Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Time for The Real World?
Why do we need coalitions instead of "outreach"? Because coalitions take us further out of the world of being too polite. Closer to the real world.
Have you seen MTV's long-running reality series The Real World? Yeh, a chunk of the show doesn't seem very real world anymore. People on the show are mini-celebrities, get a cool place to live, and MTV finds them jobs and sends them on exciting trips and adventures.
But the core premise of the show, I believe, is somewhat intact: What happens when people stop being polite, and start being real. Where else can we see the social twitches of American society played out? Racism, homophobia, and quite a few of the other prejudices, stereotypes, and cultural war clashes have gotten addressed on the show over the years.
I'm not saying that citizen activists should engage in dramatic talk-show confrontations or re-enactments from the movie Crash. But there might be something to the premise that we are all different, won't naturally mix and get along, and have sensibilities that are in conflict.
Does this premise explain why outreach is so unsatisfying to everyone, particularly in the pre-dominantly white world of progressive activists? We have good-intentioned white people who want to reach out to Black communities to bring more diversity. They believe in doing it because it's the right thing to do, and don't understand why their efforts don't have the effects they want.
Meanwhile, within the Black community, there's a threshold of how much we will take listening to the priorities set by white people without getting our own needs addressed. When you are interested in addressing problems from the view of a Black experience, an organization dominated by white progressives isn't really the place for that. I know from experience that if you're not careful, you're busy doing a lot of educating.
So the questions that I'm left with are: Do all of us need to perfectly understand each other's experience to act together? If outreach is the standard by which Black people should participate in an organization, why not join the Republican Party? It's a white-run organization with a well-managed outreach plan.
Why should Black people en-masse join any organization or movement (conservative or progressive) when, in practice, it will mean that our priorities and sensibilities will be subordinated? Do coalitions provide a workable means to obtain diversity, in a way that helps us find common cause and make a difference together?