I have been thinking a great deal this week about the importance of visibility in social justice and progressive political movements in the South. As my team at Neighbors for Equality has been preparing ideas for future work in North Carolina, we have been discussing visibility. Last year we wrote and helped encourage others to embrace the power of the written word. While I think that oral conversations are vital for our visibilities in the South, I also think that we must also embrace and encourage the written work as a public act of dialogue. If progressive voices are not present, they are silent, and a community appears to be monolithic. If progressive voices speak loudly, we are present, and we hold the potential to shift and sustain a public dialogue. We become visible.
Most of us experience a variety of conversations on a daily basis without giving a second thought to what exactly we are doing. We share information with others, exchange stories with one another, and engage in dialogue. We can do such through a variety of mediums now, such as in-person and online. While having a conversation is a ubiquitous aspect of our society, we often give little thought about its possible impact and power. Conversations, though, hold powerful implications on abilities to not only affect people’s opinions on issues, but also create a stronger sense of community for organizing efforts.
Sarah and I were in St. Louis recently for a Spring Break vacation. While we were there, we met up with a friend of mine from my days at the University of Missouri for breakfast. After some discussion about the comings and goings of our individual lives, we eventually turned to politics. He got on me for being so hardline about the need for Southern progressives to talk like they are Southern progressives, instead of relying on the sort of conservative rhetoric that has traditionally produced short-term victories at the expense of long-time movement building. At one point in our discussion, he said the following:
Friend: So let’s say you had the opportunity to go to China and build an independent trade union there. What would you tell the workers there? Why should they join your union?
Me: I would tell them that they should join the union to have a greater say in their workplace, so that they could bargain for rights and wages and benefits, etc….
Friend: Do you know why you will be unsuccessful?
Me: Because they might not be used to independent trade organizations?
Friend: No. It’s because you don’t speaking fucking Mandarin! That’s the problem with the way that you are approaching things, Douglas; you aren’t speaking the language of the people that you’re trying to organize.
I thought about that for a second and dismissed it as crap. One of the consequences of speaking out as progressives in areas that have been traditionally hostile to progressivism is that we may have to give up the short-term victories that we are used to in the South. But when we start winning, it will be on our terms. It is always better to build a sturdy foundation at a very slow pace than to build a weak foundation that will blow away at the next strong wind.
But then again….maybe my friend has a point to a limited extent. Maybe there is a way that progressives can reach Southerners with methods that regular folks can understand without diluting the potency of the message. How might we be able to do this?
Two words: The Bible.
The care of oneself without medical, professional, or other assistance or oversight.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde
Self-care is something that I have had strong feelings about for a good while now. Being involved in progressive politics, it has been a topic that has come up around me from time to time. Every time it has come up, I have discussed my thoughts on the concept with the same general feeling:
I hate it.
I was visiting Cottonmouth, which is a fantastic progressive blog in Mississippi, when I came across this video calling for the expansion of Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA):
The ad seemed real polished, and it seemed like it would connect with many low-income and working-class voters. I say many instead of most or all because of the following passage from the same video:
They’re saying no to 9,000 new jobs and almost $1 billion of economic activity in our state, and they are leaving 200,000 of our neighbors in the cold. Working families, not freeloaders; preventing them from getting decent medical care.
I just cannot understand this.