ACORN AND THE PROGRESSIVE COMMUNITY
Mark Winston Griffith, DMI - It's easy not to always feel love for ACORN, even if you are on the political left. Social justice advocates and organizers routinely complain that ACORN doesn't always work well in coalitions, or that they suck up all the air in a protest action or press conference, leaving their allies in the shadows. They use a bare-knuckled style of organizing that can be alienating for even those on the sidelines, and they are known to strike deals with their protest targets that can be too narrowly self-interested. . .
But, for all people who consider themselves to be progressive, let's be clear: The current right wing attack on ACORN is a frontal assault on all of us who fight for social and economic justice. ACORN may not always behave in the activist sandbox, but they are one of us, and we better close ranks around them, because the barrel of the right-wing attack gun will be focused on you and me next.
I don't know what the facts on the ground in Ohio and Nevada are, but it's clear that the right wing has declared open season on ACORN and all that it stands for, no matter how many lies need to be told to do it. For instance, over the last few weeks, the right wing has blanketed media airspace with the idea that the Community Reinvestment Act, as aggressively promulgated by ACORN over the past few decades, forced banks to lower their lending criteria, which led to the subprime crisis. They have also taken shots at organizations like the Center for Responsible Lending, which has led progressive, smart research and advocacy campaigns against predatory lending in all forms, not just mortgages.
Implicated are all the rest of us who have used the CRA, the only government edict against bank redlining, to own up to their obligations to lend in neighborhoods of color and low-income areas. Not only is this argument against the CRA and ACORN breath-takingly wrong - most subprime lenders were not even covered by the CRA - but it goes far to make the racist suggestion that the very people that ACORN represents - people of color, low income areas - are inherently high risk and unworthy of credit.
The kissing cousin to this argument is the right-wing's recent disparagement of community organizing and their suggestions that Barack Obama's community organizing activity was radical and un-American simply because he tried to help poor people build power. The RNC is issuing stories on a regular basis, trying not only to discredit ACORN and their voter registration efforts, but also manufacturing links between Obama and ACORN. . .
As a progressive community, we have an obligation to call out ACORN on their stuff. God knows I have. But we also have an obligation to stick up for one of the most effective grassroots social justice organizations this nation has ever seen, an organization that stands on the frontlines everyday, taking body blows for all of us.