Time to go to the basement

Here are some words and phrases from the progressive lexicon we’re hearing a lot these days:

Black folks
Brown folks
Working class and poor

Here are some related concepts that I almost never hear:


-Selectively enforcing the law (and acting like they’re merely responding to what’s coming up)
-Manufacturing public opinion (and presenting it as their base’s organic opinion)
-Guilty of negligence through omission (because there’s no way you could ‘happen’ to not protect under your laws the precise people you have a problem with)
-Rigging the deck (and telling anyone who loses that they’re lazy)

We are so good at pinpointing who we’re defending, and so bad at describing the layout of the activities and systems that make them in need of defense in the first place.

When I fail to do this or don’t feel like doing this, there are a couple of reasons why:

  1. When I catch a really hot potato, my first instinct is to fling it. If I’m riled up about something and need the world to know, the call to step back, hone in on exactly what it is about the issue that ticks me off, figure out why, and find a way to describe that phenomenon with laser precision to everyone else sounds too slow and too hard. Much easier to simply post an article and say “this is so screwed up, and if you don’t understand why, then you’re part of the problem.”
  2. No joke: it makes my brain hurt. It’s hard to describe things I haven’t described before.
  3. Because of reasons 1 and 2, I tell myself that everyone already gets why this is a problem and let myself off the hook.

Here’s the deal, team: since we’ve managed to do a very effective job at saturating the world with all of our buzzwords, we’re going to need to dig a little deeper if we want new people to care as much as we care. We’re going to need to go down into the broken system on our lunch break, learn how the piping works, and figure out how to describe it in layman’s terms to the people waiting in the lobby. We won’t feel like doing it, but we can make it fun. You bring the flashlights. I’ll bring the beer.

No one’s going to insist we do this extra work. But every time we pull it off, we get to make our audience righteously mad—in real time. Which is ten times more effective than paying lip service to the disenfranchised by naming their groups, saying we stand with them, and assuming our people already feel what we want them to feel.

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