I *heart* Community Organizers

I watched way too much of the RNC yesterday. Today, not so much. I learned my lesson, and let’s face it John McCain isn’t as fascinating as Sarah Palin.

I heard a lot of things that deserved the Cara de Fuchi. First Rudy Giuliani sneered and laughed at the concept of being a community organizer. The overwhelmingly white audience laughed. That was bad enough. And then Palin — the pit bull with lipstick — defended her experience as a small town mayor by saying that she had actual responsibilities, unlike a community organizer. More laughter. Ugh. Bad move, GOP… especially when Day 2 of your convention was all about “service.”

But I’m biased, and you all know that. I’m all for Obama and value his experience organizing recently laid-off factory workers in the South Side of Chicago. I know many community organizers. Some of my best friends are community organizers. And guess what? They work hard and have real responsibilities.

Junichi at Poplicks articulates my feelings pretty well:

In no uncertain terms, they told Dr. King, A. Philip Randolph, Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and countless other social workers, labor activists, religious leaders (on all ends of the political spectrum), and champions for the underprivileged that their work was meaningless and worthless.

So much for helping voters forget that John McCain voted against a holiday honoring MLK.

As if grassroots organizing was not already the key to Obama’s success, Sarah Palin just stoked the fires of the wrong base.

Jay Smooth, my favorite vlogger, noted the similarities between the RNC and the Player Hater’s Ball. He also has some great points about community organizers working with churches.


Finally, I saw this on Twitter a couple of times: Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor.



13 thoughts on “I *heart* Community Organizers

  1. I may not be as hostile to community organizers as you perceive Palin and the right to be but I generally agree with their overall sentiments: the vast majority of community organization is a waste.

    They don’t build, invent, create, or do anything really worth meaning that increases the standard of living of the population, like say, entrepreneurs. When is the last time a community organizer did something that extended the life span of human life? That lead people from starvation to nutrition?

    This is largely because, community organizers, as opposed to say religious charities, focus too much on political solutions as opposed to private sector and character solutions…and really, when is the last time government has really improved anything on a grand scale?

    Whether it’s lifting millions of people out of poverty in India, China and East Asia, or simply getting people the food and necessities they need everyday, the vast improvements in human life have been through the private sector. The government has almost always stood in the way of progress, whether its communism or war itself, most of the evils of history have come from too much government.

    With that said, as I said above, I don’t consider community organization a total failure. The civil rights movement can be seen as a somewhat positive example in community organizations favor. But even then its not as clear cut as community organizers would have you believe…after all, much of the civil rights movement had an anti-government and Church based charity organization philosophy to it, it wasn’t purely community organization…and not everything that came out of the civil rights movement was a good thing…especially the government aspects of it like the welfare programs that came out of the great society that have significantly weakened black families. ((In other words, I think we can now conclude that Booker T. Washington was right and W.E.B. Dubois was wrong)

    Again, this doesn’t mean I place the value of community organizers at zero (some of my friends on the right say its merely an avenue for people with low self esteem to feel good about themselves) – I think it has some positive aspects of it, but it is overall very low on the list.

  2. Momo says:

    I could do nothing else but gasp after I read the word “waste” and shake my head throughout the rest that lengthy comment. Rather than drown in the darkness of its contents, I will ponder cindylu’s clever find as food for thought: “Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor”… repeat… repeat…

  3. Matias says:

    Some of my community organizers friends say that some of your friends on the right always bring up discussions to a theoretical framework about the market and the individual because they have never identified themselves a members of a community.

    And, if we bring up the fact that the community organization Barack worked for was, in fact, a faith-based organization, does that make your comment tragically misinformed, unconventionally childish, or simply stupid? I can’t decide. Choose one and we’ll use the other two for Palin’s speech.

  4. Obama is smarter than I realized and seems to join me in the charge that community organization is a waste of time, the New Republic reports:

    “He told Kellman that he feared community organizing would never allow him “to make major changes in poverty or discrimination.” To do that, he said, “you either had to be an elected official or be influential with elected officials.” In other words, Obama believed that his chosen profession was getting him nowhere, or at least not far enough. Personally, he might end up like his father; politically, he would fail to improve the lot of those he was trying to help.

    And so, Obama told Kellman, he had decided to leave community organizing and go to law school. Kellman, who was already thinking of leaving organizing himself, found no reason to argue with him. “Organizing,” Kellman tells me, as we sit in a Chicago restaurant down the street from the Catholic church where he now works as a lay minister, “is always a lost cause.” Obama, circa late 1987, might or might not have put it quite that strongly. But he had clearly developed serious doubts about the career he was pursuing.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  5. HP,
    I think you’re extrapolating based on that last quote. Also, I find it interesting that you haven’t posted any of this stuff on your blog. Do you still actually write there? Oh yeah, my self esteem is just fine.

    How is it a waste to be involved in a democratic process?

    El Chavo,
    Maybe it’s just somewhat positively squishy?

    Good point. I know a lot of people who get involved in improving their community directly through their church. It’s sad the GOP and people like HP find it a waste of time.

  6. wow, how did i miss this discussion!

    well, where to begin, for one thing we need to define community organizing. the christian right, conservative, etc, they all in a way are engaged in community organizing to further their own interests (like electing McCain to government). so community organizers is not a homogenous group of people. i think we are talking about grassroots organizing who focus on civil rights (is the ACLU a community organization?), fulfilling community needs (like community centers that run cultural, legal, education, and health services), etc.

    but really, how can we argue against a free market fundamentalist. at the very least, we would both have to know the same history about capitalism and about social movements (I recommend reading Naomi Kleins shock doctrine), but I don’t think that conservatives even know it. we also don’t agree on the terminology, and even when we use the same words, we mean very different things.

    for me, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, MLK, Malcolm X, and pretty much all the revolutionaries of the world (Gandhi, Mandela, Zapata, etc), including Europeans, were organizers. to create a social revolution, such as the US Revolution, the French Revolution, the Mexican one, etc. you need to organize, and it has never ever been the private sector who creates positive radical social change. negative change, like the Chilean Pinochet dictatorship on the other hand, well, that’s always been a partnership between the military and big business, kind of like in the US, except that here you also have to add the Christian fundamentalist (like Palin) and free market ones (like HP).

    but really, how can you argue against a fundamentalist. no se puede.

  7. it has never ever been the private sector who creates positive radical social change

    Look at India and China today, I’d like to see community organization approach even 1% of that change – millions, and I do mean millions, being lifted out of poverty every year, all because of the private sector and capitalism.

    Before that we can look at Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and many more examples to see the overwhelmingly radical social change the free market have caused.

    But you don’t have to argue against me tin, read the Obama article I linked to above – its a long list of failed community organizations. Just the point I was trying to make above – only Obama’s experience said it better.

  8. Well, i might sound uninformed, but could you please define the private sector? i am thinking of two organizations in the case of India, one is the micro-loans/micro-credit organizations (which is a partnership with community organizers, businesses and goverment), and the other is the other is the move for seed autonomy led by people such as Vandana Shiva against Monsanto and other who control much of the seed trade of the world. In the first case, I hear negative and possitive reviews, and depending on the organization and place, it either really makes a difference or it doesn’t. In the case for seed/food sovereignty of farmers, these social movement collects their own organic seeds, have a place to store it, and have really began to displace the need for Monsanto and others. This is clearly a social movement.

    And did you just mention Hong Kong, China! even if we agree that the economy has benefited from free trade (but tell that to all the Wal-Mart workers who work in terrible conditions with very little pay), look at how in the interest of protecting big business, the Chinese government brutally represses its population.

  9. By private sector I mean trade and barter outside of government interference. China and India’s economy are direct results of more open trade, property rights, less regulations, and a more stable monetary policy – in short, capitalism.

    Yes, China still has problems but in comparison to how it was under communism, the people are overwhelmingly better off. Certainly China has more to go with regard to opening up markets – but the trend is obvious, the more markets are opened, the greater the standard of living is. This trend is not unique to China, it is a worldwide trend. The more you follow Adam Smith, the better the standard of living, the more you follow Karl Marx, the worse.

    In short, if you want radical change, if you want significant improvements in standard of living, the solution has always been to reduce government.

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