Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Creating the space

Other than Van Jones' speech, one thing I heard at Netroots Nation has stuck with me.

It was during the African American Caucus. One participant talked about how he thought President Obama should talk more about race and racism. The response from another participant is what stands out to me. He said "We need to create the space for him to talk about it."

First of all, I think President Obama pretty much covered his thoughts about race in his speech in Philadelphia. He is President of ALL the United States. Perhaps you can make a case that he should talk more about the issues that affect people of color, but to focus on race would provide a distraction and fuel for his critics.

But if we ignore the particular issue being addressed, I keep thinking about the idea of creating the space for the President and Congressional Democrats to get the job done. What does that mean?

I'm not sure I have the complete answer to that question. But I do think that we can learn some things from previous progressive movements - like what I wrote about in my last entry.

The one thing I do know is that I don't see people involved in previous progressive movements spending all their time focused on shouting at the President and complaining about what he is/isn't doing. They took leadership themselves and created the space for things to get done.

As an example, what I see coming from the Civil Rights Movement were actions that demonstrated the brutality of racism and Jim Crow. These messages ultimately were directed at white people to stun them into recognizing how dire the situation was. Eventually those white people agreed with the movement's goals and a national call for change was developed.

So in a sense, creating the space was about talking to each other...knowing that "when the people lead, the leaders will follow."

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