who to reach

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Fri Jun 12 08:20:10 PDT 1998

At 11:35 PM 6/11/98 -0700, Gar Lipow wrote:
>Woj. You are the one who has to be joking. How can anyone over the age
>of 12 supposedly active in the U.S. progressive movement not know that
>that you can be fired for being gay -- that for the most part it is
>completely legal to discriminate against people for being gay.
>The courts have upheld in a lot of cases that:
>1) you can be evicted from your apartment for being gay
>2) your child can be taken away for being gay
>3) you can be fired for being gay

You can be fired for almost anything. So to claim an employment-realated prejudice against gays, it stands to reason that we need to determine if gays face a greater than other people likelihood of being fired from their jobs (for whatever reason - I doubt most employers who discriminate openly admit that, let alone commit it to paper).

The gay people I've known had many problems, but unemployment was not one of them. So it seems reasonable to ask for more than anecdotal eveidence.

>When you said that choice, affirmative action, and gay rights were not
>among your top three concerns,

I never said anything even remotely resembling that. You must be confusing me with someone else.

>To cite some other points you may not realize: (and if you already
>know this you've got to understand I can no longer take your knowledge
>of these things for granted)
>1) women die each year because of EXISTING restrictions on abortion --
>a lot of them teenagers. And what kills these young women is not often
>not the "radical" anti-abortion people but the "moderate" restrictions
>-- parental consent, "informed" consent (which often means a woman who
>wants an abortion has make a four hour trip twice -- once for her
>"informed consent" once for the actual abortion). There is also the
>"conscience clause" which the wonderful anti capitalist catholic
>church uses to restrict abortion and contraception choices for women
>whose HMO's contract with catholic owned hospitals.

You lost me here. What makes you think I do not realize that?

>2) Black people account for less than 19% of drug user -- but 40% of
>those arrested for drug offenses. Racism exists in this country -- and
>accounts for an overwhelming majority of the suffering of the black
>working class.

I also believe that racism exists in this country. However, for what it accounts must be demonstrated empirically - you know, regression models controling for different factors, accounting for different proportions of variance, the standard stuff social scientists are doing. I wouldn't put too much trust in anecdotal evidence.

>What bugs me so much is that you have one valid point; many left wing
>groups (however self congratulatory Carroll is about how working class
>we all are) are not that welcoming to people who work as waitresses,
>in factories, as receptionists, as data entry clerks, as janitors, as
>plumbers, as truck drivers, as elementary school teachers, as serfs in
>the bowels of government bureaucracy. This is not deliberate; it is as
>unconscious as the homophobia, sexism and racism which I see in a lot
>of would be left populists.

I cannot speak for the subconsciousness of other leftists, but I can assure you mine is quite free of the feelings you describe. I think assholes can be found in any group, gays, straight, Black, White, men, women, so being Black, gay or female does not mean one is an asshole, nor that one isn't.

>Dammit, I don't think it is masochism to admit that the left could do
>a better job of reaching people who are not academics, and
>journalists. But it is neither moral nor smart to think that throwing
>women, minorities, gays etc. overboard is the way to be more


>The problem with the U.S. left is not that it has paid too much
>attention to issues like abortion or affirmative action; the problem
>with the left is that it tends not to pay enough attention to issues
>of economic equality, of labor


>By the way, for those who think it is self-flagellation to look for
>left problems:
>A) We are losing

Depends who is "we" and how you define "losing." I've seen some serious victories by groups I'd identify with without having a second thought, feminists, gays, envirinmentalist to name a few. But if 'losing' means falling short of sparking a revolution, I agree. But if 'revolution' means a military-style rebellion that took place in Russia, China and a couple of other previously agrarian states - I do not think it is a very realistic goal for achiveing social change in the US or Western Europe.

>B) Maybe we are losing just because historical circumstances are such
>that we can't win now.

True. The ruling classes and managerial elites seem to have an upper hand for the time being. However, I cannot agree with the statement:

>Maybe all we can do is hunker down and wait for
>the perfect crisis;

I think we should work as hell organizing and wait for a crisis large enough to create an opportunity for a more radical change.



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