Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sowell asks: What does a community organizer do? He does not know so he makes it up.

I have counted so far essays at various outlets that call President Obama a liar, either implicitly or explicitly. I am OK with that, I don't think it is true but it seems hard for people working in policy, politics and opinion to avoid the assumption if someone disagrees that person must be lying.

What bothered me was Thomas Sowell in the National Review online. Sowell's A Post-Racial President? asserts that the idea that we were entering the post-racial era was a naive hope. Sowell thinks if you understand where President Obama comes from a place where people "benefit greatly from crying racism." The place which Sowell refers is "community activist." Sowell writes:
"For 'community organizers' as well, racial resentments are a stock in trade. President Obama’s background as a community organizer has received far too little attention, though it should have been a high-alert warning that this was no post-racial figure.

What does a community organizer do? What he does not do is organize a community. What he organizes are the resentments and paranoia within a community, directing those feelings against other communities, from whom either benefits or revenge are to be gotten, using whatever rhetoric or tactics will accomplish that purpose.
"
That is not my experience as a community organizer. Actually not my experience as a community organizer in the exact position Barack Obama held in early 1980 in Harlem. Perhaps there is a difference between a white and black community organizers but I have not witnessed any differences. A community organizer does not promote "grievance and polarization" as Sowell asserts. A community organizer, such as Barack Obama, is a instrument for people and communities that need to enter the policy process where they have been ignored.

Sowell's implication that a community organizer is a fan that blows rage, resentment and division between communities to gain "politically, financially, and socially" is grossly overstated and offensive. I agree there are some organizers who have a developed self interest but they are few.

Now to a point of act that Sowell gets wrong. Sowell writes:
"As a state senator in Illinois, Obama pushed the 'racial profiling' issue, so it is hardly surprising that he jumped to the conclusion that a policeman was engaging in racial profiling, when in fact the cop was investigating a report received from a neighbor that someone seemed to be breaking into the house that Professor Gates was renting in Cambridge."
Here his claim is that President Obama in the July 22 news conference accused Sergeant Crowley and the Cambridge PD of racial profiling. But a simple return to the text and or video of the news conference dispels this error. From the transcript of the news confernce (the video is at teh bottom):

Question: "Thank you, Mr. President. Recently Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?"

Answer: "Well, I should say at the outset that "Skip" Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here. I don't know all the facts...

But so far, so good. They're reporting -- the police are doing what they should. There's a call, they go investigate what happens. My understanding is at that point Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in, I'm sure there's some exchange of words, but my understanding is, is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house. And at that point, he gets arrested for disorderly conduct -- charges which are later dropped.

Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."

It is very clear to me that President Obama did not claim this incident to be racial profiling. This line, "what I think we know separate and apart from this incident," is very important. Perhaps Sowell missed it or perhaps he is engaging in fanning the flames of "resentments and paranoia" and "using whatever rhetoric or tactics will accomplish [his] purpose."


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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Community organizers are nothing but foolish, naive, stupid or cruel people who allow themselves to be used as a political tool created by those who want to keep others poor, ignorant, and miserable, all for political gain and votes.

The Observer said...

Is that your opinion of all community organizers. Organizers for the environment, voter participation, religious organizers and civil right organizers?

Anonymous said...

yes, absolutly he is right

Communities are ripped apart on purpose in order to create roles like this all for polical gain and vote. Most community orgainzers are only acting as "uselfull idots" who tell themselves that community orgainising is neccesay.

The real question to ask is why is it even needed, since the inner cities and those areas that rely on comminuity orgainzing are run, primary by one political party, who happens to be the beneficially of those who advocate community orgainising.

It is deviant and cruel to keep others suffering for politiacal gain.

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