Want To Know What You Can Do?
All of us are struggling with what to do next.
Thankfully, there are people who already know.
Much hay is made by opponents of social justice about ‘professional protesters’ and their nefarious habit of bussing people to events and voting booths, organizing their communities for political action and real change.
Our soon to be former president was derided by his rivals for community organizing, a practice which hails from the very greatest traditions in this country and elsewhere. Martin Luther King wasn’t a politician, professional speaker. He was a reverend, and a community organizer, and an expert on the tactics that work to make real change in a society that does not welcome change. In days like these, we must turn to the inheritors of that discipline for direction on how to focus our energy and mobilize our allies to make real progress and be effective when fighting for the goals we share.
There are many organizations currently ramping up their efforts to protect our civil liberties and set up what protections they can for our neighbors who are most vulnerable to the coming tide of discrimination and violence.
- The ACLU has pledged a war of lawsuits against unconstitutional actions from the new administration.
- Environmental groups are ready to fight to the end, and of course, the native people who have always protected this land from invasion continue their brave fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- And thankfully, Black Lives Matter leaders are already training people on the tools needed to organize and resist the continuing and likely increasing injustice black women and men will face from this day forward.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights, which hosted the training, will be a key place for organizers to learn from the rich history of the American civil rights movement about how to bring that wisdom and skill into this new century, to affect the change we need today. Their Executive Vice President, Deborah Richardson, suggested a more inclusive way forward:
“Our way forward is to reignite citizen participation. Gather persons of differing views and life experiences who share a commitment toward addressing an issue. Our continuing to gather and talk in silos with like-minded people is part of the problem, not the solution. Now is our opportunity to test the model of inclusive democracy, where all persons have a seat at the table, and the outcome is the result of our collective voices.”
It is tempting to limit our engagement, and our dissent, to those we know most intimately. But to be effective, direct action must include a broad base of people with differing views. Ideological purity is impossible. At the same time, the more specific a demand, the more narrow its constituency, and the less support will materialize.
All of these considerations have been thought through and put into practice for decades. And the people who have been there before, the heroes of the civil rights, queer rights, women rights, and workers rights movements can teach us all.
The African American Policy Forum, a group focused on the cause of black women and girls who is the power behind the hashtags like #SayHerName and others, is hosting a webinar on organizing tactics on Friday at 1pm EST/10am PST. The webinar is titled Social Justice SOS: What We Need to Know About What Happened, What’s Coming, and Why We Must Join Together Against Hate, and will include legendary organizers like:
- Kimberle Crenshaw, Professor of Law and Columbia and UCLA, Founder & Director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at Columbia Law School
- Eve Ensler, activist and author of the Vagina Monologues.
- Mary Frances Berry, The Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and the former chairwoman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights
- Tim Wise, noted antiracist activist
- and many many more.
I urge folks to participate in this conversation, and to seek help from their local community groups and activists for advice on how to get involved right now.
Time is on our side, but only if we start today.
Categories: Our Streets