To Attack Community Organizers is to Attack Black Political Thought
This piece is part of Day of Blogging for Community Organizing Justice: “I Am a Community Organizer”.
Republicans don’t like Community Organizers. Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin ridiculed them specifically in their speeches last Wednesday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN. This modern crop of Republicans has demonstrated how much they hate grassroots organizing in many ways with their hatred or unionization, their damnation of dissenters inside and outside of the government, and their willingness to ignore the rights, thoughts, and actions of the people of foreign nations that they decide to invade destroy occupy “help”.
While these positions on their own are outrageous and not in line with the ideals of the America that Republicans claim to love so much, it is consistent with another thread of modern-day Republican rhetoric and practice: racism.
For every generation leading up to [and including] the current one, the only foray for Black people to better their lives collectively has been through community organizing. When I say community organizing, I don’t just mean the highly visible ones like Malcolm & Martin, I mean the invisible ones that most of us will never hear or speak of that sacrifice their time, treasure, and talents so that people’s day-to-day lives are better and that their voices are heard. This is the path that nearly all Black politicians have taken to attain the capital needed to even run for office, let alone win. For one to minimize the work of organizers is to minimize the thoughts, actions, and efforts of all minorities and underrepresented groups who wish to uplift themselves individually and as a whole.
Why We Organize
For Republicans to attach organizing is a bit like chickens attacking eggs. I would argue that their movement over the last 30 years has been one of the best organized and best executed movements this country has seen in a long time. The difference, however, is who’s doing the organizing and for what purpose.
When Black folks have organized in the past, it has been more or less for two purposes:
- Fair & equal access [to someone or something]
- The opportunity to make our voices heard
The issue here is that to minimize the work of community organizers (the work, not the tactics) is to reject the reason for their existence in the first place. In Sarah Palin’s world, providing Fair & equal access is not necessary. In Rudy Giuliani’s world, there’s no need to hear everyone’s (read: Black people’s) voice.
Fair & Equal Access
Black folks have never organized around exclusion. We don’t fight to take people’s rights away. We don’t protest those who give everyone a chance. Black political thought is not now nor has it ever been about any of these things.
Having Our Voices Heard
Communicating your beliefs, needs, and wants is a fundamental human need. To strip this away from a person is to rob them of their humanity. This is what has happened to minority & marginalized people all over the world (women, the LGBT community, immigrants, etc.). Organizers understand this need and fight to create a world in which this sort of expression is not only possible, but encouraged. Since Republicans like Giuliani, Palin, and McCain have no interest in this, they view organizing as stupid and unnecessary.
OK, but why is it Racist?
Hate for the primary path to a people’s full participation in the collective social & political arena is an even more sinister form of hatred for that people than out-and-out racism. This is because of the misdirection involved. To say “we don’t hate these people, we just hate how they influence politics” is a statement of suppression and hate.
For example, if you give a child a pen and then constantly tell them that you hate writing and that writing is stupid, they’ll never want to write. You have now effectively removed the threat of that child ever writing anything potentially damaging to you. This is exactly what Republicans and the Establishment are doing when they bust unions, brutalized protesters, and ridicule community activists & organizers. By minimizing the means, the realization of the ends becomes less probable. This is what has been done to Black folks since their arrival in this country in both overt and covert ways.
The Moral of the Story
This should be yet another reason not to vote Republican, at least as long as this is their position on people speaking out. The conservative worldview is tainted by it’s notion of individuals first and “father (or some arbitrary authority) knows best” and you should just shut up and listen to them no matter what.
Black folks and Progressives need to tell a better story. We must constantly present our vision of a world that is collaborative in nature, where we put the tribe first over the individual. We seek to listen and understand the concerns of everyone in the community so that the community can move forward in a way that is safe and productive for all of us. And you know who creates an atmosphere where that is possible?
Those annoying Community Organizers.
One Love. One II.