July 19, 2019

Do America’s Socialists Have a Race Problem?

“On an afternoon in July, nearly 200 people packed into the ballroom of a local community center in northern Oakland for a general meeting of the East Bay chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). As they settled into folded chairs on the room’s faded wooden floors, the group ran through the week’s agenda, which included votes on the establishment of a code of conduct, a resolution to meet monthly instead of once every two months, and a proposal to support Cat Brooks, a black activist running for Oakland mayor.

Three miles away at the Marriott City Center, Brooks was working events at the California Democratic Caucus. Brooks, a co-founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project, which provides support to communities of color in response to police violence, had been invited to speak on a panel defending Prop 10, a ballot measure that sought to repeal a 1995 law restricting rent control in Oakland and other cities in California. At the end of the event, Brooks checked her phone and found a stream of texts from people at the DSA meeting. The messages read: “You need to get here right now.”

Minutes later, Brooks stormed into the ballroom. A proposal to “prioritize” two other endorsements—for Prop 10 and a candidate for California’s state assembly—had snowballed into a referendum on Brooks herself, with critics saying she was too compromised to receive the DSA’s backing. The group’s support shouldn’t be given to people who are “a dime a dozen,” Brooks remembered one man saying. Like many of her rivals, she had pledged to expand affordable housing and reduce Oakland’s growing homeless population. Notably, she had insisted on cutting the city’s police budget in half.”

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