Statement by Andrew Perrine
“That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I Have Been to the Mountaintop
I wish for you to consider the Food for Solidarity program, not through the lens of simply what we can do now, but what will happen if we don’t do it. For while the costs and energy are high, what we stand to lose from not doing it may severely harm our own views on what activism we do within DSA-LA.
Firstly, I wish to challenge the narrative that was presented at the chapter meeting that this program does not tie into our chapter resolutions. I believe that this is due to an overly-narrow, mechanistic reading of our third resolution, Building DSA-LA across all LA County. While the text of the resolution commits mostly to branch development, it has a stated goal to “build both a deeper and wider base of the Left in Southern California.” Part of widening our base must be outreach to the affected communities: It is wholly naive and paternalistic to say that DSA members will come to us if we are not willing to first go to them. And setting up an authentic, meaningful base in these communities will be a time-intensive task no matter how we go about it--we should not expect magic to instantly make our unreached communities socialist.
And what will we get from it? The proposal itself states that its goal is recruitment and membership. I do believe in the evidence-based solutions, the clear historical precedent set forth, that this plan is modeled off of, and that it will begin radicalizing the communities, and most importantly, activating members. I say this as someone who came home four weeks ago, checked twitter, and within ten minutes was out the door to spend the majority of the next month camped out as part of Occupy ICE LA: Events like these offer up to us a chance to radicalize and activate ourselves. I encourage you all to look for whatever project will do so for you--and I look forwards to the new comrades I hope to meet through this program. I publicly commit to helping this project as one of the asked-for ‘full-time organizers,’ should this resolution pass.
Finally, as a white person who has been organizing in a majority-POC space for the past month: if we accept this event as a herald of ‘white saviorism’ then DSA-LA will never be able to engage in any outreach to majority-POC communities without the same--or more substantive--claims of the same nature, in my honest opinion. The proposal has been spearheaded by several of our Latinx comrades: They are asking us white folx for our aid to outreach to people like them. And if we ignore them now, can we consider ourselves allies?
I consider it my responsibility as an anti-imperialist and ally to stand by my Latinx comrades who put forwards this ask of me and my fellows to help the communities they come from. I consider this the time to push forwards with widening our base. I consider that it is always the time to increase the class consciousness of our neighbors, near and far, and activate those who think a better world is possible. They are asking for a lot, yes--but is it our place to tell them to ask for less? It is my hope that my comrades here choose to step up for our comrades and reject being those who, to quote MLK again, “paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
I do not wish to make our comrades wait for a more convenient season for this proposal--I wish to help them.