How Organizing for Change Is Very Different Than Winning Elections
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We turn the civil rights movement into the Rosa Parks myth, this black woman got mad one day and sat down on a bus, instead of explaining that Rosa Parks had been at the Highlander Center four times for trainings, that she was carefully selected as a leader. That's all part of why people don't understand what it takes, and they think that all you have to do is show up and vote.
SJ: I'd like to end on a slightly more positive note, though I'm not sure what that should be.
JM: That workers are willing to fight, everywhere? That, to me, is the positive message of the book. It's extraordinary.
I think we need to find other ways to get money from the base to organizations, because all the people who control all the big resources aren't going to just have this epiphany overnight, that actually the way to really make change is to really empower people and let them make decisions shop by shop and community by community.
If we could get some people who control a lot of resources back to believing that our focus has to be governing, that if we put $6 billion into base-building right now for the governing period--that's what we just spent on the election, or $2 billion, a third of what we spent on the election--and we put that into teaching Americans how to control the governing process? We'd have a much more equal society.
Everywhere I went to do organizing work, everywhere, people were willing to fight. Whether they were white workers, black workers, Filipina workers, higher end, lower end, in between. You hear all these different arguments. “The elite won't, the super-poor won't, the Latinos won't.” If you listen to people, they have an argument every day about why we shouldn't try organizing.
People need to be given the faith that they can do it, trained and then asked. Those are the three things. And people are so ready for a fight in this country. And that is what is so exciting to me. So we have to learn how to line up the resources with the people that are willing to fight. It could be a mini-revolution in this country. Seriously. People want to fight. That's just the best news there is.