At the Republican National Convention, Palin and Giuliani mocked Obama’s experience as a community organizer and the attending crowd laughed in response.
Palin and McCain can wear whatever “outsider” mask they wish, nothing can hide the ugliness of their elitism. At the center of their ridicule of community organizing is disrespect for the potential power of the everyday person.
For me, its personal.
Having organized full-time for little over a decade, I have come to intimately know its challenges and responsibilities.
One particular early experience stays with me. Driving to pick up “Claudia,” a 21-year old undocumented immigrant woman for an organizing committee meeting, I worried about how her husband would feel about a young strange man taking his young wife to some meeting at night. When I knocked, a very large man opened the door and stared at me when I asked for Claudia. He turned his head and yelled, “You are not going out! You’re place is here!”
I took several steps back and thought to myself, “he is now about to kick my ass.”
Suddenly, another voice rang out, “I’m going out! I take care of the kids! I pay for the bills! You don’t even have a job! If you don’t like it, you can go!”
I was surprised because everyone told me that Claudia is passive and soft-spoken and would never stand up for herself. In front of my eyes, I saw her transform and exercise a leadership that rippled throughout her entire life.
To paraphrase legendary organizer Fred Ross, organizing helps people realize their potential and provides them the opportunity to fight for what they believe in.
Reformed laws can be ignored. Progressive electeds eventually compromise. Lessons learned from political education can be forgotten. Services can sometimes breed dependence. But organizing expands democracy and develops leaders.
The very nature of the work demands that organizers work longer hours and harder for less money than any elected official in the country. It is unglamorous, unapologetic and not polite. A local priest once remarked to me that only military service and clergy life share the same intensity and duration.
The sweat, blood and tears of organizers like the Civil Rights Movement’s Ella Baker or the Labor Movement’s Mother Jones helped ignite all of the major social movements in history.
It was grassroots organizing, not pretty speeches or messages of change or missteps of an opponent, that enabled a relatively young African American man with a “funny name” to win the all-white Iowa Democratic Primary and eventually become the first African American to lead a major national political party.
Central to organizing is the belief that everyday people have the power within themselves working together to create change and take control of their lives. True leadership develops more leaders.
As Barack Obama always said, “ I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington…I’m asking you to believe in yours.”
When the RNC mocked organizing, they not only disrespected organizers but people like Claudia and all of us.
I can only say to the RNC and all those who dismiss organizers…”Go to hell!”
John Delloro is the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, LACCD and currently sits on the Legal Advisory Board of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) and the Board of Directors of the PWC. He was one of the co-founders of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC) and served as the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). For the past decade, he also worked as a regional manager/organizer for SEIU 1000, Union of California State Workers, a staff director/organizer for SEIU 399, the Healthcare Workers Union, and an organizer for AFSCME International and HERE 226, the hotel workers union in Las Vegas.
Originally posted on Asian American Action Fund blog. Republished with permission.