Friday, May 24, 2024

ACORN Workers Need a Lesson in Power…

September 24, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( If ACORN manages to survive the current maelstrom of attacks from right-wing ideologues, one of its first acts ought to be to give its workers an orientation session on what real power is.

Apparently, it’s a lesson that some of their folks sorely need.

I’m talking about the ACORN – Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – workers in its Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Brooklyn offices; workers who casually dispensed advice on how to evade taxes, buy a home and smuggle in underage sex workers from El Salvador to two right-wingers posing as a pimp and a prostitute.

The poseurs, James O’Keefe III and Hannah Giles, captured the ACORN workers on hidden camera. And while what O’Keefe and Giles pulled was certainly no testament to ethical or balanced journalism; besides lying about who they were, O’Keefe and Giles also aren’t saying how many ACORN offices they were kicked out of when they approached them with their foolishness; it was also hard to ignore how a few of the workers almost seemed to relish being able to levy their “expertise” in helping two criminals get over.

“Performing artist. Independent artist. You could be that,” the ACORN tax adviser in its Baltimore office told Giles.

“If they don’t have Social Security numbers, then you don’t have to file taxes anyway,” the adviser told O’Keefe and Giles, after they said they were looking for ways to conceal the earnings of 13 Salvadoran sex workers.

And so on.

What really tripped these ACORN workers up wasn’t the unscrupulous, ideologically-driven work of two white 20-somethings who hate the fact that ACORN gives a voice to poor, mostly-minority communities whose silence and subservience they’ve come to expect and demand.

What tripped those ACORN workers up was their own confusion about what power really is.

Real power doesn’t lie with them being clever enough to show a pimp and a prostitute how to use the tax code to hide their criminal enterprise.

ACORN’s real power lies in empowering the struggling communities that conservative lawmakers and wing nuts fear; the same communities that are, ironically, diminished by the pimps and prostitutes that these workers were duped into believing they were advising.

But people like O’Keefe, who is backed by ideologues like conservative Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, and Giles, whose preacher daddy rails against President Barack Obama but hasn’t said much about what Jesus would say about his daughter lying and dressing up like a hooker, don’t really care about whether ACORN uses tax money to help pimps or human traffickers.

What they care about is the fact that ACORN encourages poor black people and Latinos to vote.

During the 2008 presidential election, ACORN conducted massive voter registration drives in this nation’s poorest, most oppressed communities. Their work, more than likely, played a role in the two million new black voters and the two million new Latino voters who showed up at the polls.

Both groups overwhelming supported Obama.

That’s the real power that ACORN holds. As a grassroots organization, they’ve been able to strike terror into the hearts of those who are frantically trying to hang on to their privileges – so much so that a conservative preacher’s daughter lowered herself to pretend to be a whore to bring down an organization that, in spite of its quality control problems, exists to help the poor and dispossessed people that Jesus spoke of.

But now, it’s anyone’s guess as to what extent ACORN will continue to wield that power.

Congress has cut off its money, and even though it doesn’t wholly depend on government money, it’s reputation has been so damaged by the videos that chances are it will struggle to find funders who will want to be associated with it.

At the same time, it’s hard not to see the unfairness here. If Congress applied the same standards to other entities, say, like the private military contractor Blackwater, as it is now applying to ACORN, they wouldn’t be getting any federal money, either.

My hope is, however, that this escapade will backfire. First of all, it’s clear that the videos were heavily doctored. Secondly, it’s known that O’Keefe is a liar; he told Fox News that every ACORN office he and Giles visited went along with his scheme when a police report shows that the Philadelphia office kicked him out.

And I’m still waiting to see the hidden camera footage from other ACORN offices that showed O’Keefe and Giles the door.

Yet, by ignoring ACORN’s real power, a few workers played into the obsessions of wing nuts that made it easy for those who want to bring down Obama and silence the constituency that voted for him.

ACORN officials must work harder to help their people understand that power. So something like this never happens again.

Written By Tonyaa Weathersbee

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