Friday, May 30, 2014

HRC Griffin's Evasiveness on LGBT Organizing in Alabama

All package, no product. Maybe that should be all propaganda, no actual program when it comes to the Human Rights Campaign in general and specifically what ever the heck their agenda is behind their alleged $8.5 million budget for Project One America.

That project focuses on three states in the South - Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi and as per HRC custom, details are few and seriously lacking depth, as I noted earlier this month.

(Griffin appearing recently on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show. Public domain photo.)

A few weeks back, the Alabama news site had their reporter Madison Underwood interview HRC's president Chad Griffin and he was evasive regarding specifics and goals. Griffin said the three states were partially chosen because they've been "dramatically underresourced" in terms of LGBT advocacy, something HRC intends to change. From the interview: Can you tell me a little bit about how y'all are going to do that? 
CG: There's sort of two pieces of this work. Number one, and first and foremost – and it's how we've approached this work across the country –  is changing hearts and minds. You change hearts and minds by building bridges and by having a conversation with business leaders, with faith and religious leaders, with community leaders, and also with elected officials at the community level and at the state level. 

Do Griffin's words serve as a great example of platitudes or what? Underwood wanted specifics and pressed Griffin for them: What does the interaction with the community organizers and the people that they are reaching out to, what does that look like at the local level? What kind of arguments are they making? I guess, what are these people going to be doing?
First, Griffin directed me to a video on their website. 
CG: You know, the research shows that 9 out of 10 Americans say that they know someone in their close family circle, friend circle, or colleagues at work who are LGBT. In the South, that number is smaller. It's not because there are fewer LGBT people, it's because more of them remain in the closet. What we have to do is work to build an environment in which people feel more comfortable coming out of the closet and telling their story.

Not a single measurable marker or goal or anything about what the HRC organizers and their allies will actually do. Undeterred, reporter Underwood presses on trying to get Griffin to give specifics on the time of the new HRC effort: Why now? Why is this the time to make this move into Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama? 
CG: Look, it's work that I've talked about since I started this job. The Human Rights Campaign is also the single largest organizer in the South. One-third of our members are from the South – that's a surprising number to many people. That's over 500,000 HRC members who are from the South, including over 60,000 just in these three states alone. 

What about the recent controversy related to racial and economic diversity in a local group partnering with HRC? One organization that has been promoting y'all's visit to Alabama and the HRC effort here in Alabama is Equality Alabama, which has come under a little bit of fire about the diversity of both the people they are targeting and with their message and the people on their board. How do you make sure that the people that are targeted by y'all– 
CG: I can't speak to that because I'm not aware of exactly what you are referencing there. We do have on-the-ground community partners in all three of those states, including volunteer equality organizations, as you just mentioned.

So much for HRC being aware of local LGBT controversies and concerns. Underwood again ask for specifics: What sort of specific legislative accomplishments would you say are your goals, and how do you feel about your odds in the next three years of getting those done? 
CG: First of all, I'm optimistic. I'm talking to you at the moment from Little Rock, Arkansas. This is a state that most thought would be one of the last to have marriage equality, but because some brave plaintiffs and brilliant lawyers stood up, there's a case that has allowed marriage to start in this state. [...] There's no question that as we change hearts and minds, some of our early goals will be looking for partnerships at the city and community level where we can bring about protections.

And there you have it. Griffin can't and won't be pinned down to something we can measure him and HRC by in a three-year period. Sure sounds to me like it's the same old HRC approach used in Washington with the federal government that has produced so little from the group, given their raising and spending hundreds of millions of LGBT dollars, being applied at the South.

There is something of note HRC did this week in Alabama, and I hope you're sitting down for this news. HRC issued a press release (!?) congratulating local football teams for welcoming gay players, a development they had nothing to do with. Same old same old.

HRC. What a waste, regardless of who the executive director is.

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