I attended my first Netroots Nation this year. It was awesome, and I intend to attend future conferences when it makes sense for me. So it is with heightened interest that I consider the announcement by Markos Moulitsas that Daily Kos will boycott next year’s conference over the selection of Phoenix as a host city, given that the SB 1070 racial profiling law is still in effect.
I come to this debate from an interesting perspective; I think where I shake out now is supporting people and organizations deciding whether next year’s conference is right for them. I do have concerns about whether this conference will be safe for activists and bloggers who may be undocumented (or racially profiled regardless) and also about the effect their lack of participation may have on the conference as a whole. One of the most important moments of this year’s conference, in my opinion, was a delegation of Dreamers and other immigrant rights activists getting escorted out of the ballroom for shouting “Stop deporting our families” during Vice President Joe Biden’s address. Many sat silent, probably unsure how to react. Ultimately the vice president told the attendees they should applaud, so most did. That learning moment might not be possible in Arizona. I am actively seeking additional opinions and perspectives that might cause my thinking to shift.
But I also want to add a different concern to the list Moulitsas put together of the three basic arguments for supporting the decision to hold next year’s conference in Arizona, because a gaping one is missing. Who gets hurt the most by a boycott?
The low-wage service workers — housekeepers, janitors, dishwashers — who are largely immigrant and often dependent on tips from travelers to make ends meet. At least, that’s what my late mentor Olga Vives argued to me.
A few years ago, just months after the passage of SB 1070, Olga was living with Stage IV lung cancer in Scottsdale. A small group of friends including myself had planned a visit to see her. With regards to Arizona, our friendship circles tossed around the “boycott” word a real whole lot. Olga was upfront. She said, if you don’t want to come see me, I understand. (I would be remiss to not mention that Olga was undocumented for much of her life and was, among other things, a fierce activist for immigrant rights, helping to cofound the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights.)
And it was an interesting dilemma for me, because but for the situation of my mentor and dear friend dying of cancer I would not have gone to Arizona. But, I wanted to see her before she died. So I went.
I really wonder what she would have made of the Daily Kos/Netroots Nation situation. Chalk that up to one more conversation I wish we could have.