In covering blacklisting within the union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and specifically within the Human Rights Committee, which has been documented within this blog and then later in the blog of Café Intifada, I initially chose to use pseudonyms in quoting or discussing the actions of those with whom I did not agree. (In the Café Intifada blog, I used initials.) I can’t do that anymore, and listed at the foot of this post, are the real names of the public figures who had important roles in these events.
At the time I felt that while it was important to document what was happening in the Union, with teachers, activists on the issue of human rights, disability rights; that the names of individuals was more sensitive. I was still under the illusion that dialogue could, in this situation allow for transformation and that differences could be ironed out with further discussion. But many of my opponents have influential positions and public images that they have continued to use to wage a campaign of defamation and character assassination against me, well beyond the confines of the Committee, or even the Union hall, with no consequence to their own reputation, and because of their prestige, they have credibility. As long as the words and actions, are not attributed to them, they can hide behind their own justifications and misrepresentations, which they have continued to do.
Their renown, without any evidence to the contrary, gives credence to their campaign, which has been ruthless and relentless. While I don’t doubt that many of their supporters share their hostile indifference to disability or Palestinian rights, I hope that others will be horrified to know the depravity of their attacks and the history of dishonesty and abuse. I continue to endure humiliating and marginalizing responses to even the most passive appearances within the Union hall or at progressive events, having discontinued activity within the Committee since October of 2006. Often phone calls and emails go unanswered, old allies, also close to these detractors, took themselves off of the Café Intifada listserve without context. I am constantly barraged with strange accusations. (For example: that I had falsely sent out Don White’s notice regarding the situation at UTLA in the BDS uproar, or I had fooled both he and Andy into positions that they would not have taken without my guile and manipulations.—as if these two men couldn’t think for themselves on such a vital issue!)
I was finally blacklisted within the Union, as a result of an unholy alliance among members of the HRC, who are also some of L.A.’s most respected activists, the “progressive” leadership of UTLA and the very powerful Zionist establishment.
What became clear to both Andy and myself, was that disability had been only the pretext for an attempt to wrestle power within the committee and that the fallout, including capitulation to the Jewish Zionist establishment over the BDS controversy, necessitated these prominent activists continue their lies and accusations beyond the Union hall into the larger progressive community, labor community and the left. Additionally, the hatred and bitter disregard for disability rights, that would allow these activists to use that bigotry as a means to an end, also provided motivation for what has continued to be a campaign to limit my expression and participation in the larger movement.
It’s not about policy, politics or program. Otherwise we could simply live and let live. Our paths don’t cross that often, and even when they do, they could extend to me the same courtesy they have had the gaul to demand of me. (Nod, smile, move on.) I do think it’s about power, initially within the Committee structure, in some case, ego; in others, that I dared to write about what happened to me, even not naming names.
These bullies are so effective, one wonders what other lives have been damaged. How dare I speak up!
At one point, Greg Sotir brought copies of my writings to the HRC and demanded that the Committee shut down my blog!!!! I think, in the case of what happened in Berlin, it’s about power. It’s the school girl thrill of being able to manipulate and instigate hostility and ostracism while taking no action of one’s own. Rosemary Lee has behind the scenes, been campaigning against me for years, insisting that I don’t have a disability, that I only use it as a pretext to get attention, inspiring others to openly ostracize me, forcing or attempting to force divisions between me and anyone close to me. The problem with gossip is that it never bears scrutiny of the light of day. Those who go along, take the heat for their public expression of the silent provocation, or, with the power of numbers– the mob mentality of the bullies have the justification of majority. (We tell the target of bullies, to ignore, when in reality it is not possible to ignore those who seek one out– it is the bully that should be given that directive.) The others, who might even disagree with the perpetrator, do so in one on one conversation, not understanding that beyond that “private” conversation, is a very public and essentially political campaign. There are people who reportedly stood up to Rosemary, but only in the intimate context of the accusation.
We say “the personal is political” but this entire mess is a failure to really understand how personal the political really is. Illness is very personal. An attack on one’s disability is an attack on her body, on its statement, presence and place in the world. Gossip, though apparently private; the ancient preserve of ladylike discourse; the subtle current under the apparently calm sea, has always been political. It speaks volumes to the role or women. Beyond that, it provides obscurity for a very public agenda. Repeated over and over again, privacy is only an illusion; the shear volume, over time, distance and the number of people involved. Whatever the reason for this campaign: hatred of disability, hatred of me, power within the Union around conference planning, resentment of attention being offered to assist access, we’ll never know. We’ll never know. That so many went along with it is astounding. That picking on “the cripple” is still acceptable (among teachers!!!) speaks to a larger depravity. Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for the use of bigotry to forward that agenda.
And something must be said about the controversy around Palestine and how it played out in the Union hall. The progressive slate, consisting of activists of several leftist tendencies, including Solidarity, ISO, etc, all anti-Zionist; as well as more “moderate” members of the slate, totally capitulated to Zionist pressure, both from the membership of the union, and from the larger, Jewish Zionist establishment who launched the campaign to shut down a small, open meeting to discuss (discuss!!!) boycott, sanctions and divestiture of Israeli apartheid. Gossip became extremely essential in explaining this capitulation, especially from the clique within the HRC, who used this nexus of disdain, the two step children of human rights activism: Palestinian and Disability Human Rights, to further their own personal political agenda. To cover their duplicity, they told their friends within the L.A. left they had been mislead either by me and Andy (Griggs) or by the SDS/MDS, or they didn’t understand the issue, or the HRC never really took a position on the matter, and a few people, acting on their own, plummeted the entire Committee and Union into this controversy. To their more moderate friends, mostly those within the Union, they could parrot the point of view asserted by the Jewish Zionist establishment; that any support of Palestinian human rights –even non-violent actions, such as boycotts, sanctions and divestiture was the work of a few extremists who had steered the committee away from a real human rights agenda, supporting terrorism and violence, had failed to back up the leadership of the Union (!) had a one issue agenda, were divisive during contract negotiations (Unions are always involved in contract negotiations.)
What followed over a period of several years, were a series of hate mail, anonymous phone calls, death threats and an extensive police investigation based on a “tip” to a hotline, resulting in the serving of a search warrant at gun point, the presence of a news crew, the seizure of our property and an extensive 3 month investigation that found no NO NO NO NO evidence of criminality. Despite these very real dangers, these individuals continued their personal campaign, making it clear that the simplest appearance by me, at the funeral of a close friend or simply as Andy’s partner at a Union breakfast, would subject me to continued harassment, marginalization and humiliation. They have even taken to sending (traceable) anonymous emails to me, knowing that I have been subjected to hate mail and death threats. (That was the final straw!)
I don’t know what will come of finally exposing these names to the light of day, of holding these prestigious activists accountable for their actions. It may bring on more wrath, though I doubt the situation could get much worse for me, in terms of what has already been dished out, in terms of the damage that has already been done. Their skill and lack of remorse assures that there are other bodies (so to speak) and I hope that by speaking out we can begin a dialogue on solidarity, revolutionary discipline, human rights and group process.
I do hope that this will illuminate for people that they need to speak against this stealthy, relentless campaign. It hasn’t been just one statement or a few small opinions. It has been an ugly operation, conducted over the course of over 4 years, utilizing commonly held hostilities towards people with disabilities, which regardless of anything I may or may not have done, or may or may not be, is cause alone, for public outcry and denunciation.
IF YOU HEAR SOMEONE MAKING STATEMENTS THAT ARE ROOTED IN BIGOTRY, SPEAK UP. LET THEM AND THOSE AROUND THEM KNOW THAT THESE ATTITUDES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. IF IT IS PART OF A LARGER CAMPAIGN, OR THEY HOLD SIGNIFICANT POSITION AND PRESTIGE, SPEAK UP PUBLICLY. MAKE THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE DAMAGE THEY DO, FOR WHILE YOU MIGHT CHOOSE TO DISREGARD THEIR ALLEGATIONS, THERE ARE MANY THAT DON’T, AS EVIDENCED BY THE FOLLOWERS THESE ACCUSATIONS ATTRACTED. THIS SEEMINGLY INNOCENT, CHILDISH GOSSIP IS PART OF A LARGER BODY POLITIC, HAS REAL CONSEQUENCES, LIMITS REAL ACTIVISM, ISOLATES, MARGINALIZES AND DESTROYS.
The fact is, there has been no negative social consequence for their behavior.
We who fight for social justice are up against a brutal and ruthless machine. There are those among us who are agents of that machine, though with the complexity of the human animal, determining motives can be quite difficult. When we let our petty differences, egos, status and pride rule our priorities, people will get very hurt. As one Iranian friend of mine stated; “In a time of extreme repression, this is the behavior that gets people killed.” These actions lack collective vision and revolutionary discipline.
I do not reveal the identity of these individuals casually, but with the measured reflection of several years. We have a huge battle in front of us, and I want, I need to be a part of it. This gossip has gone on for so long, that my silence lends to my own marginalization and limits my own contribution, as well as the contributions of others whose voices have been similarly stifled.
I’m not asking that these individuals be ostracized or treated as they have treated me. They too have important work to do (though don’t expect me to serve on a committee with them any time soon!) But I do insist that a serious left will be less tolerant of this behavior and will work to draw our circle as wide as is possible, so that we can all bring our skills, our heart, our love and our strengths to the battle, this enormous battle that looms ahead of us.
Peace with Justice,
Within the Human Rights Committee
Gilroy: Greg Sotir, Multimedia Director, Coalition Against Militarism in the Schools (CAMS) also known as Coalition for Alternatives to Militarism in the Schools, Teacher, LAUSD, UTLA House of Representatives
Ethel or “W” : Arlene Innouye General Coordinator, (CAMS) also known as Coalition for Alternatives to Militarism in the Schools, Speech and Language Therapist, Special Education, Roosevelt High School (speech and language.) LAUSD, UTLA House of Representatives
Mildred: Roselva Ungar, Retired teacher LAUSD, Past Board member, and Vice President Unitarian Univeralists L. A. UTLA House of Representatives.
Camile: Rosemary Lee Chair, Trinational Conference, Retired teacher- LAUSD, UTLA House of Representatives
Clarence: Howard Bransky Director, UTLA Board of Directors 2005-2008, UTLA House of Representatives, Teacher LAUSD
Tammy: Theresa Sams, UTLA House of Representatives
Other key players:
A.J. Duffy, President UTLA
Joel Jordan, Director of Special Projects, UTLA
Josh Pechtalt, UTLA Vice President AFT,
Dan Barnhart, Director, UTLA Board of Directors, UTLA North Area Chair
Steve Seal, UTLA Human Rights Committee Chair. UTLA House of Representatives and later, UTLA Board of Directors
Julie Washington, UTLA Elementary Education Vice President
To follow the entire thread, go to: https://inbedwithfridakahlo.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/anatomy-of-a-blacklist-a-thread-on-two-blogs/