“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories.” – Amilcar Cabral
Building on Doug’s excellent post, I’d like to add the following.
There’s a strike that’s going on right now. United Steelworkers have, as members, folks who work petroleum refineries across the country. What they are fighting for is nothing less than the right to come home at night after they work. The fact of the matter is that the company is fighting to have the right to burn these workers to death in unsafe refineries. Here’s another fact: looking at the photos of the picket lines, depending on the area, the majority of the workers are nonwhite. The home of the largest refinery in the US, Port Arthur in Texas, is 44% African-American per the last census, and other refineries are sited in similar, predominantly minority municipalities.
This strike has a multitude of stories that can be told about it. A nonwhite workforce given a difficult, dirty, and dangerous job to do that keeps our whole world running. Dangerous, polluting industries located in places where the majority or the plurality of the population isn’t white. Working people bravely standing up to perhaps the most powerful industry in the world to protect themselves from being immolated in the name of higher profit margins.
And yet, these stories aren’t being told. Instead we get yammering thinkpieces about the meaning of Patricia Arquette’s backstage interview at the Oscars. We get a flood of pieces on Beyoncé and why she should have won the Grammy over Beck. We get more ridiculous opinion about Kanye West, both pro and anti. It’d be pathetic if it wasn’t for the fact that this shit is taking up space for things that are actually important.
What Doug said is absolutely right: this politics of superficialities that call-outs are a part of does not achieve a damn thing. I suspect folks default to this mode of thinking because it requires no struggle or sacrifice aside from dicking around on the Internet. You know what’s not easy and requires actual work? Taking on oil companies. Fighting private prison corporations to break up the school-to-prison pipeline. Lifting the ongoing siege against American public schools by those who would see them privatized. Engaging in these fights requires commitment. It requires effort to be exerted. It requires courage, as these entities are powerful and can potentially harm you in many ways.
Easy victories are usually victories not worth having, and call-outs are nothing if not easy.