Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Pondering action, ENDA, and speaking truth to power…

I know, I know…it has been forever and a day since I last posted.

I’ve been practicing the fine art of bitchitude offline…

…but now I’m back.

Shall we?

Yesterday, an activist interrupted a speech by Michelle Obama to demand an executive order from President Obama granting civil rights and protections to LGBT people.  I support those who stand up and speak truth to power, even when folk take that stand in locations the powerful feel are activist free.  

This shit had truth but methinks it was misdirected.

Let’s back up and review what happened.

Michelle Obama was giving a speech.  An activist stood up and shouted out the demand for an executive order.  According to witnesses, Michelle Obama stopped her speech, said, "One of the things that I don't do well is this," and approached the activist.  Michelle Obama then inviting the activist to "listen to me, or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice." The crowd said they wanted FLOTUS to continue her speech…the activist was escorted from the event.

As I said, I support folk who speak truth to power. 

The problem here is that FLOTUS doesn’t have the power to issue an executive anything. 

Now the donors in the room certainly have power…but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

So, the activist that was escorted from the event responded with…

"Basically, I was asked by the first lady to be quiet, and I can't be quiet any longer. ... I was surprised by how negative the crowd seemed to be. It was actually a little unsettling and disturbing."


"She obviously thought she was going to make an example of me or something. I wasn't scared at all."

Pause…sip coffee…continue.

I have the feeling that if Michelle Obama wants to tell someone to be quiet…she tells that person to be quiet. 

In this case, she didn’t tell the activist to be quiet. She made it clear she wasn’t going to try to talk over someone…acknowledged the activist by approaching her…and even offered to mic to said activist.  If anyone told the activist to be quiet it was the crowd in attendance to hear Michelle Obama speak. 

That same crowd that was full of donors…yeah, I’ll get to that soon.

As for the activist’s “surprise” over how the crowd reacted, I call bullshit. 

What exactly did she expect?  And I’m being serious here.  I’ve interrupted my fair share of events…to speak to folk who are hard to get access to and who actually have the power to do the shit I was demanding…and I can tell you that my ass expected all kinds of reactions and wasn’t surprised by any of them when I did that shit.  This was a DNC fundraiser of some sort and you’d have to be one hell of a naïve activist to expect that crew to stand up and cheer you on when you interrupt Michelle Obama.

Pause…shake head…continue.

For the record, I too want to see an inclusive ENDA passed.  Hell, I even like the idea of an executive order…Lawd knows the House isn’t going to pass ENDA unless we can make the case that LGBT people are actually a firearm. 


Okay, tis time to get to that shit about the donors in the room!

Given the Democratic Party’s lack of energy for ENDA, both in grooming candidates and educating the electorate, methinks the activist should have stood up and turned toward the audience and told those folk to pressure the administration to grant an executive order…or at least said something to them about ensuring that their donations go toward supporting folk who will get ENDA passed.

Because money still talks…and if the money in that room qualified for a speech by Michelle Obama then the money in that room probably has the power to make shit happen. 

The last time I checked, political activism is about moving toward the prize. 

Otherwise tis just poorly staged and badly acted theatre.

That brings me back to what the action was supposed to accomplish and we can evaluate that through how it is being covered. 

If the activist was trying to talk to Michelle Obama, that shit didn't work out well.

If the activist was talking to motivate the crowd to support an executive order, that shit didn't work either.

Are people talking about ENDA and why we need it?

Or are folk talking about how Michelle Obama reacted to a public display of a lack of home training?



Sparky said...

She had the power to ask for money for a fund raiser, it's not unacceptable to protest and ask for action the money's paying for

Straight people often call gay people speaking up "lack of home training" because we need to be quiet and accept the scraps and delays

Maybe the display wasn't for Michele Obama (beyond countering the request for money from people who are in turn demanding equality) or for the crowd - maybe it was to highlight that there is something so simple for some equality that could be done and this room full of wealthy people and the Obama admin asking for money aren't doing it

maybe it's about protesting an entire straight leadership who want gay folks to sit down with "home training" and be quiet and patient - have some speeches on things that aren't in the legislature and echoing silence - or half-hearted apologies - on those that are

Shark-Fu said...

Sparky, I feel you on the leadership and on the frustration level. But I'm also listening to what the activist herself said - that she wanted to make the demand for an executive order on ENDA.

If we're sitting here speculating about what the motive or goal of the action was, then that's the strongest evidence that said action was not successful unless the goal is chaos.

My hope is that eventually the press will get around to discussing ENDA, but my gut says that the drama sucked up all the oxygen in the room.

Sparky said...

An executive order isn't just ENDA - which will require a law being passed and is constantly being kicked down the line - and likely to continue to do so (just look at UAFA on immigration reform)

This is an Executive Order to demand federal contractors not to discriminate against GBLT people. As Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Johnson did form POC and women

Something Obama promised to sign in 2008. Not making "drama" about it has worked so well in the last 5 years.

So yes, making that demand in that setting - and showing that neither the room nor the person asking for money were interested makes a major point.

Shark-Fu said...

I don't think that point came across to anyone other than the choir, but maybe that was the goal? If not, this wasn't the way to go particularly on an ask that still has legs.

Sparky said...

Maybe it is for the choir - or the community rather. This is a fund raiser after all, and GBLT folks will be expected to dip into the pockets

The ask has legs? Really? Not seeing it. But the whole thing with straight folks telling gay folks to sit down, be quiet and hoping that some more crumbs will come down is certainly old - certainly with the huge amount of condescension we've been seeing

Shark-Fu said...

You've got me on the ask having legs...but I'm trying to be optimistic this year, darn it!


Anyhoo, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Sharon said...

It was a fundraiser at the home of a prominent activist lesbian couple. Everyone there went into their pockets, one assumes, quite willingly.
Sturz went there with the idea of creating a disruption. She did.
The result is that FLOTUS behaved correctly, Sturz looks like a jerk, and the cause of ENDA is advanced not a whit.

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