showing up for rallies is not / contributing your hard-earned pay is not / painting visions as a goal to strive for is not / collecting coffee and eggs for struggling parents is not / raising courageous leaders is not / the same thing, but they all reach for the same progress.
Poor activism looks different than wealthy activism. The activism of a single parent raising two kids looks different than the activism of a child-free, young college student. Young activism looks different from activism cured with age.
We cheer for the explosions because that’s all we see, but we need slow burns. Older adults have valuable stuff to bring to the table. We need all kinds of work. We need all kinds of leaders. So it seens uniquely ironic that we remove older adults from leadership, force them to retire, and nudge them into silence because they have too much experience.