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The Unbearable Whiteness of the American Left
The Nation ^ | April 23, 2014 | Gary Younge

Posted on 04/27/2014 2:10:26 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

From education to gun control, progressive movements need to do a better job empowering the people whose interests they claim to serve.

At a panel titled “Grassroots Organizing” at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin in March, an audience member asked the all-white panel for its definition of “grassroots.” The conference had been called to “give voice to those opposing privatization, school closings, and high-stakes testing.”

As the questioner pointed out, those disproportionately affected by these developments are poor and minority communities. Chicago, for example, a city that is one-third white, has a public school system in which 90 percent of the students are children of color and 87 percent come from low-income families. When the city schools shut down last year, 88 percent of the children affected were black; when Philadelphia did the same, the figure was 81 percent.

You’d think black people might have something to contribute to a discussion about that process and how it might be resisted. Yet on this exclusively white panel at this predominantly white conference, they had no voice.

One panelist said he found the question offensive. “I didn’t know it was a racial thing,” he said.

In the United States, campaigns for social justice are always “a racial thing.” That doesn’t mean they might not be about other “things,” too. Indeed, they invariably are. Race does not exist in a vacuum. But in a country that has never considered equality beyond its most abstract iterations and that has practiced slavery far longer than freedom, race is never entirely absent.

The problem is not exclusive to this issue or this conference. Similar criticisms can be made of the gun control movement, in which black people, who are the most likely to be affected by gun violence, generally have supporting roles as grieving parents but rarely take center stage as advocates for new legislation. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to plow millions into the cause is welcome. But however large a check Bloomberg writes, the poster boy for stop-and-frisk is not going to get much traction in the urban areas where gun violence is most prevalent.

Nor is this a new problem. It’s a longstanding, endemic and entrenched feature of what purports to be the American left and the causes with which it identifies. It is difficult to imagine a progressive American movement that does not have the interests of minorities and the poor at its heart—whom else would it exist for? As Karl Marx noted in Capital: “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.” And yet the physical presence of those groups in the spaces created by the “left” all too often appear as an afterthought, if indeed they appear at all.

“However rebellious children may be, they have their parents’ genes,” wrote Andrew Kopkind in 1968. “American radicals are Americans. They cannot easily cross class lines to organize groups above or below their own station. They are caught in the same status traps as everyone else, even if they react self-consciously.”

This ought to be a civil conversation among friends. Those born white and wealthy should not be slammed for developing a social conscience, becoming activists and trying to make the world a better place. But neither should the nature of their involvement be above critique. When their aim is to fight alongside low-income people and people of color as brothers and sisters, real advances are possible. But when they look down on these people as younger stepbrothers and stepsisters to be brought along for the ride, precious few gains are made.

The point here is not that only minorities or the poor can run organizations that advocate on issues that primarily affect minorities and the poor. That way madness lies. There is nothing inherent in an identity or a circumstance that automatically makes someone a better leader. Michael Manley, John Brown, Joe Slovo—history is not teeming with examples of the wealthy and light providing leadership for the poor and dark, but they do exist. People have to be judged on what they do, not who they are. This is not simply about optics. What an organization looks like is relevant; but what it does is paramount.

The point is that for a healthy and organic relationship to develop between an organization and its base, the organization must be representative of and engaged with those whose needs it purports to serve. In other words, to do good work one should not speak on behalf of the people but empower them to speak for themselves. Once empowered, the people may exert pressure to change the organization’s agenda in unexpected ways—and that’s a good thing.

It’s not as though there aren’t examples out there. The Chicago teachers strike in 2012 was successful, in large part, because the union had done the hard work of building partnerships with black and Latino communities who responded with overwhelming support for its industrial action. From Oakland to New York, the education justice movement is full of people (parents, students, teachers, activists) rooted in their neighborhoods and cities and mobilizing significant numbers to challenge the “reform” agenda. The same is true for those campaigning for gun control. Speaking shortly after Sandy Hook, Carolyn Murray—who lost her son, Justin, in a shooting when she was organizing a gun buyback program in Evanston, Illinois—expressed frustration with what she correctly predicted would be a fleeting interest in the issue. “People tend to get in an uproar for a week or two and then go home,” she said. ”Everybody’s busy and working hard. But when it affects your life like this, you have to do something.”

It’s not that these people don’t have a voice. It’s that even when they’re shouting at the top of their lungs, their voices are too rarely heard by those who would much rather speak for them than listen to them.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: blacks; irony; leftists; liberalracism; progressiveracism; progressives

The author

1 posted on 04/27/2014 2:10:26 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Buffalo Butt?


2 posted on 04/27/2014 2:11:24 PM PDT by dfwgator
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

He should ask them to quit killing off unborn black babies and maybe the left wouldn’t be so white.

But then that is part of the left’s agenda. Put abortion clinics in black neighborhoods. Pelosi and Sanger are so proud.


3 posted on 04/27/2014 2:13:09 PM PDT by dforest
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
" But in a country that has never considered equality beyond its most abstract iterations and that has practiced slavery far longer than freedom, race is never entirely absent. "

Here's an inequality:

(1865-1787)>>(2014-1866)

4 posted on 04/27/2014 2:15:00 PM PDT by Paladin2
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

This drivel seems ... unfocused.


5 posted on 04/27/2014 2:17:23 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; All
"..progressive movements need to do
a better job empowering the people
whose interests they claim to serve."




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6 posted on 04/27/2014 2:18:14 PM PDT by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Like a dog chasing its tail, the left is always chasing after the elusive chimera of "social justice." Poor people are being oppressed...because they are poor. It never occurs to leftists that a great pct. of poor people deserve to be poor. Of course, poor in the American sense often times means living better than a very large pc. of the world's population.

But that's not good enough for the leftists. The poor people they're concerned about can't seem to rise above their circumstances unless lifted up by massive gov. action. All supported by tax-payer money, naturally. What to do? Organize more conferences, strikes, gatherings to protest the fact that most of the poor they're concerned about i.e. non-white poor can't seem to do anything for themselves. Oh, the huge manatee.

7 posted on 04/27/2014 2:20:22 PM PDT by driftless2
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To: Paladin2

The United States existed retroactive to the Revolution, on back to the early 1600’s when convenient for racial grievance mongers. England emerges unscathed, as does Spain, Portugal, the African tribes who captured and sold them and the Arabs who trafficked heavily in them.


8 posted on 04/27/2014 2:21:08 PM PDT by RegulatorCountry
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To: Paladin2

Like everything else, these bozos are really lousy at math.


9 posted on 04/27/2014 2:21:36 PM PDT by driftless2
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To: ClearCase_guy

I can’t find a theme or a conclusion. Can you?


10 posted on 04/27/2014 2:21:53 PM PDT by ProtectOurFreedom
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Go to a folk festival. It is as lily white as a KKK meeting. I’ve been tempted to ask them why there aren’t more minorities at their festivals.


11 posted on 04/27/2014 2:23:14 PM PDT by klgator
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To: ProtectOurFreedom

“White folks is bad” seems to be about as close as I can get.


12 posted on 04/27/2014 2:23:34 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Of course I did not read the article, read their script, been there done that. The “Peak Oil” movement basically was %99 white libtard, any proof needed go to the oildrum.com and look at the pics. But then again I would tell the clown who penned this article that “Detroit might be too black and not diverse enough.”


13 posted on 04/27/2014 2:28:20 PM PDT by junta ("Peace is a racket", testimony from crime boss Barrack Hussein Obama.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Hey...Hey....Heeeeyyyy!


14 posted on 04/27/2014 2:29:22 PM PDT by Huskrrrr
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
" Race does not exist in a vacuum"

I thought conventional wisdom was that race doesn't exist?

15 posted on 04/27/2014 2:31:00 PM PDT by Altura Ct.
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

The left knows what’s best. Don’t argue, just follow along citizen. The left is white and it knows what’s right!


16 posted on 04/27/2014 2:48:51 PM PDT by vpintheak (I will not comply!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

How about we just make everyone equal under the law and treat them all the same without regard to race, creed or color? /s


17 posted on 04/27/2014 2:52:06 PM PDT by Chuckster (The longer I live the less I care about what you think.)
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To: Paladin2

Slaves aren’t allowed to learn maff or history.


18 posted on 04/27/2014 3:17:43 PM PDT by TigersEye (Stupid is a Progressive disease.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
"You’d think black people might have something to contribute to a discussion about that process and how it might be resisted. Yet on this exclusively white panel at this predominantly white conference, they had no voice. "

I find these sorts of statements unbelieveably laughable.

To me, this is like saying why is the northern Montana sheep growers association members Exclusively White? It's White people who care about raising sheep.

It's my opinion, that if Black people really gave a crap about educating their children they'd already have a Black organization (funded by federal dollars) that addressed that issue.... I'm not saying that there should be separate organizations like the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) but, if there had been participation all along from the Black community, they would already be in leadership positions....now, they just want to be given positions without the (apparently) required effort.

19 posted on 04/27/2014 3:55:39 PM PDT by blam
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To: klgator
Go to a folk festival. It is as lily white as a KKK meeting. I’ve been tempted to ask them why there aren’t more minorities at their festivals.

So is the Occupy Wall Street movement, so is the Anachist movement. Democrat cities are highly segregated.

Glad he is noticing.

20 posted on 04/27/2014 4:00:56 PM PDT by Vince Ferrer
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Austin is 8% black and 35% hispanic but the latins are not important to Younge. He is obviously a racist bigot.


21 posted on 04/27/2014 4:19:51 PM PDT by Rockpile
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To: Vince Ferrer
Glad he is noticing.

Noticing is one thing. Drawing the right conclusion, much like his screed, is quite another.
22 posted on 04/27/2014 4:20:45 PM PDT by 98ZJ USMC
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To: Rockpile

He’s also a member of the Communist Party.


23 posted on 04/27/2014 4:24:23 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (I will raise $2M for Cruz and/or Palin's next run, what will you do?)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Oh, my God. Is this a Lesbian? A gay male? What happened to his teeth? And what is that THANG hanging from its left ear lobe?


24 posted on 04/27/2014 4:27:38 PM PDT by WashingtonSource
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
Once empowered, the people may exert pressure to change the organization’s agenda in unexpected ways—and that’s a good thing.

So I can assume this author is really happy with black Americans like Jesse Lee Peterson, Clarence Thomas, Mia Love, Walter Williams, and other conservatives-of-color. I mean, they have changed the agenda in "unexpected ways"... right?!?!

Yes, I know what they say about "assume."

25 posted on 04/27/2014 4:32:18 PM PDT by workerbee (The President of the United States is DOMESTIC ENEMY #1!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

In Chicago it worked. Parents and kids supported the teacher’s strike for more pay. Nothing improved in the school system at all, yet parents supported the teachers making more money at the expense of their own children: the students.

That’s what we’re up against. If Democratcare had worked just a little better do you think we’d be talking about gaining a majority in the Senate?


26 posted on 04/28/2014 5:07:10 AM PDT by 1010RD (First, Do No Harm)
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