How Do We Approach People Not Like Ourselves?


By Mark Rudd (November 18, 2016)

I went to the demonstration today. By my estimate there were about 1,000 people there. About half the crowd were older people, but the other half were young. Lots of Native Americans. Great spirit, “Save the Water, Save the Land!”

During the close, I noticed a young woman wearing a bandana. This is a particularly sticky subject with me, from past demos here in Albuquerque and elsewhere. After the demo was over, I noticed that she had let her bandana drop. I went over to her, a muy India latina, probably mexicana, and said, “You’re so beautiful! Why do you cover your face.”

“I’m a Zapatista, that’s why,” she said.

Then she looked at me, and asked, “You’re that guy who was a terrorist long time ago, aren’t you?” After I introduced myself she remembered when and where we had met–at our house, through a mutual friend.

I asked her, “Can I tell you a story?” She agreed.

“Back in 2003, the day the US started bombing Iraq, about 1,000 people more or less spontaneously gathered on Central across from UNM. The cops were pissed, because they liked the war, so they attacked the crowd with tear gas, beat people, and arrested a bunch. Several of their victims eventually sued the City and APD for violating their civil liberties, namely the right to assemble and free speech. After 8 long years the case came up to a jury. After a three-week trial, in which everyone testified, with photos and witnesses, that the police attacked, the jury found the defendants innocent. Why? Well, it seems that the defense attorneys showed the jury a giant wide-angle photo of about a block of demonstrators, easily 100 people. Then they zoomed in on three people wearing bandanas. The lawyers told the jury, ‘See, those are terrorists. The police had to attack because they knew (how?) that the terrorists were about to make trouble.’

“To many people a bandana means you have something to hide. But we have to win those people over. We can’t play into the government’s hands.”

I’m not sure whether she understood me. I actually asked whether she thought my point of view had any logic. She sort of nodded her head. Maybe.

What my Zapatista friend didn’t understand is that the goal is building a mass movement, involving many people unlike us, including some who don’t think like us. All mass movements are coalitions.

The demo today had lots of support from Indian organizations,, Sierra Club, and probably a lot more.

But it was still a fringe demo, showing very little sign that we had gone beyond likely suspects. It was great to see 500-1000 people rallying together, I was glad it happened and glad to have been there carrying a handmade sign that said, “We stand in solidarity!” that somebody handed me as I approached and they were leaving.

Still, the goal is to broaden out our movement for Native Rights, to stop global warming, to save the planet. It has to be bigger. How do we approach people not like ourselves?

NOT wearing bandanas.

In Chicago, this weekend several thousand young people marched in the Loop. One held a sign, “America Was Never Great!” Hmmm. Self expression or strategy? Which is more important?

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