Us Against Them, Unless We Say You’re Not One Of Them

Jose Vilson Jose

I'm Wherever Franklin Sits

Last night, I got into it with a few, well-established individuals of color over their union bashing. I’ll stop it there because every time I hear it from people of color, I often lay up a “whatthefuckisthisshit?” and then zip my mouth henceforth. The first time I saw it this summer, it came from a guy who I thought I would respect. Then, he implicitly had to bring the stereotypical “bad teacher,” who went by union rules (whatever that means) and didn’t cooperate with what he wanted to do. I wanted to say to him and the individuals in our community who joined “the other team” that, without unions, you wouldn’t have your precious book appearances, perch positions, or appearances on CNN.

One of the points I made recently in my post-SOS March was this:

I genuinely believe that there are 95% of us who actually believe in the cause. This 95% will move the objectives of the SOS and will do everything in their power to do what’s right for our students. The other 5%, the ones that can really do some damage, fall into a few categories, but it’s often a strand of selfishness that pervades their thinking. For instance, they might say they’re for a particular group being represented in this space, but only if they’re leading it. If they’re not leading it, then that group was never represented. Any new initiative makes it super-easy for someone to see things as a movement for self. That’s why we need to see things for the bigger picture, and the bigger picture doesn’t always have you in front.

As we turn our thoughts to making true progress, we have to consider the means and end by which we achieve this “win” of ours. I mean that for leaders of all backgrounds and colors, by the way. I’m of the belief that “wins” that matter don’t just belong to one person, but to a collective. As such, the collective would do well to include as many people of like mind as possible into their ranks. It’s as if people want to replicate the very power structure they purport to oppress them.

Is the movement about the people or about you as the leader of the people?

Thus, I find myself occupying this third rail where I want to do well by the proletariat, but not by emulating the very people who brought us here to begin with. I prefer to find ways to be ahead of the curve and be proactive, and not simply react to everything with a point-by-point retort. The latter suggests that we’ll always react and not get ahead of whatever corporatist / deformist movement we protest. Further, we need to take the long and wide view on the things we do if we even have a shot to make critical change.

People wonder how we become leaders. A big part of that is the simplest thing you can do: make sure that what you’re doing as a leader is selfless. It’s about the people. Even if you’re by yourself saying this, people understand your work as representative of the people, and that the work becomes so much bigger than you. If you’re bigger than your work, then maybe you should check behind you to see who’s actually following.

Jose, who prays that peoples’ pain be champagne …