In the story Backyard, Alinsky displays how organizing is important for gaining a meaningful voice for the people who do not have power in a community. He believed that social justice was possible but was unaware of how to achieve it. He utilizes tactics such traditional organizing by building a large and powerful community based organization in low income parts.
Alinsky dives into the community in order to have a better insight on the issues at hand. Alinsky knows that seeing the community first hand is the best way to get a feel for the issues that impact them on a daily basis. Alinsky ends up joining several youth groups and a gang. From his experience in the gang, he discovered that gang behavior was not just acting out or being rebellious, but instead was a symptom of poverty and powerlessness. He then gets assigned to the Back of the yard to learn the causes of juvenile behaviors.
Alinsky talked about taking action within all parts of the community in order to obtain balance within a democracy. If one sector of a faction has too much wealth, or power the system will fail. He believed involvement in the political process by members of the community as was key to preserving democracy. With small businesses, the Catholic church, neighborhood groups, and labor unions banning together they would be able to make an huge impact for making change.
By organizing, Alinsky was able to get all these groups together and create the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. Alinsky’s organizing tactics were effective because it shows that people working in numbers were able to counter people with wealth. Alinsky appealed people’s self-interests by bringing together groups of people who had shared struggles and had common interests.
He said self-interest is aligned with organizational interest; it is a relational concept and makes organizations and campaigns significantly more sustainable. I believe the term “self-interest” to Alinsky meant that people would be more compliant to doing something if that something pertained to them personally.An example of something that would be in my “self-interest” would be the Black Lives Matter movement.
An example that would motivate others including myself to participate in social action is that this problem could affect them some point in life. Police brutality and the killing of innocent people could happen at any point in time and may end up happening to someone you know. By taking a stand and making our voice heard, it will create awareness of the underlying issue.
Another example would be campaign for lowering college tuition and room and board costs. People would be motivated in doing this cause because many people want to go to or complete college to get a better education so that they will be able to obtain their dream job but can not go because of how expensive college is. The tactics I would utilize to get people involved is self-interest. If the cause pertains them, they will be more willing to join. The tactics I would utilize to accomplish what I want would be social media, flyers, hosting events etc.
While reading many statements drew my attention. The first one was “I cannot remain neutral. . . . I must intervene in teaching peasants that their hunger is socially constructed, and work with them to help identify those responsible for this social construction, which is, in my view, a crime against humanity” (Freire and Macedo 1995, 391). This quote was very powerful to me because Freire essentially explains how the poverty of people of color has nothing to do with how “they do not work hard,” nor how “high drug rates are,” but how the system works against them in every way possible. This quote explains how institutionalized racism is the reason behind the disparities.
Freire takes a stand and is willing to help in order to find out who has caused this injustice and make things right. The next one stated “If they [UnitedHealth] win, the people who you care about, the people standing here, the people who you want to have health care will lose. It is not okay to profit on other people’s despair” (Martinson, pg.63). This quote stuck out to me while reading because of how people were fighting for access to health care back then and it is still a problem that many people struggle with today. Although access has gotten a lot better over the years, it still does not meet the needs of all people.
The last statement that caught my eye was “There is a danger of moving too far into political education without grounding in an action plan” (Sen, pg. 17). In other words, it is great to have leadership programs and political education, but if you do not take action, what was the whole point of creating this organization? Taking action is the best way to get heard and gain your voice back. Alinsky’s and Freirian’s organizing approaches are both well thought out and are able to create a large impact when people use their approaches.
A similarities between both of their approaches is that both have no set rules or procedures on how to commence the approach. Another similarity is that they both had a strong urge to create social justice and change in a community. Another similarity is that they both realized that their approaches would work best if people in the community worked together as a whole. They both also concentrated on the struggles that low-income people of color face on a day to day basis.
Although both approaches had some similarities, they both had many differences. The differences are “the emphasis of organizational activities, their approaches to organizational versus personal development, and the nature of leadership development and of the organizer-leader relationship” (Martinson, pg. 69). Freire’s uses an approach which is more focused on liberation education while Alinsky’s approach focused more on strength in unity.
Freire’s approach is similar to an emotional support group, where people come together and listen to other people’s stories and life struggles; “Together, they then engage in dialogue in a manner that allows them to employ critical thinking around the issues they have identified” (Freire, pg. 66). In Alinsky’s approach, people bann together and protest because there is power in numbers.
Alinsky-type groups aimed to find strategies that helped groups to win referenda of existing policy proposals or elections, get involved in confrontational strategies, and build partnerships that practice open policies in the name of ‘color-blind’ equality, where social constructs such as race and ethnicity are not clearly addressed.
However, the Freirian-style SBU and MOM mainly worked to create and implement new policy proposals opposed to supporting the existing ones. By combining both approaches, people feel more empowered when they are able to express their experiences and struggles and take action to try and make a change.