I know I’m late to the party, and I feel like I’m going to regret this, but: some reflections about the NetRoots confrontation of Bernie Sanders.
1. The overwhelming majority of people who know about this story are: Leftists, hardcore Democrats/liberals, and… no one else. I’ve talked with some of my lefty union coworkers; some of them don’t even know. The people who know about this story are people who are already down with the cause, and if we’re not reaching new people, then we’re not organizing, not making change. We’re not ‘changing the dialogue,’ and I don’t really know what the NetRoots action really accomplished.
2. “But the point of the action was to target hardcore Democrats/liberals to educate them about racial issues. Not enough is being done.” So, Bernie is now talking more about racial issues to those who are already down with the cause. But policy? He is already the most progressive candidate on racial issues. This is a fact. How is any of this going to translate into policy?
3a. “Right, exactly. Sanders needs to work with the community when drafting policies that affect black people.” Has he not been? And anyway, there is no one, single, coherent ‘black women community.’ There are uncountable tendencies within, and at the end of the day, drafting policy means having to side with a tendency. What you’re really saying is, ‘I don’t care about these other tendencies; side with mine.’ Which is fine, but blanket statements like ‘work with the community’ is incoherent (in this example) and disingenuous.
3b. “Fuck policy. The whole system is messed up. We need to burn it down and create a new one.” I’m right there with you. But did this action recruit anyone to your ranks in order to make revolution more possible? Strategic disruption is fine, but seems like this action just reached out to the people already on your side.
4. “You’re ‘policing’ the black women’s community’s actions.” Again, there is no one, single, coherent ‘black women community.’ This is one single tendency among some black women. The way to take seriously another group’s politics is to — while acknowledging one’s privilege, which I have a lot of (I’m not black, I am a man) — rather than say every action and every statement is great, is to critique. That’s how you take people seriously: I hope that when I talk about politics that affect the Asian community (sic), there are non-Asians who have enough respect towards me to, while acknowledging their privilege and acknowledging that their not some neutral observer, give me their perspective on the effectiveness of what I’m doing. Frankly, it would frighten me if we were to live in a world that is so fragmented that leftists, particularly amongst themselves, cannot have open conversation with one another. I whole-heatedly acknowledge that some non-Asians, particularly those on the Left, may have some knowledge that I do not have about my political actions. Of course they might. And yeah, there are a lot of assholes who don’t acknowledge their privilege. But that’s a lot different than saying, ‘Hey, this one particular tendency, and their action — I don’t know if it did much, and here’s why.’
5. Thought experiment: Larry Elder is a black man who is a racist conservative Republican. Fuck him. He’s awful. Black conservatism is wrong because x, y, z. Of course. But, why is it uncomfortable to critique the plentiful, diverse tendencies of Black thought on the Left?
Of course I acknowledge my own privilege when speaking about this. Open to conversation and critique.