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Perspective of a Black Woman Running on the Green Ticket
by Donna J. Warren
I recall the exact moment of my political conversion from Democrat to Green.
It was 1999 and I was attending a meeting of the South-Central Coalition at the Junipero Serra Library on 46th and Main. Not many white people come into South Central unless they’re homeless, so I was surprised to see “Tall Jack” stride into the library with Sabina Virgo. I had worked with Sabina in the “Crack the CIA Coalition.” “Tall Jack” turned out to be Jack Michon, an Emmy-winning producer of the “Taxi” TV show. Affable and friendly, Jack sat through the meeting and, when his time came to speak, told us of the Green Party that espoused reparations, feminism, the environment, anti-death penalty—and I thought, ”Oh my God, I’m a Green!”
Three years later, I was Peter Camejo’s running mate in a gubernatorial race that featured the Green Party’s first full slate of candidates. An auditor by trade, I was the first African-American woman to run for the office of Lt. Governor in California. I ran to convince more blacks that their political future lies not with clueless Republicans or complacent Democrats, but with a third party.
The Green Party’s “10 key values” are preferable to the pro-war platform of the Republicans or the Democrats. Look at the Green Party value for social justice and equal opportunity—it condemns prisons and the “Three Strikes Law.”
… I was not allowed to read the top-level book …
But in America’s racist tradition, are Greens racists and if so, why should blacks join the Green Party? Greens are racist but what do you expect when you deal with white people in America?
There are different levels of white American racism. The question is, where does your racism lie?
The most pervasive racists in America are the active racists. Their activities ensure that people of color, especially black people, stay at the bottom of society. This group includes Confederates, white supremacists, the right wing, Bush & Company including front men Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice, and others.
As a seven year old child, under the tutelage of the good sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet, I was not allowed to read the top-level book because I, a black child, was inferior to the white children. Paradoxically, three years later when white flight had left just one white child at Holy Cross Grammar School in South Central, I, a lighter skinned Negro, was praised as being superior. Compared to white children, I was inferior, but compared to darker skinned blacks, I was superior.
Even at 17, graduating with the top 10 of my class, I was not counseled for college because, as Mother Superior told me, “You’re not expected to go to college. You should find yourself a good husband.”
Often I’m referred to as the woman who broke open the doors of the Green Party to the black community. Because of me, Peter Camejo says, African-Americans became the racial group delivering the largest vote for the Green Party in the California recall election. Also, Peter says I’m the incentive for Aimee Allison’s run for Oakland City Council and Elaine Brown’s (a famous Black Panther) run for Mayor of Brunswick, GA.
The best of white people are racist if you get down to the level where their racism shows. For rednecks, the level is at the top; for progressives who want to believe, it’s farther down. For some white people like Tim Wise and Ceil Sorensen (that grand lady), they know racism but confronted it and refuse to participate in it.
Recently, I confronted famed Los Angeles progressive ex-priest Blasé Bonpane as he told Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan that “what you accomplished is even greater than she (Rosa Parks) accomplished.” Pure American racism! Mrs. Sheehan’s efforts to stop the war in Iraq, while admirable, are not more significant than Mrs. Parks’ quiet resolve which liberated millions of Americans and unraveled American apartheid and sexist systems. and sexist systems.
We know Republicans regained power in the late 20th century in part because many whites deserted the Democratic Party when it backed racial integration and civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities.
We know that the Democrats play from the Republican political playbook by delivering Republican-themed family values while sacrificing core, black constituents in a naked grab for white middle-class votes.
African Americans became the racial group delivering the largest vote for the Green Party in the California recall election.
So why should blacks join the Green Party that they know will be full of white racists? Because every party in America is full of white racists but it’s not the racists we’re joining but the party and what it stands for. And in California, there is no other party than the Green Party for blacks if for only one reason—Peter Miguel Camejo. In 2006 I will again be Peter Camejo’s running mate. Why? Because:
- The pro-peace view is now a majority in California.
- The Senate race between pro-war Dianne Feinstein and a pro-war Republican will open the door for a massive pro-peace vote.
- The Green Party is stronger then ever. After the breakthrough in 2003 with Camejo’s televised debates and Matt Gonzalez’s 47% mayoralty vote in San Francisco, sympathy for us is wide spread.
- The Bush administration’s crimes are catching up to it.
- More and more soldiers are refusing to fight and the military recruiters cannot meet their quotas. Fifty-nine 59% of the American people want to bring the troops home.
- Katrina’s devastation in New Orleans and the Bush administration’s inept and racist response have enraged millions of Americans of all races.
- The Democrats keep voting for the Republican agenda.
- The Democrats refuse to demand Bush’s impeachment on high crimes and misdemeanors for murder by design in Iraq and murder by neglect in New Orleans.
- The Democrats have the power, but not the convictions.
We can build a mass political movement in the streets and at the ballot box.
In 2006 the Green Party will run a slate of pro-peace candidates for all statewide offices in California, including Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Controller, Insurance Commissioner and State Superintendent of Schools. We can build a mass political movement in the streets and at the ballot box.
We’re proposing a campaign integrally linked to living social movements and our voting base. It will be a campaign that helps build movements as it turns the Green Party into the electoral expression of mass social struggles.
Large numbers of people are voting for us and even registering Green but have no organizational relationship or contact with us.
I know there’s a race and class divide. I know racism firmly clutches the heart of the Green Party but then, where in America hasn’t racism spread its evil roots and choked our hopes and dreams of a better world for all? Racism in the green party or not, a better world is possible with the Greens even if we have to “turn the Green Party Black.”
Donna Jo Warren is a native of South Central Los Angeles and a former Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor of California (www.donnawarren.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[22 feb 06]