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Old 08-05-2016, 02:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
stratwill
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Join Date: May 2008
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Partial trancript of the original KATG episode:
Elsa: Violence doesn't have to be hurting somebody. I mean I think a protest could be violent without hurting a single thing you know. You've seen Black Brunch where people come into these fancy brunch and dinner spots and we disrupt your lunch.
Chemda: Is that violent?
Elsa: It's definitely aggressive. It's definitely aggressive tactics.
...
Keith: How do you disrupt it?
...
Elsa: The Black Brunch or disruptions like that, what my group tends to do, well when I was with them is we have what I like to call teachings where we will highlight one specific victim of police brutality and then present the cases, you know the facts around the case. So that a lot of people don't know that when Eric Garner was choked to death he didn't have a single cigarette on him.
...
Chemda: So what are you doing at the brunch with the information?
Elsa: We, we bring these facts to the people.
...
Chemda: Do you stand in the middle of the restaurant?
Elsa: We come to the middle of the restaurant. We come to the door. We don't let anybody in or let anybody out.
Chemda: Oh, I see. Ok.
...
Keith: But you are stopping people from leaving, right?
Elsa: I mean if you want to leave you'll leave. But we're going to stand by the door.
Chemda: Ok so you're intimidating people? By standing, well, you're standing by the door and you're coming in.
Elsa: Being black is very intimidating in and of itself. So a bunch of people coming into your restaurant when they're not invited I'm sure is intimidating.
Keith: It's hard to say if you're intimidating me. I'm just trying to leave.
Elsa: You can leave. You can leave. I'm going to stand here, but you can leave.
...
Michael: ... You know that by standing by the door the implication is: I'm not going to let you leave or you're going to have to confront me to leave.
Elsa: Sure, whatever. But that doesn't hurt anybody.


Michael asked at the end of this episode what people thought his point of view was.

1st: Blocking the door is counter-productive because it implies a threat.
2nd: Black Brunch is an ineffective circle jerk for the benefit of the participants feeling good about themselves. Voting and changing laws is what matters.

Then he was drawn into arguing about whether direct action or working within the system was best. The discussion became "either or" rather than either side acknowledging that both could be useful. (Chemda tried to make this point several times without much success. Elsa did as well at the beginning, but then argued against Michael so strenuously about working in the system that her earlier discussion about some people not being suited for direct action seems minimized).

While I have some sympathy for Michael wanting to keep the argument narrowly on the implied threat of the door standing, it would probably have been a boring hour if that had been all that was discussed.

Random observations:
Elsa and Chemda repeatedly threw up straw men, exaggerating or misconstruing Michael's argument and then arguing against the exaggeration.

Elsa seemed to take a lot Michael's criticism of her activism tactics as a personal attack. Sometimes Michael did the same.

Elsa seemed to react in a dismissive manner rather than engaging in the argument as time went on. Michael interrupted a lot. (I am a straight white male interrupter. I struggle with this. I can imagine that a queer black female who has undoubtedly experienced being interrupted repeatedly her entire life by straights, whites, and men might become somewhat dismissive in an argument.)

The biggest issue I take with Michael's argument is the lack of empathy. He was arguing big picture abstractions of working within the system while Elsa was talking about the immediate effect of the current system on the individuals who are coerced and oppressed by the system. He may have had some valid points about how technology is improving the system slowly. For someone in Michael's position, (affluent, educated, not black or hispanic) it may be fast enough. But he is ignoring what it might feel like if you're poor and black.

Additionally, one of the big complaints I've heard from female activists is how often men come and tell them how they are doing their activism wrong. Elsa might have a stronger reaction in light of how often this sort of thing happens.

Chemda seemed to willfully ignore the difference between slowing traffic on an ordinary bridge or highway versus the airport on Christmas Eve. There's an enormous difference between thousands of people losing thousands of dollars and disrupting their holidays and thousands of people getting home late from work on an average Wednesday in June. You may think both are justified, but to suggest that there is no real difference is ridiculous.

Michael did a good job of trying to pin down Elsa and Chemda on specifics regarding how to replace or fix "the system". Elsa had some good responses specific to police violence, but neither her or Chemda presented any real big picture ideas that Michael was asking them for.

I totally had a great recent example of direct action working recently, but I have forgotten it.

A question for Michael relating to the original narrow scope of the argument: If a Black Brunch happened with no one at the door, would you call it counter-productive, merely ineffective, or beneficial?
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