In this action, our struggle is not only against missiles and bombs,
but against the system of power they defend: a system based on
domination, on the belief that some people have more value than
others, and therefore have the right to control others, to exploit
them so that they can lead better lives than those they oppress.
We say that all people have value. No person, no group, has the right
to wield power over the decisions and resources of others. The
structure of our organizations and the processes we use among
ourselves are our best attempt to live our belief in
self-determination. Besides working against discrimination of all kinds
among ourselves, we must try to understand how such discrimination
supports the system which produces nuclear weapons.
For some people who come to this action, the overriding issue is the
struggle to prevent nuclear destruction. For others, that struggle is
not separate from the struggles against racism, sexism, classism, and
the oppression of groups of people because of their sexual
orientation, religion, age, physical (dis)ability, appearance, or life
history. Understood this way, it is clear that nuclear weapons are
already killing people, forcing them to lead lives of difficulty and
struggle. Nuclear war has already begun, and it claims its victims
disproportionately from native peoples, the Third World, women, and
those who are economically vulnerable because of the history of
All oppressions are interlocking. We separate racism, classism, etc.
in order to discuss them, not to imply that any form of oppression
works in isolation. We know that to work against any one of these is
not just to try to stop something negative, but to build a positive
vision. Many in the movement call this larger goal feminism.
Calling our process "feminist process" does not mean that women
dominate or exclude men; on the contrary, it challenges
systems of domination. The term recognizes the historical importance
of the feminist movement in insisting that nonviolence begins at home,
in the ways we treat each other.
Confronting the issues that divide us is often painful. People may
feel guilty, or hurt, or react defensively when we begin to speak of
these things, as if they were being personally accused. But working
through this pain together, taking responsibility for our oppressive
behavior, is part of our struggle to end the nuclear arms race.
Asking members of oppressed groups to be the catalyst for this change
is avoiding our own responsibility for discrimination. Most
of us benefit from some form of privilege due to our sex, or class, or
skin color, or sexual orientation, but that privilege is limited.
None of us alone has the power to end institutions of discrimination.
Only when we struggle together can we hope to do so -- and when pain
and hurt arise in that struggle, we can see it as a measure of the
depth to which discrimination hurts us all, keeping us separated and
divided in our strength.
Racism, Classism, Sexism, Heterosexism and Militarism
Part of struggling against nuclear weapons involves understanding the
ways in which the oppression of particular groups of people supports
militarism, makes the institutionalized system of war and violence
appear "natural" and "inevitable." For instance, heterosexism, or the
assumption that sexual relations are only permissible, desirable, and
normal between opposite sexes, justifies a system of rigid sex roles,
in which men and women are expected to behave and look in particular
ways, and in which qualities attributed to women are devalued. Thus,
men who are not willing to be violent are not virile -- they are
threatened with the real sanctions placed on homosexuality (physical
violence, housing and economic discrimination) unless they behave like
"real men." The military relies upon homophobia (the fear of
homosexuality) to provide it with willing enlistees, with soldiers
who are trained to kill others to prove their masculinity.
Sexism, or the
systematic devaluation of women, is clearly related to this.
Women have traditionally opposed war because women bear the next
generation and feel a responsiblity to protect it. But feminists are
not content to speak only from traditional roles as mothers and
nurturers. Many activists see a feminist analysis as crucial to
effectively challenging militarism. The system of
under which men benefit from the oppression of women, supports and
thrives on war. In a sexist or patriarchal society, women are
relegated to limited roles and valued primarily for their sexual and
reproductive functions, while men are seen as the central makers of
culture, the primary actors in history. Patriarchy is enforced by
the language and images of our culture; by keeping women in the lowest
paying and lowest status jobs, and by violence against women in the
home and on the streets. Women are portrayed by the media as objects
to be violated; 50% of women are battered by men in their lives, 75%
are sexually assaulted.
The sexist splitting of humanity which turns women into
lesser beings whose purpose is to serve men, is the same split
which allows us to see our enemies as non-human, fair game for any
means of destruction or cruelty. In war, the victors frequently rape the
women of the conquered peoples. Our country's foreign policy often
seems directed by teenage boys desparately trying to live up to
stereotypes of male toughness, with no regard for the humanity or land
of their "enemy." Men are socialized to repress emotions, to ignore
their needs to nurture and cherish other people and the earth.
Emotions, tender feelings, care for the living, and for those to come
are not seen as appropriate concerns of public policy. This makes it
possible for policymakers to conceive of nuclear war as "winnable."
Similarly, racism, or the institutionalized devaluation of darker
peoples, supports both the idea and the practice of the military and
the production of nuclear weapons. Racism operates as a system of
divide and conquer. It helps to perpetuate a system in which some
people consistently are "haves" and others are "have nots." Racism
tries to make white people forget that all people need and are entitled to
self-determination, good health care, and challenging work. Racism
limits our horizons to what presently exists; it makes us suppose that
current injustices are "natural," or it makes those injustices
invisible. For example, most of the uranium used in making nuclear
weapons is mined under incredibly hazardous conditions by people of
color: Native Americans and black South Africans. Similarly, most
radioactive and hazardous waste dumps are located on lands owned or
occupied by people of color. If all those people suffering right now
from exposure to nuclear materials were white, would nuclear production
remain acceptable to the white-dominated power structure?
Racism also underlies the concept of "national security": that the
U.S. must protect its "interests" in Third World countries
through the exercise of military force and economic manipulation.
In this world-view, the darker peoples of the world are incapable of
managing their own affairs and do not have the right to
self-determination. Their struggles to democratize their countries
and become independent of U.S. military and economic institutions are
portrayed as "fanatic," "terrorist," or "Communist." The greatest
danger of nuclear war today lies in the likelihood of superpower
intervention in Third World countries, fueled by government appeals
to nationalistic and racist interests.
All forms of discrimination are interrelated with economic
discrimination, or classism. Classism justifies a system in which
competition is the norm, and profit is believed to be a universal motivation.
Thus, poor and working class people lack access to education, leisure
time and frequently basic things like food and shelter. But a
society blames them for their poverty, or devalues their particular way of
living. Classism values certain kinds of work over others, and sets
up a system of unequal rewards. Our society threatens the majority of
our members with economic insecurity, forcing us to accept things the
way they are for fear of losing the few things we've gained through
hard work. Since most poor people are women, children and people of
color, classism and other forms of discrimination work together to
hide the injustice of our economic system.
Poor and working class people feel the effects of the military
directly, profoundly, and brutally. Vital social services have been
cut to feed the Pentagon. Inflation, aggravated by the military
budget, chews away at what is left after disproportionately high taxes
are deducted from our pay. Poor people are prime military recruits,
with historically little access to draft deferments or information
about conscientious objection, forced by unemployment to think of the
military as a "career opportunity." Our militarized society does not
support cooperative and socially productive work, but counts on
unequal competition and economic deprivation to provide workers in
defense industries, miners in uranium mines, and soldiers in the armed
No human being is born with discriminatory attitudes and beliefs.
Physical and cultural attitudes are not the causes of oppression;
these differences are used to justify oppression. Racist, classist,
sexist, heterosexist, and all other forms of discriminatory attitudes
are a mixture of misinformation and ignorance which have to be imposed
on young people through a painful process of social conditioning.
These processes are left unchallenged partially because people feel
powerless to do anything about them. But the situation is not
hopeless. People can grow and change. Many successful struggles have
taken place against structures of exploitation and discrimination.
We are not condemned to repeat the past. Discriminatory conditioning
can be analyzed and unlearned.
All people come from traditions which have a history of resistance to
injustice, and every person has their own individual history of
resistance to discriminatory conditioning. This history needs to be
recalled and celebrated, and people need to listen to and learn from
other people's histories. When people act from a sense of informed
pride in themselves and their own traditions, they will be more
effective in all struggles for justice and peace.