itsourcommunity

Cocktails and Criticism: Deepak Bhargava Responds to the Bellingham Raid

In enforcement on February 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Yesterday, Deepak Bhargava wrote a moving response to the Bellingham raid on the Center for Community Change’s blog.

Bhargava wrote first of his opportunity to meet with President Obama last week during a cocktail reception for progressive leaders at the Whitehouse. He was pleased at that time with the response he received from Obama regarding comprehensive immigration reform.

Like most of us, however, he was disappointed when he received a call 10 pm on Tuesday night–just as Obama’s address to the nation was finishing–that the first worksite raid under the Obama administration had taken place.

And also like most of us, he was pleased by the quick response of Secretary Napolitano and the Whitehouse to call for an investigation of the raid and publicly state that such enforcement tactics are not the Obama administration’s immigration strategy.

What I would most like to point to you all, however, is the part of the blog where Bhargava asks “What lessons might we draw from this whole experience?”

He responds:

First, we are not agents of the Obama Administration – or any other politician. Our highest commitment as progressives is to the most vulnerable people in our society, and being progressive means nothing at all if it doesn’t mean standing up for and with them. Second, we shouldn’t expect to get change that we don’t help to make happen. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, there is not progress without agitation. Third, if we take the view that the Administration is potentially an ally – rather than reflexively assuming bad intent — and we are clear and specific about what we want to see happen, we can in fact make real progress by working together. I am heartened by what this Administration has gotten done for low-income people in an incredibly short period of time through the recovery bill and SCHIP legislation – and the speed of their response to our concerns about this tragic raid further confirms their sincere commitment to change.

I am also heartened that the President is leading a national conversation on shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – two critical elements of the community values that are at the center of all the work to which we community organizers are passionately committed.

So, maybe cocktails and criticism – in the context of a respectful and real relationship that grows and develops over time — can go together and deliver results.

I think these are important lessons for us all to consider as we move forward in our work for a more just and equitable society. The campaign is over and now it is time for us to create the change that we believe in.


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