I want to build on my post from Tuesday about how no one is even talking about the renewed Muslim ban, as well as Dan’s post from yesterday expanding on it to discuss Trump’s plan for mass deportations.
The initial response to the Muslim ban was amazing. As these things go, the seeming spontaneous actions by hundreds if not thousands of people to go to airports and disrupt the Muslim ban in fact was created by the hard work of grassroots organizers preparing for these sorts of issues and actions. The majority of people who showed up of course had no idea who these people were and they went out of outrage, but also because they heard other people were going. That’s where the organizing comes in. Their friends wouldn’t have gone if organizers hadn’t started that process, etc.
The secondary response to the Muslim ban was for liberals to give record amounts of money to the ACLU. From one angle, this makes sense. The legal teams fighting the Muslim ban in the courts had early victories and ultimately, one hopes that the American legal system would rule this as unconstitutional as it obviously is.
On the other hand, we know now that this probably isn’t going to work because of the Supreme Court. So where does that leave us? Donating to the ACLU is useful. It is not useful enough. It also gives the overwhelmingly upper middle class white liberal donors to the ACLU a bit of a pass in doing anything else.
Ultimately, the legal strategy and donations are good, but they have to be backed up with protest politics. As many said at the time, including the lawyers fighting the Muslim ban, the protests in the airports did a world of good, giving judges the shot in the arm they needed to stand up to Trump at that early moment when no one really knew if anyone would stand up to him. Without the protests, the stays on the Muslim ban might not have happened at all.
If the Supreme Court is not going to throw out the ban, what will you do?
I was discussing my post with an organizing friend of mine. She works in New York, with many of the immigrant-led organizations doing the grassroots work that meant so much during the JFK occupation. These are barebones organizations, holding the funding together by a thread. These are the groups we should be funding. The ACLU has plenty of access to money. We need to move our money around more effectively to people who add to the legal strategy through the equally important direct action strategy.
My friend noted that as this was all going on, she was desperately trying to get people to donate to a much broader set of organizations than the ACLU. She was using her Twitter feed to publicize all these other groups. It didn’t really work and she is very frustrated by it. I think the question for me is how to connect your everyday liberal to these organizations. When I think of who donates in situations like this, I think of professors. And I think of many commenters on this blog. I think that some of the problem is that there are a not small number of liberals who are openly uncomfortable with protest politics. In the aftermath of the courts intervening in the Muslim ban, some LGM commenters asserted the protests had nothing to do with it. This was of course absurd and countered by the very legal people working on the issue. But it gets at the feeling some have. This is a problem. Personally, I think a bigger problem is more that most donating liberals simply don’t know who they should give to, don’t know how to know, and aren’t going to do the work to find out. The ACLU is a nice safe organization. It does good work. It’s an easy donation without having to think about it too much.
But it’s not also not sufficient, as we are seeing. Donating to the ACLU is not an excuse not to be active and outraged at the betrayal of American values from this administration and its racist base. More is needed.
So my question to you is, what do you think a next step would be? If I was to promote grassroots organizations on this site, would you consider giving to them instead or in addition to big groups like the ACLU? How else will we reignite outrage over the Muslim ban? What do you recommend?