Boycott and Support ACORN
Anna Marie Smith
The states like Louisiana that are not just passing anti-gay laws but are actually changing their constitutions to enshrine homophobic exclusion deserve a strong response, and the APSA ought to stand up and say no to such bigotry and to injustice of all kinds.
In addition, the APSA annual meeting draws such a large number of participants that the unlikely event actually does become a real possibility. We really do have to take the medical and legal needs of our lesbian and gay members into account.
For these reasons, I support the boycott of the New Orleans APSA meeting. At the same time, this is a boycott that will have an impact on a very special city. Post-Katrina, New Orleans is in desperate need of sound capital investment. It also needs sound democratic leadership, one that would treat the needs of the low income residents, rather than the demands for corporate development, as its first priority.
I am not convinced by the claims that our boycott would cause deep harms for the low-income residents and their displaced counterparts who are still trying to return to the area. Have we really established a reliable economic model that would capture how the capital generated by an APSA meeting would actually assist those most in need, as opposed to the transnational corporations in the hotel industry and the greedy developers who are displacing the disempowered? The abstract allegations being made by the opponents of the boycott relating to lost business opportunities need to be supported by reliable data, especially given the accounts (journalistic, I admit) I have read about the direction redevelopment is taking in the area.
In any event, I am quite skeptical that the situation needs to be constructed as one of "competing goods." We can find solutions that are both principled in their anti-homophobic stance and generous in their solidarity with the working class and the poor of the city, among whom African Americans and Latino/as are highly overrepresented.
I am a member of ACORN, and over several years, I have been very impressed by its community organizing efforts with low income working families. I also note that ACORN describes itself as the only organization of African-Americans that testified on behalf of the rights of gay people in the workplace (during the hearings on HB317 (2005) in the Louisiana legislature, a bill that would have established enhanced anti-discrimination protections, but was ultimately defeated.) I have contacted ACORN’s leadership, and although the organization is not itself taking a stand on our boycott, national and local leaders would eagerly accept our donations. Our donations would offer some compensation, materially and symbolically, for the loss of our business, and I think they would go directly to the place, namely community organizing, where they would contribute best to social justice.
I therefore urge my fellow members of the APSA to do two things:
1) Boycott the New Orleans meeting, and
2) Send a generous donation to ACORN. I recommend that we each send a donation of at least $200, with lesser sums for newly hired assistants ($100) and graduate students ($50).
Unfortunately, I am not confident enough, given my present knowledge, in the city and state leadership to think that we ought to cooperate with them. Instead of replacing the lost tax revenues, I think we should donate funds to ACORN to enhance their direct organizing efforts on the ground to empower the low-income families of New Orleans.
Of course I welcome further debate on these matters. But I do think the situation becomes badly constructed if one is asked to be either pro-gay or pro-working class New Orleans. This is a false antithesis, and an example of the sort of unnecessarily divisive thinking that has been criticized thoroughly by progressive theorists working in the fields of feminist, anti-racist, and gay rights politics for years.