Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

Organizing from Margin to Center

Filed By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz | March 30, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: racial justice and movement building

Over the weekend I read a very moving column in the Washington Post by Colbert King entitled "In the faces of Tea Party shouters, images of hate and history" about the passage of the health care reform bill and the disturbing violence, racism and homophobia that have emerged over the past year. Mr. King directly connects the anger, hate and violence perpetuated by the KKK and other opponents during the height of the Civil Rights Movement to the violence and hate exhibited by the Tea Party in this current political moment. Mr. King aptly states:

Tea Party members, as with their forerunners who showed up at the University of Alabama and Central High School, behave as they do because they have been culturally conditioned to believe they are entitled to do whatever they want, and to whomever they want, because they are the "real Americans," while all who don't think or look like them are not.

And that is the point my friends! Tea Party members are so opposed the views and experiences of people who do not look like or think like them that they feel entitled to spew hate by yelling racial and homophobic epitaphs at members of Congress. We must be very clear these hate filled actions and words are rooted in the same legacy that led to the bombing of a church in Alabama in 1963 that killed three black girls, the beating of butch, trans and gender queer people during raids on queer bars and the ongoing murders of abortion providers. We must be under no illusion that "if they come for you in the morning they will come for us at night".

It's Time to Organize from Margin to Center!

The LGBT community should be completely outraged by what is taking place in this current political moment. We must speak out! We must speak up! These events must be a call to action to connect LGBT issues to all other social justice issues. It is no coincidence that this latest round of violence and hate directly triggered attacks on people of color, LGBT people, reproductive justice and choice, immigrants and many others on the margin. This is the far right narrative! They organize around all of these issues in a connected way but our national movements fail to do so. Yet, at the grassroots level and in the multi-racially led places in our movement, important organizing is happening that connects issues, identities and movements in ways that are a direct form of resistance to the likes of the Tea Party and their ancestor hate groups.

From my experience building movement and community on the margin has allowed me to participate in and bear witness to vibrant justice work that is often off the radar screen of the mainstream LGBT movement. It is in these off the radar places where I am challenged to confront my own contradictions, privileges, identities and expand my world view. It is in these places that I continue to learn about sovereignty, the genocide of First Nations Peoples and the work I must do as an ally living on stolen land. It is in these places where I continue to challenge myself to learn all I can about immigrant rights, environmental justice, globalization and human rights. As someone born in the belly of the American beast, I was not raised to understand my American privilege nor was I taught about the human rights and environmental abuses the rest of the world has suffered at the hands of the US government. It is in these places that I not only have the opportunity to bring my whole self but also gain a deeper and more connected understanding of justice than I would if I had the privilege to solely exist and travel at the center of movements.

Without the vibrant, interconnected, cross issue organizing that is happening on the margin the national movements will simply not survive. Movements, including the LGBT movement, need to start taking a broader and more connected view of justice in order to win and build grassroots power. We already know that there is power in numbers and the only way we are going win is if we craft a national movement agenda that ignites every aspect of the LGBT community and connects to the issues that are most pressing to other movements for social and economic justice. Simply put, this kind of cross issue organizing should not just be happening on the margin! It is a vital part of the whole and it is a necessary component to achieving justice for all, ending hate and violence and shutting down the Tea Party and their ancestor hate groups once and for all!

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It'll take more than just calling for people to work across issues on the left. People have been calling for that for decades and it still hasn't happened.

Part of the problem is that divide and conquer, and no one likes to admit this, actually works. That and people don't really know how to address issues that they're not personally affected by, or how they are personally affected by certain issues that might not be so obvious.