Inclusion & Class, Culture and Race

GM Graeme McGregor Public Seen by 287

(Note: A former Loomio participant from the Nest community engaged in a discussion with me about this issue, but then deleted their comments and deactivated their account. This has left my posts without context, but I've left them up as they do, I think, elucidate some worthwhile points. If you have any questions please ask in a comment.)

At the Community Meeting in April last year, prior to Nest 2018, there was a discussion of whether and how Nest, as a community, should work to make itself more inclusive and accessible to people from a more diverse range of classes, cultures and races.

It was, from what I remember, broadly agreed that this issue should be addressed by a special project group who would look into the issue in depth and then, if necessary, bring proposals to the community and to Nest Org about how this could be done. It would also, potentially, take on outreach and education activities outside of Nest itself, to support that diversity.

This is a broad thread to discuss how this could be done in a way that is respectful of all affected, including people in the existing Nest community as well as those who may currently be unnecessarily excluded from that community.

Please note: For many, this is sensitive or emotive subject that can lead to heated debate and disagreements. Fundamentally, we all care about and see ourselves as belonging to the Nest community. To varying degrees, we agree with and support the Principles of a Burn event, even though we may have differing opinions on how those Principles are best interpreted and upheld. We are all people in one community. Please bear that in mind when discussing these issues and making or discussing proposals.

Please try to avoid ascribing views to people that they have not expressly stated. If you believe someone's viewpoint or statement implies another viewpoint or statement that you disagree with, please do not assume that is the case, but feel free to ask them directly if that is the case.

All participants are expected to abide by the same code of conduct that governs our Facebook groups and pages (you can find that code of conduct in the "How can we make Nest 2019 more inclusive" page). Do not insult individual participants of the discussion. Address the problem, not the people. Thank you!


Graeme McGregor Wed 10 Apr 2019 3:23PM

For me, the first questions here, that need to be answered before any other steps can usefully be taken, is:

Does Burning Nest fail in any way to uphold the principle of Radical Inclusion when it comes to people from different classes, cultures and backgrounds?
How do we know that?

And then:
If so, how does it fail to do so? And how do we know that?

Personally, my "top of the head" response to those first two questions would be: "I don't know, but I suspect so, yes".

And that leads me to want to investigate the issue more, if that issue exists.

At the moment, that's where I run up against challenges. Beyond running a census of the Nest community (which, incidentally, some other Burn events do), I don't know how we can investigate this issue, though I'd be open to hearing ideas.

There is also the issue of how we interpret the term "Radical Inclusion". From what I remember of the discussions on this topic last year, different people have really quite fundamentally different interpretations of what that principle means in reality and how it should be applied and upheld. I'd be keen to hear different people's thoughts on that.


Amandasm Fri 12 Apr 2019 2:22PM

I think a census or survey of some kind could be helpful to allow people to say for themselves what barriers they have faced, or any barriers that have kept people they know from participating in Nest. And perhaps their ideas for what could have helped.


Graeme McGregor Fri 12 Apr 2019 2:52PM

Yeah. May not have time to do it in time for this year's Nest, as I suspect it will be a BIG point of contention for some people, even if it's entirely voluntary (I imagine there are a fair few libertarians among us). But I was wondering if there's ways that we could make it a more meaningful, less bureaucratic process, and in a way that we could test this year to have it run on a larger scale for next year.

I was thinking it might be a nice project to run a kind of "listening booth" where people can anonymously share their experience of finding and entering the Burner/Nest community, share their initial experiences of the Nest community - including any issues, barriers or hesitations they faced - and so on. Could be both a really nice project and also a useful way of conducting a qualitative census about accessibility?

We would be very transparent that it was going to be used for both purposes.


Graeme McGregor Thu 11 Apr 2019 12:25PM

So, would I be right to say that, based on your preference for accessibility over demographic diversity, you would still support a project - separate from Nest Org - that looks at whether people who may want to attend Nest face barriers - financial, practical or cultural - to doing so?


Graeme McGregor Thu 11 Apr 2019 12:39PM

So what do you propose?


Graeme McGregor Thu 11 Apr 2019 1:44PM

OK, I'll make an attempt to define my terms.

The principle of Radical Inclusion states:
"Anyone may be a part of Burning (Nest). We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community."

So, in order to ensure Burning Nest reflects that principle, we work to foster a culture that accepts and welcomes difference. In addition, we also undertake measures to address some prerequisites that would otherwise prevent participation for some people. These include considering physical accessibility needs for disabled people. It includes ensuring that Welfare is available for those with emotional and mental health problems. It includes having child-friendly spaces. It includes a no-photography-without-consent rule, so that people whose home lives wouldn't accept their participation in Burning Nest don't face unwanted repercussions. It includes low-cost tickets for people on low incomes. There are probably other measures too.

My understanding - and I apologise if I'm off the mark here - was that the principle of Radical Inclusion and the consequent measures that we take to ensure accessibility to Nest for disabled people, children, people on low incomes, and so on, exist because we want our community and our events to not abide by the same rules as the rest of our society. We want the Burner community to operate differently, and that means recognising the ways in which some people are unfairly and unnecessarily excluded from parts of the wider society, and taking practical steps to ensure that doesn't happen in our own community.

I and many others in our community understand that in the UK there are social, cultural, racial and economic structures that have varyingly positive outcomes for some broadly-defined groups of people in our society and varyingly negative outcomes for others. Those distinctions are blurry and - as you point out when you raised intersectionality - complex and often hard to define. But that does not mean that they don't exist; they clearly do. We know that - in broad terms - people from working class backgrounds, African Caribbean British people, Asian British people, trans people, people in rural communities, elderly people experience systemic discrimination that prevents them having the same levels of freedom and access to resources that other broadly-defined groups in society do.

It is human society that has created these distinctions between people. It is human society that has then treated these groups of people differently solely on the basis of their identities, and it is those differences in treatment in our wider society that may prevent them having access - if they want it - to our Burner community. These differences are social constructs and not reflective of significant differences between people - we are all human beings - but the outcomes of those socially constructed differences are real differences in access to resources and opportunities.

We already recognise this sort of situation and have responded to it with some accessibility measures already. I'm proposing that we collectively try and find a way to establish whether or not our community is as accessible as possible to people of different social classes, races and cultures and, if it's not, attempt to find ways to address that in order to better reflect the principle of Radical Inclusion, and remove those prerequisites for participation in our community.


Graeme McGregor Thu 11 Apr 2019 3:38PM

"Who decides how we want our burner community to operate?"

We all do, hence starting this discussion and using Loomio to get broad feedback and involvement from a number of people across our community.

I feel like you're making a lot of assumptions about what I'm proposing here. I said that the first step in this process is to assess whether or not there is a problem of the kind that I described and then, if there is, what, if anything, we want to do to address it.


Graeme McGregor Thu 11 Apr 2019 3:44PM

"Feels like it assumes there simply must be barriers so let's fix em, rather than assess if there are, what they are, are they important, are they ones we can change without changing the nature of the event too far, would those changes have the desired impact, are they our responsibility, is it in the community's interest to address."

I think that I was very, very explicit that what I'm proposing is a project to look at whether there are any barriers to participation related to class, race or culture and whether we can or should do anything to address them.

I wasn't involved in the decision last year relating to art funding, and I don't think it's relevant to what's being discussed here, frankly. That approach assumed a problem / barrier within our community for a certain identity group but, as far as I'm aware, didn't attempt to establish whether or not such a barrier existed nor whether the approach taken was the best way to deal with it.

I'm proposing we actually try and establish whether any barriers exist for groups of people other than those with physical disabilities, mental health problems, children or low incomes, then, if they do, try and work out what, if anything, we should do about it.


Amandasm Wed 17 Apr 2019 10:09AM

"That approach assumed a problem / barrier within our community for a certain identity group but, as far as I'm aware, didn't attempt to establish whether or not such a barrier existed nor whether the approach taken was the best way to deal with it."

Well put. We must be careful not to make assumptions or to decide for other people what barriers they face or what help they might like to receive, if any. I think it would be helpful to research what specific barriers actually do exist, and specific solutions catered to each barrier. Burns have, as you've pointed out, already addressed some specific issues, i.e.
some people can't afford full price ticket = low income tickets offered
some people use a wheelchair = wheelchair-friendly paths created
some people have children = family friendly camping area offered

The above are not about the identity of the people involved, they are about specific barriers to participation with workable solutions. Which is the most useful approach to take, IMO. And any big changes (especially involving funds) should be put forward to the community first.


Graeme McGregor Sat 4 May 2019 6:50PM

In the context of our discussions about race, culture, class and radical inclusion at Nest, I thought this article might be interesting and enlightening to people. It's very much about BM, the American context, and the experience of an African American man, but I have no doubt there are some relevant overlapping issues and experiences.


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