By some bizarre turn of events, the YDN has given me a regular column to cause trouble with on alternate Tuesdays. The idea is to engage some of the divisions within the self-identified left and explore how left-identified institutions fall short of left ideals. The title – provided by my Mom, who also gave us “Eidelthoughts” as the name of my high school column – is “What’s Left.” Read into that what you will…
The first column appeared in today’s paper:
Willful historical blindness underlies the all-too frequent arguments that civil rights activists were distinguished from activists before or since by not needing organizers to push people to take risks, or long meetings to plan their actions, or media strategies and spokespeople to make their case as effectively as possible. The 60s civil rights movement had all of these components — and none made its claims any less urgent or its vision any less honest.
The night Parks was arrested, the local Women’s Political Council met to debate the merits and plan the logistics of a city-wide bus boycott. The WPC’s Jo Ann Robinson composed a leaflet to build support for the action. Local NAACP President E.D. Nixon used a slide rule to start mapping walking routes around the city and holding meetings with clergy to press them for support. Nixon and others founded the Montgomery Improvement Association to oversee the boycott and, seeking a minister as a public spokesman, set about recruiting Martin Luther King.
Building a movement is hard work. Most of that work doesn’t make great television. But stories in which such work was never necessary make terrible history.
I first explored Parks’ death on this site here (got a really nice response here, as well as an unexpected offer to appear on a right-wing talk radio show that got revoked at the last minute once it was clear I wasn’t going to attack Parks).
My YDN columns will be conveniently archived (all the better to rule out any future political career) here.