I'm very glad this book was written. That said, I didn't find much in the text that was new or different in terms of information, strategy, etc. The cI'm very glad this book was written. That said, I didn't find much in the text that was new or different in terms of information, strategy, etc. The caveat though is that I'm a political activist with years of experience working in political campaigns and community-based organizations active on issues that leverage opportunities for bottom-up racial equity organizing, activism, and policy advocacy.
The one weakness I found in the book is that author's focus on the "smart-ass white boys" who constitute the overwhelming majority of the liberal and conservative political operatives, particularly at the level of elite national politics. I agree that the policy analysts and political campaign consultants he critics are extremely problematic. Having worked on political issues inside the Washington, D.C. beltway, I ca attest to the overwhelming whiteness, maleness, and absolute arrogance of the class of political operators there who dictate much of what can and can't happen in mainstream politics while making themselves quite well-0ff financially, thank you.
These white boys control the "consensus" on what's practical and possible, including on issues of race and the participation in politics of people of color, even when, in the overwhelming majority of instances in my experience, they have absolutely no experience working on political issues or as service providers in communities of color. In other words, they have nothing to base their assumptions on, but when challenged will actually site the "laugh test," a standard by which political efforts, positions, etc., is often judged...by them, btw. Issues that don't meet the standard they exercise huge influence over are laughed at, is the logic, and those who advocate for such efforts are therefore laughable and get marginalized.
But, while I agree that they're a problem, I think the author's analysis invests too much in the smart-ass attitudes of these white boys and not enough in the power dynamics that put them in the position they're in, and that, once in position, they're defending. An economic analysis would help here as power arrangements generally have to do with gaining the position to dictate the distribution of money, which in turn tends to reproduce those power relations.
My point is that the non-governmental institutions of the political class at every level of politics, from local to state to national is, for the most part, controlled by white boys who don't have the cultural competency, social connections, strategic and tactical expertise to organize communities of color to participate in elections. They're paid for their expertise. They have a financial interest to avoiding being put in a position of having their pre-existing expertise challenged. Moreover, building a base for Democratic politics in communities of color isn't all that profitable. It requires diffusion of financial resources. Concentrating those resources allows consultants to make more money while investing less.
This may be why, as the author noted, a few institutions of influence have made a real investment in promoting people of color into leadership. However, those institutions are not-for-profit charitable organizations. Mission-driven organizations are much more likely to promote diverse leadership and invest strongly in building relationships with low-propensity voters who are disproportionately represented in low-income communities and communities of color who have become alienated from the political process for good reason; political pragmatism as dictated by smart-ass white boys means the issues that are addressed in progressive campaigns are rarely the issues that connect most strongly with the hearts and minds of people in communities of color.
Where I most strongly agree with the author is on this - in order to break the control of smart-ass white boys, we need to figure out how to work through people of color-led organizations rooted organically in communities of color and build a permanent base for progressive politics. This requires us to make ongoing investments in community organizing on issues of direct and specific concern to targeted communities between election years.
We also need to partner with and/or create for-profit enterprises in order to gain access to communications networking technologies, develop apps specifically tailored to communities of color, and form partnerships around shared interests (which is not incompatible with holding a critical view of capitalism, in case we're confused on this point). Finally, my opinionated opinion is that we need to also invest in and partner with direct service providing community institutions, including but not exclusive to food banks, domestic violence shelters, health clinics, adult education and job training programs, GED preparatory programs and alternative schools, and literacy programs. Service providing institutions led by those who are most affected by the concerns they address can do much more than advocacy groups in building long-term relationships with low-income communities, and often serve as community hubs, providing multiple services to communities, including through providing cultural and social opportunities.
All of this, of course, will require us to make philanthropic reform a major initiative of progressives. As a former philanthropic executive, I know there are real limits to what philanthropy can (and should) do. But, here's the rub. Foundations divert money from the public and distribute them according to their preferences. That's our money. We should be trying to shape their preferences.
One last point in my opinionated "review" (call it a diatribe if you like) is this. Immigration is the biggest driver of demographic change. We should acknowledge this and invest in building progressive service organizations that assist with immigrant and refugee resettlement and integration, including through partnering with liberal and progressive faith-based institutions. Time to go to church.
These same prescriptions also apply to the major unions, btw.