KEY COMPONENTS OF SUCCESSFUL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

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"For me, the most important lesson
[of the Freedom Movement] is that by respecting the fact that fellow activists could passionately disagree over strategy and tactics—yet remain allies—they strengthened SNCC and the Movement as a whole."
From Bruce Hartford's article in the current issue of Urban Habitat.
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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Where's the Outrage? For sure in Phoenix and Annaheim

Charles Blow in his weekly Saturday NYT op-ed piece asks, "Where's the Outrage."  He is worried that only 39 percent of Democrats are more than usually excited about voting in November in the context of repressive Voter-ID laws and Republican billionaires' donations to super pacs.

And yet.....in the same paper as his op-ed piece, there are three articles clearly defining examples of where the outrage is:

1. A Bus Ride to Show the Cracks in Immigration

Like Nuns on the Bus (and echoing the Freedom Rides of 1961-3), thirty men and women (no papers, no fear) are leaving on Monday from Phoenix, AZ, on a bus. Their route is designed to travel through all those counties and cities that have passed laws intending to target undocumented immmigrants.  This is classic direct nonviolent action.  They are putting themselves at risk for arrest in order to:
  •  protest an unjust law
  • dramatize the injustice
  • educate a wider audience
  • generate sympathy from a wider audience
The Phoenix bus riders intend to arrive at the opening of the Democratic National Nominating Convention (Charlotte, NC, Sept 3). Their purpose in doing so echoes (for me, at least) lessons learned from the MFDP's challenge at the 1964 Democratic Convention. They understand that Republicans are primarily responsible for the failure of the Dream Act and other legislation providing a path to citizenship for immigrants, but also want to call the Democrats to account for their failures as well. 


 Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons
Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons 

Happening during the same time as the Aurora shootings, the shooting deaths of Manuel Diaz and Rafael Brito, however, do not garner the sympathy of a wider audience (because of how the media reports it) -- they were shot by police who say they were gang members.  Here's the "top comment" (135 likes) on the Orange County Register's web page reporting of the events
John, they'll never get it. They are a community full of people who have no respect for their neighbors, any authority, or the law in general. They hold no one accountable and deceitfully and disengenuously use race as leverage in their arguments. They turn a blind eye to neighborhood violence perpetrated by gangs -- said bangers members of their own families. They riot and call it "protesting". They took a nice southern California community and turned it into the 3rd world.
Here's a video NOT posted on the Register's web page that begins to get at why the community might not want to cooperate with the police.  The comment also doesn't address the issues surrounding the history of urban unrest so clearly laid out in Janet Abu-Lughod's book, Race, Space, and Riots: in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles

It is the 8th shooting (5 fatal) by Annaheim police this year.  Over a thousand community members protested at the City Council hearing last Tuesday night.  Many were arrested in other related protest incidents.   

As the NYT reports:
In this largely working-class city of more than 340,000 people, the divisions are as varied as they are deep. While more than half of the city is Latino, only three Latinos have ever been elected to the City Council. But the rift is as much about class as it is about race.
For many activists, the blame lies with the City Council, whose members are primarily from eastern hills on the city’s edge, the wealthiest and least populated part of town. They complain that the Council has focused exclusively on development in the resort area at the expense of the city’s poor neighborhoods.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a lawsuit against the city of Anaheim claiming that the current City Council election system, with each candidate running at large rather in a particular neighborhood, underrepresents Latinos, who make up a third of all voters in the city. One study cited by the A.C.L.U. found that the wealthier area of Anaheim Hills has more parks, libraries, fire stations and community centers than any other part of the city.
This passage only begins to scratch the surface.  Urban "riots" have historically been manifestations of anger and outrage over the lack of living-wage jobs, distribution of public resources, and political power.  Study after study after study following "race riots" from 1919 to 1992, even those with "historical amnesia" echo these conclusions.

Historical evidence and rational thinking is not going to solve the problem.  Only organizing can do that.  Everything comes down to power.  The last time the urban underclass began to organize (SNCC and Black Panther), the U.S. government sent in assassination and counterinsurgency teams (Cointelpro) and the white left abandoned their responsibilities (See a Hard Rain Fell: SDS and Why It Failed).  In this context, urban organizers were unable to overcome internal difficulties and contradictions (e.g., egos, ideological disputes, strategic blunders) that plague any movement.


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