My concerns about all this initially were that we needed comprehensive immigration reform in this country. I wondered whether the Dream Act was a distraction.
And then I heard what Pete Seeger said about Rev. Martin Luther King's decision to start with a bus boycott in Montgomery, AL.
Why did he start with a bus boycott? Why didn't he start with something like schools, or jobs, or voting? Couldn't a bus boycott come later?If you want to see the modern-day version of the Civil Rights Movement incarnated, you need look no further than to study what it is these Dreamers have done.
When you face an opponent over a broad front, you don't aim at the opponent's strong points. You aim for something a little off to the side. But you win it. And having won that bus boycott...13 months it took him to do it...then he moved on to other things.
The Dreamers remind me of the Freedom Riders fifty years ago who, deciding they wouldn’t settle for life under Jim Crow, risked jail and racist violence until the Kennedy administration was won to their side, and a political party realignment began. The Dreamers have petitioned, engaged in civil disobedience, lobbied for legislation at state and federal levels, and refused to accept defeats along the way.I say all that by way of comparison to those African Americans who are critiquing President Obama on a policy front by basically asking, "What has he done for me lately?" I find myself wanting to turn that question on its head and ask, "What is the agenda and where is the movement?"
The expectation seems to be that since President Obama is black, there is no need for an organized movement on behalf of African Americans - he's supposed to identify the priorities himself and pull it off on his own.
The President has been pretty clear...that's not how he sees things working.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That's what we believe.