When the red scare heats up again to try to derail Bernie’s campaign, we need to have answers ready. There really haven’t been any communists in the world, at least not yet. What there have been is movements of people who want to focus on sharing rather than competing. That is so self-evidently the path of social evolution that I don’t think I need to argue it, at least not with the people likely reading this. These movements have in many instances seized the power of the state. USSR, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, Venezuela. With the exception of Venezuela, the major flaw in these approaches was that they thought if they forced people to share they would see how good it felt and embrace it fully. Some people did. But many resisted being forced and clung furiously to their competitive mindset. In other words, their socialism wasn’t democratic. The primary failure of the movement was to not take people right where there were.
So that’s what we need to do. We need to take people exactly where they are. As white people, we need to reach out to our Trump-leaning brethren and sistren. As non-and even anti-racist white people, we tend to be disdainful of our people who aren’t as enlightened as we are when it comes to race. We avoid them. We call them names in our facebook posts. What would it take for us to reach out to fellow white people who blame people of color for the ills of society that is oppressing them? (People of color have been asking us to do this for years). I don’t think it’s helpful to think of them, our fellow whites, as confused or brainwashed. Maybe we shouldn’t judge them at all. That’s not our role. Our role is to connect with them. We’ve all done this. We’ve stumbled onto a relationship with a white person who spewed racist filth, but stayed around to find out there was a lot more to them. At some point we need to try interrupting the racism, but maybe not on the first date.
I ask this as much for myself as for anyone. In this case, I don’t practice what I preach. Where’s all the Trumpistas in Oakland? Not too many in our oh, so segregated society, not just by race but by subclass as well. Many of us progressive whites have done a lot of work on our racism and come to a point where we are fully comfortable among Black or Latin people, maybe even more comfortable than we are among our own white people. It’s great that we’ve come this far! But the next step is to reach back to our people.
My guess is that the key is to listen to people. To listen, listen, listen to people. Nobody ever gets listened to enough. Without judgement. Without judgement.
Listening is the key to connecting. Focus on what we have in common. Children, perhaps, always a great unifier. TV shows. Work stuff. Family stuff. Medical stuff.
It’s more than getting them to vote for Bernie. They may well not. And I know right now we need to focus on likely Bernie voters and get them to the caucuses and to vote in the primaries. But long-term – and we need to start thinking long-term – we have to build bridges to the people who make us uncomfortable.