Friday, November 30, 2007

A Debate: Do Greens Need a 'People of Color' Caucus?

EDITOR'S NOTE: My op-ed below was originally published in the Winter/Spring 2008 edition of Green Focus, the newspaper of the Green Party of California. Breaking the Democrat-Republican monopoly on American politics requires the destruction of big city Democratic Party Machines to which many of us have emotional attachments. It's important for Greens to free our minds from the tyranny of Democrat-Republican old politics about race and ethnicity. Thus, we must dare to consider if we need a "People of Color Caucus" or any "Identity Politics" caucuses at all. 

I assumed many would disagree vigorously and invited Greens to submit op-eds to the editor of the paper. There were only a few comments and nobody submitted a fill-blown op-ed. Amazing how this "Identity Politics" taken as gospel on the American Left can be so apparently indefensible. 

Alex Walker
Los Angeles Greens
Do Greens Need a 'People of Color' Caucus?
No - Let's Be The Change We Want to See
by Alex Walker

"Be the change that you want to see in the world." -- Mohandas Gandhi

Let's have an "Urban Policy Caucus" on urban sustainability, the "Drug War," large school systems, immigration, etc. But please, no caucuses based on skin color. That's a throwback to the 1960s when "Leaders" pleaded for entry into segregated "smoke filled rooms" of Democratic Party bosses and when the Republican "Party of Lincoln" became the "White Man's Party" of die-hard segregationists.

Americans revolted in the name of liberty and sanctioned slavery. The French killed King Louis and crowned Emperor Napoleon. The Russians killed Czar Nicholas in the name of socialism and consolidated his empire under a corporate state. I have great personal respect for Greens organizing these caucus, but I do not want Greens imitating race-obsessed Democrats and Republicans.

Black Power -- 1967

At the height of the civil rights struggle, Stokely Carmichael, a Howard University student, was regional director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He helped register voters and organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Lyndon Johnson, with typical "liberal" cowardice, refused to support the MFDP against the all-white, racist Mississippi delegation at the 1964 Democratic Convention. By mid 1966, after two more years of violent, tyranical, Southern "conservative" terror, Carmichael and his comrades had enough. Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture) gave his first "Black Power" speech in Mississippi, urging black pride, independence, and self-defense.

MEChA -- 1969

The heroic struggle of César Chávez and the United Farm Workers similarly roused California's "sleeping giant." In 1969, students founded Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) - rejecting namby-pamby liberal "assimilation and accommodationist melting pot ideology." A MEChA leader at UCLA leader was a young firebrand called Tony Villar. When Villar married the lovely Corina Raigosa he took the name... Antonio Villaraigosa.

I am not ashamed to confess that one single lecture by Stokely Carmichael in the Spring of 1967 changed my life. For this young, naive, kid in "conservative" Virginia, Black Power was liberating and beautiful.

"Hack Power" -- 2007

Today, I'm grieved to report that in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, those liberating slogans of my youth, co-opted by Democratic Party Machines, are used to rationalize evil by reactionary preachers, nutty professors, playboys, incompetents like Los Angeles Unified School District Bureaucrats, gangsters promoting a Black-Latino race war, and killers from "Your Black Muslim Bakery" who assassinated Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey in broad daylight.

Here's the group dynamic. First, "differences" between "Us" and "Them" are wildly exaggerated. Next, "difference" worship is carried beyond the means to an end like Black Power to become a supposedly revolutionary end in itself. Symbolic projects like naming lousy segregated institutions after Martin Luther King and César Chávez; expressing conspicuous outrage over "offensive" words and symbols; and pretending Kwanzaa is a real "tradition" equivalent to Christmas creates an illusion of "action." Failure generates calls for greater "unity" -- more separatism, more conformity, and more devotion to "Leaders." The only mainstream criticism comes from the Far Right, which, of course, lends credibility to bad "Leaders." 

The idiocy of "Identity Politics" let Bill Clinton boast about his cabinet of Yale corporate lawyers who "look like America." Even George W. Bush is lauded for the "First Black" mass murderer as secretary of state and "First Latino" war criminal as attorney general. Scoundrels like San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa win applause parroting 1960s clichés even after betraying their every decent public and private commitment.

Green Party People of Color Imitating Democrats

Political refugees fleeing the One-Corporate-Party-with-Two-Names come into our Green Party with a lot of emotional baggage. People of color fear Greens using "white privilege" to abuse us. We don't trust our Euro-American brothers not to form a lynch mob around the next corner. Isn't that, after all, what white Clinton "liberal" Democrats do when the going gets tough? So, we defend using the only tools we know: little imitation Democratic Party "caucuses" for sacramental "difference" worship.

Time to reject this organizing model. Let's organize around ideas like the "Green For All" campaign to train kids in green trades and around issues like clean air, water, health care, and schools. Focus on winning elections with candidates like Richmond Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. Attack racist conservatives in Republican suburbs and sleazy liberals in Democratic cities. Banish fear and build trust by working and winning together.

Here's my last point. Twentieth century socialism and nationalism have failed. There are  only two global visions left standing: U.S. style corporate capitalism and radical Islam. God forbid humanity having to choose between those two! Our Green key values are what the world needs now even if we, ourselves, do not yet have sense enough to know it. All my life somebody has tried to tell me where to go, what to do, what to like, who to love, how to dance, vote, and worship because of the group I was born into 58 years ago. I hate this! I'll bet a couple other billion people on this planet hate it, too. Every woman is my sister. Every man is my brother. Let's be the change we want to see.

No comments: