One of our comrades in AWDU at UCLA told us this morning about a conscious strategy of race-baiting on the part of some leaders of the Administration Caucus/USEJ. Jorge Cabrera, AC/USEJ’s candidate for the Southern VP slot, posted the following on his Facebook page shortly before the election kicked off:
Campaign UPDATE: things are getting dirty and slimy. The opposition team has launched baseless personal attacks against members of my slate – the Social and Economic Justice Team. They even attempted to selectively disqualify a Brown Latina from running for office, while ignoring White males in similar predicaments. Why is this so?
As we explained last week, the candidate in question — Sayil Camacho — is not currently (nor ever has been) a UC student. Her only relationship to the UAW is as a paid organizer; she is not a member. While she will start graduate school next fall, running for a position requires that one be a member in good standing for a full year. She doesn’t meet the requirement. Case closed. What does this have to do with race? Is Cabrera admitting that the AC/USEJ slate also includes white males who are ineligible to run? More to the point, Cabrera is not currently a grad student on a UC campus. When we say we have a problem with a bunch of bureaucrats running the union, who better to exemplify the tendency?
Anyway, things have gotten out of control at UCLA. Below we are reposting an overview from Jason Ball, a critic of Cabrera and AC/USEJ tactics whose previous piece we posted here. Once you’ve read his account of the ridiculous race-baiting of AWDU going on at UCLA, read the response from four women of color in AWDU’s UCLA chapter. While we’re no fans of the tokenistic politics of counting, if we’re going to play that game, AWDU has more people of color on its slate at UCLA than AC/USEJ. Case closed.
First, Ball’s piece:
UAW Exploits Identities and Struggles for Gain
After my previous note about attempts to recruit me onto USEJ, I’ve been “called out” for calling people out for things they have actually said and done. While I still think that when you run for office things you say and do are fair game, I will not “name names” this time out of courtesy. As I said in my previous note, I considered myself on the sidelines until very recently when I could no longer defend the actions of incumbent leadership.
What draws me even deeper now into the internal politics of the union is the blanket accusation that the AWDU UCLA slate is a racist, white slate. I know that for many this is the only description USEJ provided of the difference between them and AWDU. Remember that USEJ is not making a nuanced argument about the nature and proper method of representation, nor are they making an argument about a specific kind of radical or practical identity politics, their claim is simple, “they are white racists” and therefore also by implication “vote against the white racists to protect our union.” I want to be brief and clear because I have had a lot of comrades, yes, of color, ask me about this accusation (it might surprise certain people to know some of us talk to each other). First let me say, I don’t know about the AWDU (or USEJ) statewide campaign and I don’t care much about them. I leave it up to the other campuses to choose their own leaders. I can speak to AWDU’s UCLA slate.
1. AWDU’s UCLA slate has more people of color than USEJ UCLA. Each person of color on the AWDU slate is a woman of color. One is an international student. I don’t think this is a numbers game and that people should choose who to vote for by these kinds of counts, but if we are going to count let’s at least make sure we can count to “three” accurately. If you really ask me, neither slate is as representative of the campus or broader LA community as they ought to be, but if one slate is holier than the other on this issue of how representative candidates really are, it is certainly not USEJ. From my knowledge both slates tried their best to recruit from dozens of graduate students with extremely diverse backgrounds, both slates have dozens of vocal supporters from every background, but only USEJ is making really problematic accusations about racism, and only AWDU is composed primarily of activists that have been sacrificing to stop the racist cuts to the UC for the last two years. You may ask at this point, how can they even make such a claim? The answer is that they can make it precisely because we are in the final hours of the election and as long as it gets them the votes now, it won’t matter how true it is. I don’t intend to speak for these women, their running for office speaks more loudly than any little note I could write on facebook, and they address the issue themselves here.
2. AWDU UCLA women of [any] color are not patsies, shills, or under the control of white-racist puppet masters. They are, in fact, activists or teachers with a proven track record in the struggle. The blanket accusation “AWDU is racist” that has been going around is an insult, and if not to these women because I do not intend to be insulted on their behalf, than to the intelligence of we who are must come to believe this if we accept the idea that AWDU is fundamentally a white racist organization. Having a few people of color on your side doesn’t absolve you from the possibility of racism, but these specific women aren’t puppets.
3. These women have helped to build AWDU UCLA from the ground up, giving their time and labor for free. When one considers AWDU members who are not candidates, the characterization of AWDU as “white racists” is even more problematic. Let me be extremely specific. AWDU UCLA has been in large part organized by Elise Youn, a bi-racial woman and tireless activist who has been shouldering much of the political burden for all of us on this campus. Elise’s democratic sensibilities, modesty, and discomfort in thinking of herself in ascribed terms prevents her from pointing out her own leadership and struggles against racism for the purposes of a campaign, though she could do so powerfully. I know from conversation that she would much rather talk about what she thinks the real difference between AWDU and USEJ is: political philosophy and strategy. This description of Elise and her role is all by way of making clear how totally inappropriate it is to accuse the organization that these women help to build, own, and inhabit of being “white” and “racist.” That accusation when without merit exploits the historic student struggles against racism, the history that makes such an accusation resonate so strongly with students at UCLA, in order to render the labor of women of color invisible. I watched today as one of these AWDU women stood ten feet away from the USEJ opponents who were profiling and flagging down students of color to tell them to vote against the “white racist” slate, as if she didn’t exist at all. Is the language of resistance against racist oppression meant to be used this way?
4. Over decades of struggle students of color and their allies at UCLA have established networks and a culture of communication that allows us to very rapidly distribute information about matters pertinent to the struggle. The most recent example of the power and efficiency of this network and culture (coupled of course with new technology) was Alexandra Wallace’s tirade. Within an hour or two of her video hitting facebook, there was a group of five-thousand students angrily decrying her statements and within four hours multiple actions were being planned and official organizational statements were being drafted. This culture and network of communication is also of course how I came to hear half a dozen times in the course of a couple of hours from friends, “I heard AWDU is racist.” It is clear to me that the goal of the accusation is precisely to tap into these networks with a sexy new story about racism at UCLA, and in doing so, win over (they hope) a large segment of students by tying this vote to the every day and historic struggles of students of color. USEJ is pre-writing the history of this election as the story of how they heroically protected the gains of almost fifty years of struggle at UCLA against white racists trying to take over the union, and they think they can do this very simply by saying “they’re white racists.” Make no mistake, if there is real racism, it should be dealt with severely, but this blanket accusation, so problematic given who it is leveled at at UCLA, is another cynical move on the part of USEJ to avoid the real issue: whether or not the union should be centrally managed by professional union staff, or run democratically. Though, given their belief that democracy is dangerous, it is not surprising they are avoiding the actual disagreement between the slates. USEJ even sent out an email sent out last night selectively to “scientists” that described how AWDU was anti-scientist and implied AWDU is too radical. The USEJ message and description of AWDU changes to suit the audience.
What I would like to finally make clear is that this isn’t about convincing you or your friends to vote AWDU. This is about correcting what I see is a perversion of our communication networks and preventing a deformed history from being written. This is of course the same network I am tapping into by tagging you all. I hope you will forgive me, but please consider it what it is: a counter-intervention against an exploitation of this network. It is an attempt to reverse the poisoning of the well. As far as voting is concerned, now that we’re on the subject, given the relative similarity of the slates as far as “the numbers” go, and the fact that it’s quite possible for anybody to be a traitor to their true interests or the interest of their people, but more than that the fact that the actual specific individuals in question here on both sides have proven track records, folks who put the question of race and social movement centrally should ask themselves which model of power is more compatible with resistance and liberation. I think this can be argued either way but you can probably guess where I stand.
We are women of color student workers who have fought to democratize our union with the AWDU slate, and we are pissed.
We are pissed because before the first day of the UAW election, during the fifth month of expending effort and labor to democratize our union, we, along with activists we work with, have been accused of being “white racists” by the opposing USEJ slate. In this accusation, USEJ ignores us, distorts us as active women of color in a movement for democracy, justice, and access. This is an outrageous and offensive fabrication.
If the USEJ truly are for diversity, why can they not acknowledge our labor and importance as women of color in this movement for democratization and access? They choose not to see the countless hours we put into creating a democratic union, to walking through buildings organizing bottom-up member involvement, to flyering, participating in teach-ins, organizing our departments, and to promoting social justice that requires a union that can fight for our communities – proactively and democratically. They choose to make invisible our labor, our effort, our passion, our battle.
Maybe for USEJ we are de facto “white” because we are just dumb women followers of white supremacists without knowing it. They insult our intelligence and autonomy when they choose not to respect our role in spearheading this movement, in championing a public education system for all, in fighting for our livelihoods and our futures. We did not expect USEJ to turn our daily struggle as women academic workers against us. We did not expect USEJ to look past the six women on our slate, three of us of minority ethnicity, as real activists in the movement. We did not expect to be rendered invisible and voiceless when we stand up for ourselves as women of color in a movement for democracy.
We are proud to be women, to be Latina, to be Asian, to be biracial in this movement for democracy in our union. We are proud to have a woman international student among us. And this is where we get our convictions that the union must be democratized, our voices must be heard from the campus level, and academic workers of all backgrounds must be allowed to participate in making decisions in the fight for public education in our own union and in the university.
Yuting Huang, Elise Youn, Renee Hudson, and Mindy Chen
Ph.D. Students and TAs
UCLA Academic Workers for a Democratic Union