We are working hard here in Detroit to organize the second US Social Forum. I’ve been asked questions about our organizing effort: Why do we have seperate trainings for white activists who want to take leadership in this process? Why the emphasis on leadership of people of color? I wrote this to answer those questions and formulate my point of view:
There is a legacy of racism and classism in this country that says that the privileged white institutions can determine how and where our communities can assemble and change them to meet their economic or psychological needs. It goes back to the dismantling of Black families for control of slave labor. It goes back to Indigenous removal to create new territories, properties, and states.
Unfortunately this trend continues, and to some degree even in “progressive” spaces whereas people think they know best what should happen to poor folk because they studied policy or because their nonprofit specializes in poverty issues. In the worst cases, it may happen just on the privileges of white skin and culture. In our 2010 US Social Forum processes we are lifting up the community, survival, and organizing processes in these most impacted communities and assert the truth that no effective organizing will happen in this country without these processes.
Oh there are many challenges, ranging from political to psychological but in these days and times it is more than necessary. Lastly, our country is facing an economic crisis and many politicians and mediamakers are calling for a return to the strength of our previous capitalism. In Detroit we have gone through post-industrial collapse for 40-50 years and we know that something fundamental is broken. We cannot look to the system to fix it, to restore the “American” standard of living to our communities. We must come together and create something new. We are changing the highlight from oppression to underdevelopment, inserting a crucial class lens (which is interwoven with the racial lens).
The racism is that these Black and Brown communities are allowed to be underdeveloped, undereducated, environmentally toxic. Now with this economic collapse, white folks are feeling in their communities some of the same pressures that have existed for 20-30 years and are calling it a “crisis.” Welcome to Detroit, have a seat amongst 25,000 of your sisters and brothers and join us in creating a new system– one that actually works to provide healthy livelihood, and human rights for all.