The current debates within progressive circles about the importance of “winning over” the white working class often fail to directly address the need for honest conversations about race, racism and xenophobia. It is tempting for many political strategists and funders to think that we can find and fund a short cut—better candidates, better field canvassing, better television ads, better framing etc... And, that these solutions will influence white, working class voters to (re)align with progressive candidates and causes.
These interventions are doomed from the start because they often focus on how to influence short-term behavior (voting) and fail to engage people in the honest conversations about how the race, racism, and xenophobia are being used to scapegoat their neighbors and divide them from other working-class communities.
This webinar featured Tarso Luis Ramos of Political Research Associates in a conversation with Mark Schultz from the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota and Rhonda Perry of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. After an overview of xenophobic, white nationalist, and “alt-right” groups in the U.S., the speakers discussed successful models for organizing thousands of rural, white, working-class community members using explicit conversations about race and racism.
Hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock. Co-sponsored by Ceres Trust and Neighborhood Funders Group.
- Tarso Luís Ramos is the Executive Director of Political Research Associates (PRA), a social justice think-tank that studies the entire spectrum of the U.S. right. Tarso is a nationally recognized political strategist, who uses his expertise to help progressives understand the political context in which they operate.
- Rhonda Perry is a livestock and grain farmer in Howard County, MO, and has been the Program Director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC) for 26 years. MRCC is a statewide farm and rural membership organization that is leading the fight to address social and economic justice in rural America through democratic engagement and advocacy. Through MRCC, thousands of rural Missourians are empowered by increased opportunities to participate in public policy formation and to advocate for a more just and democratic society.
- Mark Schultz is the Executive Director of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) in Minnesota. LSP is one of the country’s leading sustainable agriculture organizations, with a proven track record in community organizing, policy change, farm research, and promoting local democracy. Over their 30-year history, LSP has helped stop proposed corporate-backed factory farms influenced federal farm policy, won multiple state investments in sustainable family farming, and helped stop all major frac sand mining in Southeast Minnesota.
Below are selected resources for this webinar. This is not a comprehensive review, so we welcome additional resources. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Immigration and the New Racial Diversity in Rural America — Daniel T. Lichter, Cornell University, March 2012
- The Impact of the Economic Downturn, Immigrants, and Political Representation on White Supremacist Group Organization in the United States — Stacia Gilliard-Matthews, Rutgers University, November 2012
- There’s a big part of rural America that everyone’s ignoring" — The Washington Post, March 2017
- "Revenge of the rural voter" — Politico, November 2016
"It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class" — The Washington Post, June 2017
- "Is Rural America Philanthropy's Final Frontier?" — National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), November 2015
- "Rural Foundations’ Ideas for Increasing Rural Philanthropy" — Nonprofit Quarterly, September 2015
- "The Trouble with Rural: Philanthropic Giving to U.S. Rural Areas Disproportionately Low" — NCRP, September 2015