Gloria Nieto

Coalition anyone?

Filed By Gloria Nieto | August 01, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: coalition building, NN, POC

Has anyone ever heard of the National Black Farmers Association? I had not heard of them until Monday night on on the Rachel Maddow Show.

It was an interesting dichotomy for me. I had just returned from Netroots Nation in Las Vegas and been part of the LGBT caucus. Part of what I was stressing in meetings was the need to not just ask others for support for our causes but the need for the LGBT communities to support others.

Allow let me take a step back even further.

As I shared there, it is important to look at the multi-generational discrimination communities of color have faced. It isn't just me in my family who has suffered discrimination. It was grandparents who were barred from entering restaurants. It was my mother and her segregated school. The swimming pool was off limits in Del Rio, Texas for Mexican kids.

Some of the discussions at NN were about the shoddy treatment given to Shirley Sherrod who was fired by the current administration based on a fake, edited videotape put online by a liar. So how many people knew Ms Sherrod's personal history dealing with racism? Surely the Obama administration knew what she has lived with her entire life?

That history includes her father being murdered by white men never brought to justice; her husband was beaten by a gang of white men with ax handles; the family home has been shot at. And that program she was administering to help farmers get help through the USDA? The same USDA has, for generations, administered discrimination, not regulations nor help for black farmers. Many black farmers lost their land due to these discriminatory practices.

The US owes a lot of black farmers billions of dollars. The National Black Farmers Association was founded to address the settlement of suits for affected farmers.

Shirley Sherrod's family was one of those affected by these discriminatory practices. The lost their family farm. While her family has received their settlement, many others have not been given theirs. Why not?

Our friends, the Republicans, keep stripping the money out of bills. The latest was the stripping of the compensation money in the military funding bill. So while the government has acknowledged the racist policies, the R's keep running away from the responsibility the court has ordered.

So when I watched the Rachel Maddow Show the other night, it felt oddly familiar. A group of people who have suffered not just in this generation but in multiple generations. And now that the courts finally ordered justice, they can't this administration to carry the water for them. In fact, they punished someone who has been at the center of suffering for her entire life. The action was outrageous and it was even more outrageous given Shirley Sherrod's life story.

At NN there was an exchange between Dan Choi and Harry Reid. There had been lots of conversations between various parties prior to this. There was lots of coverage of it. At the same event, a group of Latino students stood in front of Harry Reid in silent demonstration for the passage of the DREAM Act. This was a missed opportunity between the Latino and LGBT community. Very few LGBT people mentioned the DREAM students even though they were at the table right next to many members of the queer blogosphere.

Latinos, African Americans, the LGBT community, we are all waiting for change we can believe in. Or now I would settle for some change. In the right direction, of course, but change, damn it!

I can't help but think if we looked across the table we would see more allies. Especially if we reach our hands out to offer something like hope and change. Our enemies are the same, here's a chance to build real coalitions. But we have to act on those opportunities otherwise we will all be left behind, again.

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This story really is crazy, and you've got to wonder how the White House and Tom Vilsak and the NAACP could have been so stupid on this, not even asking for her side of the story or searching for the entire video before firing her. And they fired her because they were afraid of Glenn Beck, to put icing on the cake. If Glenn Beck criticized them for not extending unemployment insurance, would they do that in two seconds?

I doubt this story would have turned around if CNN hadn't found the white farmer she was referring to and interviewed him - it makes it seem like they don't care what she said, they needed the testimony of a white person before they could believe here. All crazy.

They tried to do the same thing to Kevin Jennings, but the administration had a little more backbone back then. That's part of the connection.

" a group of Latino students stood in front of Harry Reid in silent demonstration for the passage of the DREAM Act. This was a missed opportunity between the Latino and LGBT community. Very few LGBT people mentioned the DREAM students even though they were at the table right next to many members of the queer blogosphere."

That's because they don't have an agent. Activists must have agents:

I'm not sure an agent has anything to do with it. Most of the LGBT bloggers knew that Dan was going to do something and we all sat close to the stage so we could see it. I sat directly behind Dan at the same table, for example.

The DREAM protest, however, wasn't really publicized in advance so we'd all know what was going on. The room was dim and I noticed that three or four people stood up, but that was about all I could see. It wasn't until they walked away that I realized they were even wearing graduation gowns. Since the gowns were black, the light was shining on the stage, and Reid didn't acknowledge them at all, I'd assume he had the problem I did - he just didn't really see them or hear them and barely noticed they were there.

I'm not so sure this was a failure of the LGBT community to come together in coalition with the DREAM activists so much as a missed opportunity for them to partner with us - at least as far as giving us a heads up PR-wise to look for an action.

David Castillo David Castillo | August 3, 2010 8:27 PM

I too was up with the queer blogosphere. Sitting right next to Gloria, actually, and I had no idea Choi was going to take action. I'm glad that he did, but it would have been nice to also see some of the same kind of support from those of us up front who could clearly see them.

Did GetEqual or anyone in the queer blogosphere give a heads-up to the immigration reform advocates about what was being planned? I know I didn't and I'm in both camps, though I did do my best to bring attention and cheer for the DREAMers as they staged their action. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity on both sides, but something tells me that there was probably never discussion about it, especially in the LGBT camp.

All the talks that were had that week over collaborating with immigration advocates could have been realized right at that point in a very positive way.

Hopefully we can learn from these missed opportunities and start collaborating with and communicating with each other.

I hope that we do more work as a movement to support immigrant rights and other civil rights. It's a natural.

Tab Hunter’s Ghost | August 2, 2010 7:24 PM

Thanks for a very interesting and thought-provoking post.

One of the problems I have experienced with coalition building, however, is the problem of figuring out how to work together while remaining respectful of everyone’s needs and wants.

Rev. Monroe’s posting las week on the black/white divide, Dr. Weiss’s posting about the feminist/trans divide, and numerous other postings indicate how problematic bringing people together from differing backgrounds (while simultaneously achieving something of worth) can be to accomplish.

Because we are such a naturally diverse community we have issues over gender, class, race, politics, sexuality, religion, privilege (and whose privilege counts more in any given situation) and other such dividers.

Harnessing the energy of the tribe while simultaneously achieving the demands, subtexts, and agendas of all the subgroups has always taken a great deal of finesse, patience, wisdom, and luck.

Still, it is a worthy and worthwhile goal and one that we all can aspire to achieve.