Written by East Bay DSA member Claudette Begin
In clarifying my thinking about the Brake Lights project, I have talked to various EB DSA members and DSAers elsewhere (since something similar has been done in at least three chapters, namely New Orleans, Pittsburgh PA, and Dallas) in order to see what it might mean for our chapter, and what it might mean in the context of our other work.
I totally believe our major focus on the single payer campaign is correct, and think our focus on the labor movement is also key (supporting the Oakland City Workers strike as just one example). And the steps we have recently taken in the electoral arena by endorsing Gayle and Jovanka are very important, and will be taking up more of our people power in the future.
So is there room for the Brake Lights work too? I believe so. For one thing, we have some members who are passionate about this and want to do it. That's a good thing. What I like about this initiative is that it clearly calls out the discriminatory & punitive police actions against people of color, and makes the statement: let's do this defensive action to remove this excuse which the police use to search, harass, & attack POC.
I understand that the comrades who initiated this project worked with members of a local POC organization who viewed it favorably but decided they did not have the bandwidth to work on it in addition to their other projects.
Also we all recognize of course that locally & nationally DSA is overwhelmingly white – which is a problem & something we need to work on. In addition to actively recruiting people of color, we need to engage in and seek out areas where we can do joint work with people of color. While there are no easy solutions to this, getting our name out in POC communities as a group that wants to do concrete things that can help can't be bad. The Bay to Brake Lights initiative can help get our name out as an organization that is concerned, allowing others to be more comfortable with us, and can provide positive press, as has happened already - I give some links below. And apparently the recent brake light event opened some interesting discussions amongst attendees.
Could this project be a problem for our chapter? If it's supported as just another initiative by members that are interested in this area of work, and not counter-posed to our main areas of work, I don't think it is a problem. I'd like to give it the benefit of the doubt, and see what good can come of it.
Press coverage links: