“The difference between a community organizer and a politician is that community organizers are the ones who take the responsibility upon themselves to help their fellow citizens without the benefit of a government budget behind them… and go out there every day doing the hard thankless work to make this country livable which is what allows you politicians to be able to go on tv and brag about how this is the greatest country in the world…” —Jay Smooth
I don’t want to give more platform space for Palin by talking about her but there have been some really good points made that say a lot about people in this country and our view on community.
BFP points out that people have been laughing at the idea of grassroots organizing for a good while now and that liberation through mass mobilization is seen as unrealistic. I think this says a lot about the effect non-profit industrial complex [professionalizing system of non-profits] has had on our movements. How many times have you been to a meeting and the only people that have authority are those that have degrees or able to get paid for their activism? How many times have you seen a group have its vision watered down through government funding? While there is a need for every community to have multiple strategies to achieve freedom [i.e. the disability community has ADAPT, a nonviolence civil disobedience organization, and AAPD, a disability advocacy organization based in D.C. Both types of organizations are needed to make the Community Choice Act a reality.], there is also a real need to look at the way that we’ve moved away from mass mobilization to careerism. BFP leaves a lot to think about by asking why we’re surprised by Palin’s comments when movements have been ridiculing organizing and prioritized careerism.
There have also been a lot of points on the way the word community organizing has been racialized to mean something that is a threat to mainstream white dominant society. This is true. At the same time, I’m not sure that I’d want “community organizer” to be interchangeable with someone involved with the PTA, church, etc. though both technically are working for the community. Community organizing is about resistance, coming together, sustainability, interdependence— People power. It’s fair to say the GOP has community organizers but then we need to come up with some kind of word that captures the spirit of organizing and recognizes the legacy we have in folks like Malcolm X, Nadia Abou-Karr, Anita Cameron, Cesar Chavez…