Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Quick ACORN Retrospective

Remember ACORN? The community organizing group that catered largely to lower-class people and minorities?

At least until some guy dressed up like a pimp, shot and edited some questionable video and Fox News found its latest "scare white people" story, which prompted legislators to scream that ACORN didn't deserve any funding. ACORN shut down back in March.

Among the things ACORN accomplished was helping first-time voters register so they could actually get into the polls to cast their ballots. The organization also championed raising minimum wage and advocated for universal health care, making the organization the darling of liberals and the target of conservatives.

As the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina passed, The Nation magazine dedicated a large chunk of its Sept. 13 issue to an in-depth piece by Rebecca Solnit titled "Reconstructing the Story of the Storm: Hurricane Katrina at Five." But a sidebar to that article written by John Atlas proved particularly interesting.

In "How ACORN Helped Save NOLA," Atlas details some of the actions the group took in the immediate aftermath of the storm. An excerpt:

A week after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans -- while government officials and charities were still discussing how to send aid to the area -- ACORN was already moving into action. ACORN staffers quickly discovered that many displaced African-American homeowners were in danger of losing their homes. Banks were giving their middle-class, mostly white customers ninety days or more to make their payments, but borrowers who had subprime, high-interest loans (like many black homeowners in the Lower Ninth Ward) were given only one month. Three weeks after the storm, ACORN released a report exposing the industry's double standard and demanded meetings with lenders. Along with labor unions and consumer groups, it successfully negotiated plans to prevent foreclosures for dozens of homeowners. This campaign was only one of many victories, large and small, that ACORN achieved by mobilizing Katrina survivors to confront banks, insurance companies and public officials.

So after a terrible natural disaster threatened to tear New Orleans from its very foundation, ACORN did its part to make sure minority homeowners wouldn't face foreclosure because of the storm. All ACORN did was make sure minority homeowners had a voice, pressuring the banks to give them as much of a fighting chance post-Katrina as the white middle class homeowners.

In part because of efforts like this, the right wing sought to bring down ACORN once President Obama took the White House. They succeeded, partly because the right wing has an entire cable channel dedicated to its cause, and because the rest of the media sat on its hands and was reluctant to call the undercover pimp and Fox News out on their lies.

Read Atlas' entire article here.

I was upset when ACORN was forced to shut down this past spring, sensing something horribly wrong with the fact that the conservative noise machine successfully toppled an organization that was working to make life in America more fair and equitable for a segment of the population that was often ignored -- if not demonized.

Reading Atlas' piece in The Nation brought back those feelings, and brought forth a fair amount of rage. How could an organization that fought to help minority homeowners after Hurricane Katrina be trying to bring about the end of America as we knew it? The only thing ACORN is guilty of, to my knowledge, is trying to help people who would otherwise slip through the cracks. Which, in today's loud political climate, is grounds for a full-scale attack from the right wing -- one aided and abetted by the rest of the media, while aghast liberals merely sat back and let the conservatives drive the narrative.

Wake up, people; this is what happens when Fox News and the Tea Party and the conservative movement as a whole is allowed to dictate the national discourse. Well-meaning organizations, who are only trying to help make the American dream more attainable, are demonized to the point where they have to close their doors, leaving those they served -- people the conservatives would ignore -- to fend for themselves.

Today's conservative movement is sickening, but so is the left's inability or unwillingness to fight back. If this continues, we may see more ACORNs go down in the near future.

No comments:

Post a Comment