Colin Kaepernick and other National Football League players are doing what Saul Alinsky, founder of the Industrial Areas Foundation, often advised: They are engaging in public action and achieving the first goal of any action—generating reactions. The most important and fundamental reaction is recognition: See us. Hear us. And once you’ve done that, recognize our cause.
The problem is that they are not taking the next step, which is to get into a public relationship so that a real exchange of views can occur and meaningful change can take place. By “public relationship,” I don’t mean a warm and fuzzy embrace; I mean a thorny, knotty, often tension-filled relationship.
Both on the left and the right, this step has been forgotten, rejected or just plain missed. Both extremes act not to get into relationship with others who don’t agree with them, but to get their own narrow political bases to react and respond. Today liberals applaud the players and enjoy the discomfort of moderates and conservatives, while conservatives applaud each Trump tweet because it drives progressives to distraction.
As Alinsky wrote: “There are rules for radicals who want to change their world; there are certain central concepts of action in human politics that operate regardless of the scene or the time. To know these is basic to a pragmatic attack on the system. These rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one.”
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