To Attack Community Organizers is to Attack Black Political Thought

I am a Community Organizer

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:

  1. Fair & equal access [to someone or something]
  2. 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.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

9 responses to “To Attack Community Organizers is to Attack Black Political Thought”

  1. Duane says :

    Well said G. Last I read, Palin’s husband- the “First Gentleman”, was a member of United Steelworkers, a labor union, which of course grew out of community organizational efforts. Also, it is no secret that Palin is a member of Feminists for Life and a card-carrying member of the NRA, both of whom do what… employ organizational efforts tor bring about policy initiatives- which is the EXACT dart she repeatedly threw at Obama during her speech.

    Often times, as seen here, intent is mistaken for content. She’s trying to win, and Palin knows she doesn’t have many (if ANY) cards she can play to show her and McCain are the answer, and not taking a “risk” on Obama. She’s full of it, and we (the facebook-using, text-messaging, college-educated buppie crowd) know it. But we’re a small percentage of the voting populous, and unfortunatedly, Joe Sixpack might believe what she’s saying to be true.

    We know the game the GOP is playing, and I do admit, they’re playing it well. The group to whom she’s attempting to appeal to is really drinking the kool-aid. Of course, our social circle gets really up in arms often citing to the “flagrant contradictions of McCain (and Palin’s) campaign tactics.”

    G, you made a POWERFUL point that I hope doesn’t merely get skimmed over by the readers. Democrats MUST tell a better story they can’t rely on people to see the inconsisencies (no matter how obvious!) in the GOP sentiment. That being said, sleeves are rolled up until 11/4.

  2. Perfect Moment Project says :

    Right on! Keep writing, speaking, spreading the word.

    I am NOT a community organizer, but today’s efforts by community organizing bloggers have inspired me to blog about community work and the spirit of hope!
    Daughtry’s message of hope

    This video shows images of hope and help. Remember: Sara Palin is in the minority, a vocal one with a big stage, but she really doesn’t get it.

  3. regina says :

    I dare say Sarah should have thought about what she was going to say before opening her mouth. I don’t think she has a good grasp of the meaning of being a Community Organizer really is.
    I think the organizers of this movement should be applauded for getting the word out about this Blogging Day For Justice! I am honored to join the ranks of other Community workers to let our voice be heard! I am proud to be a Community Worker and Community Organizer!

  4. Christina Springer says :

    Well said! I’ve been vastly enjoying all of the different perspectives on the community organizer today.

  5. Brandon Q. says :

    G, this post is a certified classic!!!

    I was floored at the clarity in which you wrote,

    “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.”

    No truer words have ever been spoken and to take it a step further, I think we as Black folks need to stop treating organizing and politics as something that can only be done within majority Black cities. Last time I checked, Black folks comprised 12% of the US population and Obama is poised to lead the country! Our “pen” writes with the ink of freedom, equality, and fairness.

    Thanks G.

  6. Barbara Keys says :

    Whan’s the difference between Sarah P. and a pit bull?
    ** You can neuter a pit bull! **

    But, seriously now, remember that Jesus was a “community organizer”; …the Governor was Pontius Pilate.

  7. Garlin II says :

    I cross-posted this at Brave New Films, and received a pretty ignorant comment there, which I responded to. I thought I’d share it here because it’s indicative of the type of think we are up against:

    Commenter: Bobb Hubble
    Comment: Republicans don’t like community organizers? That’s probably why the Republicans don’t have any? Republicans are racist? That’s true, I haven’t seen any Black or Hispanics in position of power in this administration, have you? Told not to write? That’s certainly true, I’ve never read a book or seen a Black or Hispanic in Congress or as Mayor or Governor,etc. have you? This story has a Moral? What is it? Is it, if you don’t have a viable argument, scream racism?

    G’s Response:
    @Bob Hubble,

    You are attempting to disprove the existence of racism through anecdote and counter-example. However, unlinke mathematical axioms, that methodology does not apply here. It’s logically equivalent to saying “I have one Black friend, and she’s a Republican, so all Black people must be Republicans.” That though pattern is…flawed.

    Of course there are cases of women, under-represented minorities, and people representing pretty much all flavors of everything holding some form of office or power.

    I think you missed the point of the child-pen parallel. This is a question of framing: framing political participation, framing activism, framing access to the political system.

    What’s not to be missed here is to attack the way people and groups access & enter into the political into the political arena is the same as attacking those trying to gain access. Notice that there is no mention by these people of how they would like people to enter into the political process. They don’t give a path for access because their goal is less aprticipation, not more.

    One Love. One II.

  8. steven m devougas says :

    This is very true. It is comments like these that makes me wonder if the partisan breach that gets wider and wider everyday will ever heal with feelings and sentiments like this. It is this type of elitist thinking that sustains the political and economic disenfranchisement that has characterized this administration and Congress for the past 8 years. Unlike some, I do not demonize the republican party, nor am I sold out to the Dems. Mistakes have been made on both sides. However, this out and out disdain for the average American is untenable. As Big Boi from Outkast said, “If you want to change the world, you gotta start from your corner.”

    Furthermore, it is a bit disingenuous for Palin to make this comment, since Republicans are all about “small government.” Meaning that most likely individual communities will have to solve their own problems without the assistance and “interference” of large government. In their framework, community organizing is a cornerstone of their party and platform. This leads me to the conclusion that these people are just…DUMB.

    But I could be wrong, maybe I’m on a spaceship…

  9. F. Jones says :

    The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy:
    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


    People who try to maintain and create empires do it by manipulating the people that they are trying to conquer. They go out of their way to make sure that the people that they’re attempting to conquer is perpetually misled and manipulated. Therefore the conquered group’s perception of reality is not their own. It is shrewdly imposed upon them without them even knowing it.

    It is time that more African Americans wake up to these realities.

    “The way in which you destroy a group is by getting them to destroy themselves by dividing their ranks against each another. And then you feed these divided ranks inflaming misinformation that leads them to kill each other off.”

    Certainly you have asked yourself why is that African Americans are so is inundated with negative imagery’s of themselves. It is so unrelenting that it leads many to embarrassingly ask themselves the questions of damn are we Blacks really that bad?

    It is actually a mass media social manipulation program of where in which African Americans are being covertly psychologically conditioned-through a white controlled media that subjects them to seeing only the fraudulent worst in themselves. Its motto is Divide and conquer. It drills the message into the black psyche that we are powerless, of lesser moral, and intelligence and that we cannot govern ourselves –therefore needs whites to govern over our lives. It is designed to totally detached African Americans from their sense of power and reality. Furthermore, it is all a massive lie. We are a powerful beautiful and extraordinary people.

    When people in power wants to suppress or to exploit a group they do so by portraying that group as a fearsome enemy or a major problem of the society through lies and manufactured news items. These negative imagery’s are used to socially engineer a national consent that justifies attacking the group.

    This same propaganda technique was used by Adolph Hitler to foster a nation consensual setting that allowed his heinous mistreatment of the Jews. Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels portrayed them as a fearsome enemy of German society through lies and manufactured news items. These negative imagery’s were used to justify their annihilation.

    In the case of African Americans, they are being portrayed as the face of degradation in the American society as to socially engineer consent for their mistreatment and facilitate their exploitation through the private prison industry– that earns immense profits through the disproportionately higher incarcerations and longer sentencing of African Americans. These private prisons now even hold stocks on Wall Street and their Board of Directors lobby for changes in the law that would increase their profits. The enhances sentencing drug laws and three strike felon laws are the results of these efforts. Moreover, it also stimulates the American economy by creating more jobs within the prison industry.

    According to Dr Edward Bernays, one of America ’s most renowned propaganda specialists and consultant to many U.S. presidents; “This method of social manipulation is an important element in a democratic society, and that those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

    The U.S. Government has an extensive history of conducting planned campaigns of extensive strategic psychological operations [based upon the works of Bernays] through the national media to influence and direct the perception and climate of the nation towards its governmental objectives. Given that the nineteen sixties were a period of massive black rebellion and unrest that eroded the American global image and increasingly placed the nation’s peace and stability in dire jeopardy and perhaps most particularly because the nations top sociologist and psychologist knew that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. This quite logically necessitated that the U.S. Government employ these same pr oven methods of mass psychological manipulation against its entire African American population.
    The U.S. Government now secretly deliberately disseminates false deplorably racially devaluing statistics and propaganda about its Black population that are deliberately designed to adversely manipulate and shape the minds and collective consciousness of its African American population– corrupting African Americans sense of unity, cohesion, and reason– and fostering a consensual national environment of where in which its Black population is more easily divided, exploited and ultimately suppressed. Given the white race’s unrivaled history and proclivity, for brutal racism, and greed of power, what else should have been expected, when they are in control of the media- the most powerful propaganda tool in the entire world.

    When most people hear the term of psychological manipulation they usually think in terms of the classic “conspiracy theory” that refers to overt mind control such as mind altering drugs with carefully hypnotic programming. However, the real and true dangers are Bernays well proven methods of affecting the unconscious mind by using deception, and psychological manipulation. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. The constant relentless bombardment with deplorably negative images of themselves that of which African Americans are so inundated with, through a white controlled media, is a very carefully and deliberately designed psychological conditioning program. Its unrelenting daily assault on the Black psyche is designed to corrupt African Americans’ sense of racial unity and cohesion, mold the character of self-hatred, engender self-doubt, self-loathing, and distrust among their group. And while insinuating that Blacks admire, respect, and trust only Whites.
    This method of psychological manipulation works by affecting the unconscious mind through deception. It uses the psychology of deceit to adversely affect the recipient group in terms of their behavior. Here is a simplified example of how this is being implemented against African Americans. Let us, for example, imagine that a crew of people was aboard their own massive ship and that this ship was being shadowed by another neighboring ship that was constantly broadcasting derogatory messages to the first group. Such messages as that their ship was lesser, smaller, not seaworthy, perhaps slowly sinking or that their crew was incompetent and was planning a mutiny. With time, the group receiving the negative messages, being unable to refute or to confirm these derogatory messages and deficiencies will grow weary and paranoid of the negative messages and will eventually comes to accept these negative assessments of themselves. The perception created by the taunting now unconsciously influences how the taunted group perceives themselves, subsequently causing them to become distrustful of themselves, doubting themselves, hating themselves and, eventually, fighting among themselves. The taunted group may even become so besieged by deep feelings of inadequacy that they may even jump into the sea and attempt to swim towards the taunting ship now believing it to be superior to their own ship even if their own ship was in fact better. The basis of this concept of mind manipulation is that the human being’s most critical aspect is the mind and it works by affecting the mind through deception.
    Within a real life setting this mortifying psychosocial treatment is precisely what is being deliberately done to African Americans through corporate owned and governmentally controlled media outlets that deliberately subjected them to seeing only the fraudulently worst in themselves. This is done through an immense campaign of false derogatory misinformation and false negative media reports and statistics that are created by U.S. governmental agencies and then leaked to its collaborators in the news media, which either knowingly or unknowingly carry the stories as their own. These false information about African Americans are then disseminated unrelentingly everywhere; it is deliberately perpetuated through news releases in magazine articles, radio, television, press releases, documentaries, and false census reports perpetuating and framing the myth of Whites’ racial, moral, and ethical superiority over its Black population. However, the weapon is not in how the message is carried, but is instead within the messages that it carries and how these messages detrimentally affects the Black population at large.
    The over representation of Black crimes and grossly exaggerated statistics of Black on Black violence within this psychosocial program are intentionally designed to create fear, hatred, and distrust thus molding the character of disunity and self-hatred among the Black community. [Black’s own personal negative experiences and interactions with their fellow Blacks then merely confirm the program’s perpetuated message that it is they that are their own worst enemies]. The ultimately goal of this governmental psychosocial treatment of African Americans is to destroy the Black unity and cohesion that was historically the cornerstone of civil rights gains and that was a crucial factor of the survival of African Americans through more than four hundred years of racial oppression. [Logic dictates that given that unity and cohesion among African Americans was responsible for the demise of White America’s past system of blatant, institutionalized racism, then destroying this unity would be an essential objective of this psychological manipulation program.]

    All African Americans have experienced the burden of this system of applied psychological conditioning, some more severely than others have. It is experienced every time we [Blacks] read a newspaper, watch the evening news, listen to a radio report, enter a classroom and read its racially biased textbooks. To the detriment of many African Americans, it has been an extremely effective. It has successfully conditioned many African Americans to accept the dominance of Whites and white institutions over their lives by misleading them to believe that they are, themselves, their own worst enemies, therefore engendering an aberration of internalized self contempt that pulverizes Black unity and halts Black upward mobility. It is at the root of both the profound division and self hatred now afflicting so many Black Americans and is at the heart of internalized feelings of superiority that many whites possess.
    And while many African Americans have successfully navigated through this psychologically mortifying mine field and have gone on to lead successful, productive lives, for far too many this immense devaluation can seem inescapable and tragically, over time, many begin to accept subconsciously and painfully the negative portrayals of themselves. Many also become discouraged by the acceptance that their society is also preconditioned to see the worst in them and that, therefore, if they were ever to gain acceptance, if it is to be won at all, that success would be hard won. This in turn manifests negative internalized psychological pain and distress within many African Americans that can take many forms.
    In fact, this governmental mortifying psychosocial treatment of African Americans may be the most aggravating, if not core, factor of the national phenomenon of self hatred; loss of educational aspirations; loss of unity, cohesion and racial pride; and fragile psyches of many African Americans today. It is in fact so fundamentally detrimental to the Black human condition and psyche that it may even affect the extent to which many African Americans realize their full human potential. This type of psychological manipulation program has also been proven very effective in rapidly destroying a group’s ethical and moral values and engendering negative cultural norms with regard to violence, brutality, and even murder. All people, to some degree, are products of cultural conditions and their worldviews operate outside of their level of consciousness. Therefore, no group can be preconditioned to see only the worst in themselves and not exhibit some degree of negative psychological impact.
    Not only does this massive governmental psychological manipulation campaign negatively impacts Blacks self perceptions, but it also provides a more socially acceptable way to assure that the masses of African Americans remains the most racially devalued and most economical exploited and suppressed group in America. The media’s constant, fraudulently inaccurate, negative imagery of Black Americans is designed also to create a shift of victimization that changes the root problem of racism in America to be due to Black’s behavior rather than White’s proclivity for racism. Therefore insinuates that America would be a better society as a whole if African Americans were gone, thus engendering increasingly prejudiced distorted perceptions and acrimonious beliefs about African Americans that are designed to makes the nation and the entire world insensitive to their plight, tranquilizes efforts on their behalf, lessens pressure for social change on their behalf, and makes any serious criticism of White racism almost impossible today. Therefore fostering a national setting of where in which Blacks are more easily exploited and ultimately consensually suppressed. Moreover, some studies have shown that this shift of victimization now reflects increasingly acrimonious beliefs and prejudiced perceptions about and against African Americans that are arguably stronger today than they were after emancipation.
    This campaign also attempts to discourage miscegenation between Blacks and whites, and creates a false justification for the legal system’s mistreatment of African Americans wherein they are disproportionately incarcerated, given stiffer sentences, and are more likely than other racial groups to be treated brutally, beaten, and fired upon by police officers while they are unarmed. These injustices now goes ignored because the perception has subconsciously become that it’s all now justified. When contempt of Blacks is made to appear to be justifiable, it is the fiercest and most effective type of racism because its witnesses, bystanders, and even world audiences will sit by idly allowing African Americans to be brutally mistreated under the belief that it is justified. This is what Dr. Edward Bernays referred to as “engineering consent”.

    This governmental psychological conditioning program stripped African Americans of the national and international support that was acquired during the 1960’s civil rights struggles. It also today affects attitudes that when enacted through governmental policies, laws, and other legislation actions, serve to ensure that African Americans will not advance. Its effects are manifested in ideas, education, governmental policies, economic stratification, social segregation, housing markets, hiring and promotion practices, psychological issues, and minority access to a variety of social services and opportunity.

    The present despairing state of Black America is neither a baffling phenomenon nor the result of some divine ethnic curse, but is rather instead the result of the White elite’s innate proclivity for reinventing devious methods to suppress its Black population.
    The objective of the United States government has always been to maintain its White dominance and control over its Black population, and clearly, psychological warfare meets this need. It was the logical choice because it covertly provided the U.S. Government with a far more sophisticated, proficient, and socially accepted means of covertly controlling and suppressing its Black population. Through this method the U.S. Government is able to both influence the national climate and engender personal psychological feelings among its Black population that meet its objectives of maintaining its white dominance. Furthermore, history overwhelmingly demonstrates that the White race’s innate proclivity for racism, control, and dominance is much too deeply ingrained for them to just merely give up their practices of implementing suppressive methods over its African American population. The records of history show that the reincarnation of suppressive methods into forms more acceptable to the changing times is a common practice of the United States government.
    As seen after the abolishment of slavery wherein its methods of using racist, oppressive treatment of its Black population was reincarnated into Jim Crow inequalities that included many devious strategies and methods that prevented Blacks from becoming registered voters. And let us not forget the horrific Tuskegee experiments where of in which from1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted dangerous syphilis experiments on four hundred Black men. These men were deliberately left to degenerate painfully under the ravishes of the disease – with symptoms including blindness, tumors, paralysis, insanity and death – to allow the U.S. Government to collect the needed data from their autopsies. And let us also not forget of the CIA’s involvement in flooding the Black communities of Los Angeles with drugs and high powered weaponry and then disseminated these drugs and weaponry to many African American communities throughout the United States destroying the lives of millions of African Americans while stimulating the economy through the prison industry.

    For more go to http://www.Divine and order the book entitled ” The Black Matrix: The Modern Mental and Social Suppression of African Americans Under National Interest. (c)2006, 2008

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