The Pace and Process of Change

Two things keep occurring to me today as I work the phones, texts, Twitters, blogs, and War Rooms.

The first thing is why the black thing matters, aka the Pace of change.

The second is why the approach matters, aka the Process of change.

In terms of the first, the pace…this election today is a direct result of the amazing work of civil rights organizers years ago to equalize the access of black people to voting.

We understand the turtle and hare metaphor theoretically, but in real life when it takes 50 years for a social shift to become truly obvious, its hard to side with the turtle. This is because the issues are so incredibly urgent.

And yet there are times when the outcomes are trackable and tangible. Black people fought for the right to vote. We challenged racism to run for office, hold office, represent our communities. We fought to break through surface level electoral organizing where Democrats promised the moon and delivered government cheese. And here we are, the work is inching along. We have so much more work to do to achieve real justice in our communities, and yet I see Turtle Island on the move.

People need something to hope for; that hope, that sense of unity and possibility, is the intangible thing that makes us consider the totally impossible idea that we are better than all proof of our limitations.

That hope is the only way to deal with the homophobia that won in the ballots today. Time will prove us right.

Barack Obama (and Cynthia McKinney) is black, and this matters because the election of a black man in this nation is the result of a grassroots call for equality, half a century of organizing, much of which happened before many of us voting in this election were born. It matters because people who followed nothing else about this election followed the story of us having a black president. I was just in the streets with my Oakland family dancing and screaming and celebrating with folks who voted for the first time. This is slow, this is human, this is a moment to celebrate decades of work.

The second piece, the process of change, is equally exciting.

Four years ago I traveled the country, visiting communities and getting them excited and informed about a community organizing approach to vote organizing, with a big focus on voter guides. Yesterday I went to vote early and went online to www.theballot.org and had a selection of guides in the Oakland area to choose from.

Four years ago, and again two years ago, there were a lot of people trying to help, but coalition work wasn’t the greatest, there were high levels of chaos and confusion and not nearly enough volunteers. This time around there were definitely areas where we could do better, but coalition work started much earlier, especially around Election Protection, and resources really consolidated. That made it possible for everyone to play their position. As someone focused on making strategic actions are possible when people want them, this made a huge difference for us at Ruckus. We didn’t make a universal call for action – we called for our folks to plug in and take pro-active actions to support fair elections.

And then there was the process of campaigning. Obama built a movement. His platform had a lot of points I disagree with, but the campaign was gorgeous and brilliant and ground up and gave people a chance for self-determination. To me, a process head, that is in many ways more important than the platform. Only time can tell what that platform will mean, but the reality that he is ground up, community organizing, and representative…that’s what matters. This is a new world, the election process just evolved.

And finally it is this moment in our nation. Things have always been hard for people of color and the unrich but we have been heading into a dark age. This is our process for turning around. We aren’t ready for the insightful policies of Cynthia McKinney, we’re homophobic, our voting process is flawed, and we have so much work to do before we can dance in the streets for hope, not just justice.

But this is our process for change. This is the first step. We can grow, we can grow. Yes. We can.