Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Walden moves backward, Woodburn moves forward, contradictions deepen and the struggle continues.

We often say on this blog that we live in a moment characterized by certain contradictions and the speed at which these contradictions emerge and struggles begin to resolve them. Here are examples of what we're talking about.

We have Rep. Greg Walden flipping positions and joining some other Republicans on an amendment intended to protect the LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination. The amendment would have prohibited companies from receiving federal contracts if they discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people. It looked like it was headed for passage until some of the representatives who had initially voted for it changed their votes from “yes” to “no." Walden flipped.

On the other hand, Woodburn became an inclusive city last night after the City Council unanimously approved an inclusivity resolution. The resolution talks about providing municipal services free of discrimination, and being a respectful, legal and safe community for all. The resolution also expresses the desire of the city that all residents, regardless of their status or origin, feel safe when using local government services and engage with members of the police department in Woodburn. And let's put the Youth Pass (youth transit) victory in Portland in this column also: Portland City Council unanimously passed an amendment on YouthPass that requires the City funding to be distributed towards all 3 Portland school districts, including Portland Public Schools, Parkrose, and David Douglas.

On another hand, we have a serious and growing movement in Oregon to demand the removal of School Resource Officers from Portland Public Schools. All students have a right to feel safe and included at school so that they can thrive academically and socially, but the presence of armed police in schools, intimidates and criminalizes students, robbing many of their right to feel safe.

And, on another hand. progressive forces lost the recent School Board vote in Salem and two of our candidates were defeated. One of those candidates was a fully-qualified and progressive person of color who devotes real time to the School Board budgets and policies, and the other was a working-class woman with an especially compelling story who was probably over-qualified for the Board. I hoped that a serious critique of racism and sexism would be developed in light of this loss by progressive forces and that unity would grow between anti-racist and progressive forces, but the majority-white organizations aren't yet good with this. Movements and events have a way of becoming their opposites as contradictions and struggles emerge.

We clearly have a real problem here with racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia even when we're winning inclusivity resolutions in places like Woodburn, Salem and Monmouth. This problem extends from the progressive grassroots up to Walden, but it takes different forms along the way. These are contradictions: struggles for human rights only go so far and then hit a wall.

We also say that struggle resolves contradictions. What does this mean? It means that all of these controversies get resolved---and new ones emerge---as people take on the issues, organize, protest, fight and up our game by developing the ideas and actions needed to win.

We have some opportunities to do this. We just had the AT&T strike, there is the AFL-CIO lobby day tomorrow, and there will be the June 6 "Oregon Can't Wait!" rally fighting for people over profits, funding for education, healthcare, child welfare, homecare workers, independence for seniors and kids with disabilities. Buses will be coming from Corvallis, Eugene or Portland on June 6, and carpools are being set up. There is the immigrant rights forum at PCC on 82nd Avenue in Portland on June 7. There is also the fundraiser for Hermandad Mexicana de Oregon at Portland Mercado on June 8 and the important fundraiser for the Voz Workers' Rights Project in Portland on June 14. If you're in a union, you probably have an important meeting coming up. If you're in the local NAACP or Racial Justice Organizing Committee, there will be important upcoming meetings and, we hope, a joint NAACP-RJOC new member orientation. Juneteenth will be marked on June 17 in Salem.

Why can't we also have a militant LGBTQIA+ action in Salem in June?

We're trying to put together local forums and legal observer trainings.

The difference between revolutionaries or radicals and others can be striking here: we see this work as part of an all-encompassing struggle against capitalism, and our liberal friends look at these events as opportunities to support others or pick up information. 

Wherever you're at, forward motion is important and we all have to be asking ourselves which side we're on and what that means in practice.

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