Saturday, November 8, 2008

Progressives Gotta Keep on Organizing

I'm at a conference in Boston and heard a very provocative speech by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (author of "Racism Without Racists" among others) about the ways that the Obama presidency might prove even harder for progressives to make fundamental and systemic change. It was depressing, but made a lot of sense -- he argued that as people dig in to the idea of a post-racialized America we will have an even harder time organizing around racial justice, and by extension other kinds of social justice, in part because there will be even less openness for dissent from the left, as people either want to protect Obama ("don't wreck his chances at succeeding"), have too much faith that he'll simply do the right thing without pressure, or that the right will make sure to co-opt Obama's centrist language and name progressive ideals/action as crazy and radical. Finally he argued that white progressives will face a lot of criticism from people of color and face being called "racist" for criticizing Obama. I think he (Bonilla-Silva) underestimated how cyncial progressive groups are - how much we understand that we always have to fight for every bit of change -- but I also think about how horrible it was that we let welfare reform occur under the Clinton presidency and failed to really push for economic justice at that time, and think we do need to figure out what a progressive movement looks like without the clear "enemy" that helped us have a stronger identity even without good resources in the last decade. I wonder if there are lessons from Maine, given the challenges in passing a progressive agenda despite having democratic control of our State Legislature.

A small opinion piece from Bonnila-Silva is here and a longer blog post, with interesting comments, is here

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