In my own life, I've witnessed scores of recently "woke" liberal whites blast other whites for not being woke enough to the reality of ongoing institutional and historic white supremacy. Say what? Who in their right mind after going to liberal arts school doesn't know from the 400-year+ story of oppression, slavery, racial and religious warfare and colonialism? That's crazy talk. What's not crazy is the sudden realization by most liberals that they haven't done jack-shit about it, except complain, go all-organic and subscribe to The Nation.
And so, now that #45 has unlocked the inner activists in us all, it's should not surprise us that tried and true black-and-brown activists who've been fighting on the front lines for years and decades feel a bit miffed by the sudden show of resolve and courage. I'd love to tell you how all this is playing on the hyper-local level in my school's PTA and the school district's Community Education Council, but that's for another post. (Actually the blackface controversy at a "progressive" Park Slope elementary school is rich enough to chomp on.)
The Q has noted how the Independent Democratic Conference has been quite the bone of contention lately around these parts. The Anti-IDC contingent have great points, viewable in condensed form here, or in this other dumbed down thing from the New Kings Democrats. The eight state senators who make up the IDC, of course, have quite a different take on the utility of their unconventional approach to dealmaking. Instead of linking to their propaganda though, (which somewhat unfairly I just did for the anti-IDC), I'd encourage you to follow this much more thorough explanation of how we got here. If you stick around to the end, you might see that it's not as simple as egomaniacs bashing each other. There have been some solid results from the give and take:
So. YOUR State Senator Jesse Hamilton joined the IDC as a Jesse-come-lately. BUT he had his reasons, and he will elucidate them if you ask. However, to my mind, he hasn't done a very good job of explaining to the full electorate what he's been up to and why it's been the right move for this district - for the black and brown residents he represents. So for a moment, I ask that you consider that maybe, just maybe, his heart and even his mind have been in a progressive place even if you see it otherwise.
Where this becomes super thorny is when people start calling Jesse a turncoat or traitor or (worse yet) a Trump Enabler. He could, and probably should, just calmly explain his motivations and tactics. Instead, because the loudest voices calling him out are largely white, he and his surrogates have made a good deal of noise about how these attacks are in fact racist in nature and origin. It must be pointed out that anti-IDC-ers tend to yell loudest about THEIR representatives, most of whom are solidly whitey-white, so if Jesse feels like he's being singled out, well, yeah, in HIS district he is. Cuz he's the man. But there is plenty of venom flying around for the original IDC gangsta Jeff Klein and his galpal Diane Scavino too.
Before you dismiss the racism call out of hand, though, I encourage you to read the below from a Jesse supporter who has a refreshingly honest take on what it feels like to be called a Trumper when your whole life you've been about justice and civil rights. And it begs the question - isn't it better at this point for Democrats to figure out how to discuss the issues without being shrill and combative all the time? It's true that Hamilton has to beat back a primary challenger in Zellnor Myrie. But that's how democracy is SUPPOSED TO WORK! You don't get your gig for life. And if you make intense changes just after winning your last primary and join a different caucus (I'm looking at you Jesse!) it's YOUR responsibility to explain it to us, not ours to simply get where you're coming from. It was either a dumb or gutsy move, but that's what politics is all about sometimes. And btw, there's still time for you to come back Jesse.
Anyway, here's Rev. Karl McCall's take, and it's well worth your time.
Reverend Karl McCall wrote in Amsterdam News...
As a proud Black man who grew up in Brownsville, I know all too well the racial divide in New York City. I’ve been “woke” since I been born. I understand that division gets in the way of our common humanity and is grossly politicized. As a longtime community activist fighting for social justice and racial equality, today I see that the anti-Independent Democratic Conference movement has thrown the Black and Brown elected representatives in our community into the spotlight and under criticism.
Senator Marisol Alcántara served as the national chapter coordinator for the National Action Network. She did not start fighting against Trump in 2016, she has been battling Trump with the Rev. Al Sharpton long before popular hashtags. As an immigrant, her resistance started when she was born. She is a fighter for our community—a strong, vibrant Afro-Latina organizer who knows the meaning of being woke. She has experienced her own share of racist and sexist attacks.
Today we put Alcántara dissenters on notice. We will not tolerate the petty attacks. We, as men, have an obligation to stand by Alcántara and the women in our community who fight for our families.
To our mothers, sisters, daughters and granddaughters, we say in the words of the great Tupac Shakur: “Time to heal our women, be real to our women.”
In my lifelong efforts as a community activist, I have learned to always put people over politics, while fighting tirelessly to end racial inequality for low-income New Yorkers from East Flatbush to Mott Haven.
Over the years, I’ve watched issues such as low-income housing, education and immigrant rights move from being considered unrealistic, hard left policies to becoming mainstream Democratic policy positions. These changes are the result of Black and Brown voters organizing and advocating for their own interests. I’ve been glad to see our progressive allies join the National Action Network in advocating for these reforms, but I keep hearing criticisms about the same three Black and Brown IDC members.
The IDC has eight members, but only three receive the brunt of the abuse.
No matter what the IDC’s legislative achievements are—$15 minimum wage, paid family leave and Raise the Age, and what they mean for communities of color, somehow Marisol Alcántara, Jesse Hamilton and José Peralta are being disloyal for making a choice to deliver for their constituents. They are woke because they are challenging the political structure that has not been getting any results for people of color.
People of color understand that even when we stand up for political parties, the party doesn’t always stand up for us. The school-to-prison pipeline has existed in New York City for more than 40 years, no matter which party controlled City Hall. Being woke teaches you that it’s the system not political parties that is the problem. I am done with agendas, I am about action and thinking outside the box.
I’ve seen far too many newly woke white progressives say some version of “Now that Trump is in office, I’ve decided to become politically active.” When your body and your freedom aren’t on the line, you have the luxury of suddenly deciding to become politically active. For activists like me, politics are life or death, freedom or captivity, survival or failure. When a woman like Marisol Alcántara, who has spent her life fighting for communities of color all around the city, makes the political decisions she was elected to make, I know beyond any doubt that she is doing it for the good of her community.
I’ve seen anti-IDC protests, and what I want to know is where were these activists when Eric Garner was killed and the National Action Network was out in the streets? Where were they during the protests after Ferguson? I want to ask these activist groups to do one thing: Listen. Listen to the people of color who have been in this fight before Trump’s election and who will be in this fight after Trump leaves office. Their constituents are lucky to have representatives who are willing to take a risk for them, even when it isn’t politically convenient. So criticize all you want, but leave the thinly disguised racism and the self-righteous attitude at home.
I am woke enough to know it will take all Democrats and advocates working as one to defeat Trump and the political system that brought him to power.