Why is "elections committee" a dirty word in CF?
Date: Fri Jan 11, 2002 1:28 am
Subject: When attacks on members of the Elections Committee is "witch-hunting"
First, my personal story: I am a post-Christmas Coup listener-activist who got involved with Concerned Friends about a year ago. I first started paying attention to the Elections Committee because it was the only place where anyone was discussing issues of governance and democratization of the Pacifica network and how we got to the crisis we were in. It was the only group of people in the NYC area who would talk to me about the history of the Pacifica crisis prior to the Christmas Coup. From these discussions, I was hipped to the freepacifica listserv where I learned about the PLU 15 Demands, the firing and banning of Bill Mandel, and Rafael Renteria, and hundreds of other programmers over the years, and the role of the CPB, and the KPFA struggle, and other issues beyond the limits of the WBAI local issues. There was almost noone else who would even discuss the subject of LAB elections and listener empowerment (some rare exceptions were Andy Norris from the LAB, Paul Surovell, and a handful of others). Nobody a year ago (or hardly anyone) was talking about WHY they opposed LAB elections. It was "understood" that this was a bad topic.
So, I went where the silence was to find out why this subject of LAB elections was so taboo. All I could gather was that the EC members were considered racist or too closely associated with Dingeman (who, in turn, was considered a racist). Although i never observed what I consider racist behavior from Patty or Jim Dingeman, defending them would open me up to charges of being a racist myself. So, I kept my mouth shut and listened, feeling terribly guilty that I was afraid of what people would say about me if I defended them. This unhappy situation caused me great discomfort and I can attest to conversations with numerous other activists (African American and white) who told me they couldn't stand the strain of being under attack for agreeing with the Elections Committee and had decided to withdraw from political activity.
Although I was/am an ardent supporter of Democracy Now! and Wake Up Call and the banned and fired, my personal association with Patty Heffley and Andrea Fischman and Carolyn Birden and other EC members placed a cloud of suspicion over me and my activities. Even though I strongly disagreed with the EC's tactics for moving forward the discussion on LAB elections (and never joined the Elections Committee), I began to be "accused" of being a member of the EC, leaving me with the unenviable task of representing my true beliefs without turning on EC activists who I considered were raising important questions. Rasheeda Ishmaili, our newest LAB member, refused to talk to me after the LAB meeting which seated her because, she told me, I was too friendly with Patty and the Elections Committee. She refused to believe me when I told her I wasn't a member of the EC. She said I talked like them and hung out with them and they were racists. I presume she considers me a racist as well.
By the way, I was the person who read a letter at that LAB meeting, unanimously approved by the Concerned Friends Coordinating Committee a day or a couple days before the LAB meeting, which asked that noone be appointed to the LAB at that time. Despite my (and others') best efforts to explain to Rasheeda that the obJection to seating her had to do with appointing ANYONE to the LAB, not with her per se, it has come down in folk legend that it was the EC that opposed Rasheeda because she is Black. (There is a parallel here with the issue of Dred Scott Keys' election to the WBAI committee. I voted for Dred myself because I thought he would play an important role on the committee, esp. dealing with staff. I don't want him to step down, but there may well be too many f&b staff on the committee to maintain the appearance or the actuality of probity and even-handedness. Am I a racist because I think some of the f&b should probably step down in favor of un-f&b staff? When the movement's leadership has many people of color, it is a given that criticizing leaders may well mean criticizing people of color)
Criticism, Personal Attacks, and "Witch-Hunting"
Criticism of people's actions (which include their words) is necessary in our movement. Attacks on people's motives and personal character is destructive and should be avoided. It merely diverts attention from the issues at stake and the actions/words under consideration. Accusing people of racism (most particularly when there is no direct evidence, only hearsay to back up the accusation) is destructive. It doesn't help any of us confront the racism that permeates our society and all of our attitudes -- it merely places the onus on a few individuals and a halo over the heads of the accusers (who, frequently, are white as well). "Witch-hunting," which I define as guilt by association with unpopular beliefs or people, should be outlawed in our movement. It clamps down on the free expression of ideas and poisons our movement from within.
I believe that criticism of Patty Heffley has gone way beyond criticism into the neighborhood of personal attack and actual "witch-hunting." I ask those who read this in the WBAI listening -- please talk to activists from other cities who are coming into town for the iPNB meeting about how they see our movement in NYC. I would be surprised if you didn't learn some surprising things about how the attacks on Patty Heffley and the Elections Committee are viewed in other cities. I don't want to take attention away from the important work we have to do this weekend -- as a united movement -- but this is a rare chance to gain some insight from other people about how we can strengthen our movement in NYC and environs. It is an irony, to me, that WBAI activists continue to attack Patty and the Elections Committee for rushing on LAB elections but don't criticize Carol Spooner and the other litigants for incorporating LAB elections into the settlement agreement. Is it simply easier to bash Patty than to go up against recognized leaders in the national movement? Or do you maintain that Patty is somehow a particularly racist individual who endangers us here?
Well, I feel better for getting this off my chest and hope it is read with an open mind.
Now it is time to go to bed and dream sweet dreams of a dramatic and decisive victory over the corporate and Democratic Party hiJackers this weekend. We need an interim Executive Director ASAP so we can begin to clean house at the five stations, bring back the f&b, and start the process of rebuilding a network dedicated to the radical, anti-war, deeply democratic mission of Pacifica.
See ya all tomorrow,
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