DATE: JANUARY 12, 1993
FROM: NIKKI CRAFT
REGARDING VERNON MCCLEAN'S
MEMORANDUM WRITTEN TO NOMAS COUNCIL MEMBERS ENTITLED "MY
DECISION ON ARIZONA".
(Reprinted from Activist
In the last two weeks
I have learned that in early 1991 Vernon McClean (Chair
of the [so-called NOMAS Committee on Eliminating Racism
taskforce) wrote a memo (attached here) to NOMAS Council
Members regarding his decision to support the Arizona boycott
by not attending the NOMAS conference that was held in
Tucson. In the memo Vernon agreed with John Stoltenberg's
political analysis of the Arizona boycott "wholeheartedly."
In the memo Vernon
documented that "one member of the Council said that [Vernon] had waited
too long to let NOMAS know that [he] would not attend." Also Vernon was
told that if he "did not attend the Arizona meeting, it would place NOMAS
in an embarrassing position." Read that last sentence again. It's important.
When I began making
phone calls about this memo I quickly learned that it was submitted to Brother and
that it was not published. What did appear in the next issue of Brother was
a general piece written and submitted by Vernon before NOMAS decided to
boycott the Tucson boycott. Vernon's published piece, since it was written before
the boycott, didn't even mention Tucson. It was such a glaring omission that
Vernon was later challenged for it by a white man who was unaware of what had
happened to him behind the scenes.
That issue of Brother included
a barrage of responses to John Stoltenberg's statement (the one that Vernon went
on record agreeing with in his unpublished memo). Bob Brannon and Phyllis Frank's
co-authored writing on the subject sounded more like they had become representative
for the Chamber of Commerce when they took it upon themselves to pump up the
image of Tucson and extensively research why it was practically a person's civic
duty to invest their dollars into Arizona's economy. To NOMAS, crossing the Arizona
state line became an honorable endeavor where the offender, unlike most any "scab" crossing
a picket line, was being offered spiritual safety and peer acceptance rather
than "moralistic" political analysis. When I recently saw Jack Nicholson
on Entertainment Tonight calling the Colorado Boycott "rubbish" unfortunately
I thought of Bob.
played hard ball when he responded to John. Sam named the strategy of pulling
football games out of Arizona by the NFL (if the NFL could figure out there was
a boycott it's hard to know why NOMAS didn't have a clue) as "strong arm
tactics". (Hell hath no fury like a Sensitive New Age Guy deprived of his
Sunday Football game.) Sam went on to say: "I am somewhat saddened by the
fact that key members of our Leadership Collective have chosen to boycott our
national conference this year, but certainly respect their decisions. I also
feel a rather painful and irritating sting after one of our most eloquent and
influential thinkers has turned his sharp intellect and pen against the very
organization that has given him his largest platform. It's certainly a testament
to John Stoltenberg's ability to find traces of "the enemy" in every
man and every male-dominated organization."
Sam who did print
John's statement on the front page later apologized (according to several people)
for not printing Vernon's memorandum at all stating that when he received it
that he had not realized the submission had been intended for publication in Brother?
Five people wrote rebuttals to John's statement in the same issue. There was
obviously a concentrated effort to seek these articles out. Why did no one think
to ask Vernon McClean for CER's position on the boycott for publication in that
same issue? Also, why wasn't Vernon's memo printed in the next issue of Brother?
Had Vernon's memo
not been excluded from that issue of Brother it would have been far more
difficult for Bob Brannon (and others) to smear and
marginalize John Stoltenberg for doing nothing more than espousing (in
a reasoned, polite article) the alleged anti-racist principles of the organization.
By not printing it they marginalized Vernon too. But more than that, if Vernon's
article had appeared it would have looked absurd for these WASP males to be claiming
that black people weren't supporting the boycott. And those that shut Vernon
up well knew that, too. The silencing of the Chair of the Committee on Eliminating
Racism (!) - no matter how deliberately or perhaps inadvertently it may have
happened - on the topic of Tucson is politically despicable.
In Bob Brannon's
response to John Stoltenberg (passed out in Tucson) subtitled: "A response
to John's Incorrect Information" he said, "If John had actually LISTENED
TO PEOPLE OF COLOR [Bob's emphasis] who are working for the King Holiday
rather than deciding from a continent away on the "morally" right thing
for him (and everyone else) to do, much of this painful damage would have been
avoided." What might have happened if NOMAS had listen to the few black
men working in its own organization?
NOMAS council arrogantly
and assumptively expected Vernon to work in direct conflict with his own best
political interest. It's problematic don't you think when a bunch of white men,
who have erected a facade organization that rewards its officers with conferences
and long, fancy titles (often for doing little or nothing) - and that long ago
ditched whatever political values it may have ever had in exchange for political
power maneuvers of the worst kind - it's problematic don't you think when they
work to get men of color to serve their interests so they can feel "safe" and
not lose money or be inconvenienced by moving their conference to another location?
The established pattern
of defensive responses of the current NOMAS Chair committee, and their accusations
of "intimidation," as if they are being attacked anytime anyone demands
accountability, is ironic since it appears to be them (not just in this instance,
either) using the strong arm tactics to stifle political dissent.
Those in NOMAS who
were aware of these events (the memo and the failure of Brother to print
it) and who allowed the organization to continue to operate without a confrontation
are the true embarrassment. They do not deserve our respect. Those who were responsible
(yes, there should be an inquiry) for attempting to coopt Vernon McClean's
and CER's desperately needed political agenda owe them an apology.
NOMAS also owes its
members and the political community a detailed explanation about this memorandum,
as well as an apology for their insidious response to it (and the boycott) and
for the pressure they placed on Vernon to toe a line in favor of a racist, protect-the-good-ol'-boys,
reactionary politic, too. It should not have to be the task of Vernon McClean
to make this organization "comfortable" about its racism - or its apathy.
Consistency Integrity & Accountability
Speaking of embarrassing
positions . . . To give credibility to such a - as they
say - dysfunctional organization is complicity. So that
the good men - and there are some - who have remained in
this organization had better either get it walking its
talk or they better walk themselves because any future
alliance with The National Organization for Morally Amnesiac Self-involvement
will be an embarrassment to those with scruples who remain,
unless these issues are sufficiently resolved. There are
those of us who are going to see to that.
No more sweet
talk. We want action! Call it intimidation if you like. Or, if you care to
employ a more truly pro-feminist/anti-racist interpretation, with just a litte
dash of analysis about power imbalances, then you might want to think of it more
as a demand for political consistency, integrity, and accountability.
Make no mistake about
it. You guys will be deciding the future of your organization in San Francisco