Over the Labor Day weekend, Van Jones, a member of the hip-hop generation and special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, tendered his resignation, and it was accepted by the Obama administration. I will be the first to say that I never found Van Jones to be a radical, a Black Nationalist or a communist as Fox News suggested.
Although I appreciate his book The Green Collar Economy, I never believed that a green economy would save working people. I felt that the book gave solutions on how to save the current capitalist system. And fundamentally that presents a problem, as many in this country are suffering because of capitalism and its failures.
No matter my political differences with Jones, I will never discount his work, energy, community organizing skills and progressive tendencies, which have reconnected urban youth with Mother Earth and have inspired many in my generation to create space in the predominately white liberal “green” movement.
And as the former Green Party vice-presidential candidate who campaigned against the Obama administration, I am not surprised that Jones turned out to be a high-profile casualty of an administration that started at the center and continues to move to the right.
But what has surprised me is that people are not calling out the Obama administration for its role in the matter. Do not be fooled. There is no doubt that the Obama administration knew about Jones’ so-called “radical” past. I am not willing to believe that they never did a Google search on Jones or looked at his past comments, speeches or actions.
By accepting Jones’ resignation, the Obama administration essentially gave a victory to the very racist Glenn Beck and the most vile “news” station in modern time. By accepting Jones’ resignation, they have put a target on all of us who would be deemed “activists” or “radicals.” Accepting Jones’ resignation is a slap in the face to all of us.
So for those who voted for Obama, when will you let him know that you will not accept Van Jones as a casualty of an administration capitulating to the right?
And for those who are still not convinced, Dead Prez said it best:
“Everywhere we go, everyday on TV, they be talking about who you gonna vote for,
Got a Black man running but I wonder if he get in, who he gonna open up the door for
I don’t want to discourage my folks I believe in hope I just want us to want more
Politics is a game, how they keep us contained, there’s gotta be more that we can hope for
democrats and republicans just two sides of the same coin, either way it’s still white power, it’s the same system just changed form,
You wanna vote, please do, cast your ballot, let your voice be heard
But what I do wanna say is after the election you’ll see, mark my word
It’s Politricks time again.”
Where do we go from here?
First, I caution people, do not make Jones into a martyr. I am urging people to go back to the grassroots, go back to the local community to organize and support progressives and third-party candidates in local elections.
Next, we need to support our progressive media. Malkia Cyril, the Executive Director of The Center for Media Justice says, “We need to create an echo chamber of progressive media to counter the echo created by the right.”
And finally, we need to learn from this experience. The Van Jones takedown has revealed our own frustrations and inability to build and sustain a powerful multi-faceted, multi-racial movement.
I hope that people take one lesson that I learned from Van Jones’ book: Stop fighting against something and start fighting for something.
Maybe our fighting for something began Labor Day Weekend. If that is the case, we should all thank Van Jones for leaving the manicured green lawns of the White House.
Rosa Alicia Clemente is a community organizer, hip-hop activist, journalist and the Green Party 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate. Rosa resides with her husband and daughter in the South Bronx and is currently on her speaking tour, “It’s Bigger than Black and White,” and is writing her first book, When a Puerto Rican Woman Ran for Vice-President and Nobody Knew Her Name. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org