Community Organizers: What do they know?

By: Wendy Carrillo

On the eve that Alaskan Governor, Sarah Palin was supposed to make an historic speech by accepting the Vice Presidential nomination for the Republican ticket, she chose to take a route that ridiculed some of the most hard working people in our nation, community organizers.

Former Governor George Pataki said, “[Barack Obama] was a community organizer. What in God’s name is a community organizer? I don’t even know if that’s a job.”

Governor Sarah Palin said, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

I was left dumbfounded. Actual responsibilities? You don’t even know if its an actual job? How could these supposed leaders of our nation (partisan ideals aside), laugh in the face of the people who work for the lowest wages to empower people to take ownership of their communities? Community organizers educate people on their rights, they help create bridges between communities in strife, they help begin communications between residents, stake holders, business owners, local elected officials, those in power, and most importantly they master huge voter registration drives and encourage residents to reclaim their political power through voting.

The overly sarcastic, demeaning and elitist comments made by Republicans in an attempt to mock Senator Barack Obama’s first job as a community organizer is embarrassing and insulting.

Governor Palin shamelessly compared herself to Senator Hillary Clinton. On the second day of the DNC, Senator Clinton spoke on the eve of the 88th Anniversary of Woman’s Suffrage. Gaining the right for women to vote was accomplished by a group of women, who organized their community and rallied, fought and were even violated to obtain the right to vote. Senator Barack Obama accepted the nomination to run for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” speech. Senator Obama embodied the reality that we are in fact, judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated for organizing and empowering communities throughout our nation to stand up against social and civic injustices.

September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage month, as a proud American with Latino heritage, I celebrate the life and accomplishments of Cesar Chavez, a community organizer, who organized farm workers in an unprecedented national effort, and gained the support of Bobby Kennedy to hold accountable farm owners who violated basic labor laws.

Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Thomas Paine, and Jesus Christ are names of other pretty well known community organizers. Locally, here in Los Angeles, some years ago, a woman formed a little organization in South Central to combat the crack epidemic in her community. This organization is now known as the Community Coalition, and you can call the community organizer who started it all by her new title, California Speaker of the Assembly, Karen Bass.

Comparing Palin with Obama, former Mayor Rudy Guiliani said “On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? [Laughter]…I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume.”

I find these incendiary comments hugely offensive. In a time when Americans are loosing their homes, their jobs, can barely feed their families or put gasoline in their vehicles, the only people helping out these folks, are community organizers. How dare Sarah Palin and her holier than thou Republican do-no-gooders mock the very people that are trying to help the individuals that they only pretend to potentially serve?

As a woman, as an American, and as a voter, I am ashamed that regardless of our political differences, Republicans will stoop to a level so low, as to insult the good work of so many people. Shame on them.


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