"Nobody else has come to check on me."
September 15, 2017 9:08 AM   Subscribe

"I have not seen the Red Cross out in the field doing any work in any way. I have seen Black Lives Matter Houston out doing what are called "muck and gut" operations at homes. I know unions have been out doing the work. The AFL-CIO here has been coordinating some efforts, as well as individual unions like the Texas State Employees Union and UNITE HERE. I have also seen churches out and about. A lot of people delivering food." Sarah Jaffe interviews Amy Zachmeyer about how the Houston Democratic Socialists of America are providing Hurricane Harvey aide and support as part of a larger Truth-Out series of interviews with activists.
posted by The Whelk (29 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I have no idea when it became cool to hate the Red Cross, but the fact that they haven't renovated an interviewee's home isn't exactly shocking to me. THEY DON'T RENOVATE HOMES!

They mostly run shelters. This guy chose not to go to their shelters. That's fine, but the fact that an individual hasn't seen the Red Cross is hardly damming to me. Also they deliver food, but not to every single person in the nation's fourth largest city. General negativity to the Red Cross without any context is common but I don't get it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I donate blood to the Red Cross because I think they're the most efficient processor. And if this journalist or interviewee gets in a car accident there's about a 50% chance they'll get blood from the Red Cross. And a 0% they'll get it from the Democratic Socialists. That's fine, too, but nobody should write articles about how DSA sucks because they haven't provided any blood yet.
posted by windowbr8r at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

The Red Cross' Secret Disaster, about their negligence/incompetence during Sandy

It's good to see the DSA and other Left organizations out there helping the people who need it the most.
posted by indubitable at 9:32 AM on September 15, 2017 [21 favorites]

I guess what I'm saying is that I donate blood to the Red Cross because I think they're the most efficient processor.

I can't speak to blood, but when it comes to cash, they're the most efficient at taking your donations and processing them into fat executive salaries while neglecting the core mission.


The Red Cross CEO Has Been Serially Misleading About Where Donors’ Dollars Are Going [ProPublica]

How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes [ProPublica]

Making Sure Your Help Gets to Hurricane Harvey’s Victims [NYT]
posted by ryanshepard at 9:37 AM on September 15, 2017 [22 favorites]

After Sandy the only org that actually connected individuals with volunteer opportunities (making sandwiches, clearing rubble, etc) was Occupy Sandy. All of the orgs with any sort of corporate apparatus were MIA in that department.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:39 AM on September 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

In this debate, don't confuse the American Red Cross (source of the above list of debacles) with the international red cross/crescent (may have problems, but separate from ARC's).
posted by lalochezia at 9:47 AM on September 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

The first part of the latest episode of the Unauthorized Disclosure podcast has an interview with Niecee X of the Black Women's Defense League on the work they are doing to support marginalized communities in the relief effort in Houston.
posted by indubitable at 10:14 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

In These Times has this great article up, too: Leftists to the Rescue: Where the State and Big NGOs Fail, Mutual Aid Networks Step In which highlights work by the Black Womens Defense League and other mutual aid societies.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:21 AM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

The Red Cross was such a disaster in Canada in the early 90s that they were reorganized into two separate entities.

We've been hating them since before it was cool.
posted by Yowser at 10:43 AM on September 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Seems I have my history slightly wrong; the Red Cross screwed up so badly that the powers that be decided they could no longer collect blood, and that role was given to another organization entirely.
posted by Yowser at 10:46 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have no idea when it became cool to hate the Red Cross

My Dad worked for the Red Cross in the 90s. He went into the job pleased to be working for an agency he thought was doing good things for people. By the time he quit, he was so disillusioned by the things he had seen there that he forbid any of his relatives from ever donating to them. Their incompetence is not a recent development.
posted by instead of three wishes at 11:01 AM on September 15, 2017 [24 favorites]

Red Cross has been increasingly fucking up as they've become more corporate, and also still do some things well like setting up large shelter systems and especially local, small scale relief for families experiencing house fires. But putting the Red Cross aside for the minute, this thing of radical left groups doing aid and relief is a really cool thing worth talking about on it's own, unencumbered by discussions of the Red Cross.

It's both an immediate way to act on your vision of a better world, and excellent PR for the union/anarchist affinity group/DSA chapter/BLM group/etc doing the work.. PR in the sense of showing the people you want to attract that you mean what you say - that you have their backs, that you are in the struggle for real. It's a way to connect people with what they need in a crisis, while also helping create, on a small scale, the kind of world we're working for on a large scale.

Thanks for these links. It's hard to have hope right now. This gives some.
posted by latkes at 11:29 AM on September 15, 2017 [11 favorites]

This interview made me cry. I really encourage folks to read the whole article. It's so tragic but also really beautiful.
posted by latkes at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2017

I donate blood to LifeSource (which states on their website that they are NOT affiliated with the American Red Cross) due to all the bad publicity Red Cross has gotten recently.

I always check Charity Navigator before donating and Red Cross is not 4 star.

I gave to Greater Houston Food Depository.

After the whole debacle in Haiti, I refuse to give money to Red Cross. It is either something from Give Directly or find something specific that is rated 4 Star in Charity Navigator.

I put Red Cross in the same category as the Komen Foundation.
posted by indianbadger1 at 12:02 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seems I have my history slightly wrong; the Red Cross screwed up so badly that the powers that be decided they could no longer collect blood, and that role was given to another organization entirely.

Yeah, it's a long story that came to some level of conclusion earlier this year; basically, the Canadian Red Cross in the 1980s completely screwed up in terms of screening blood products appropriately, leading to HIV and Hep C cases being spread through donated blood, though the lack of/confusing government policies on blood products was also to blame. End result is that Canada got it's act together at a national level in terms of policy on blood products, the Canadian Red Cross restructured while under bankruptcy protection, and the Canadian Blood Services organization was created.

In terms of the Red Cross in this country and disaster relief, I did have opportunity to work with them (as a member of a different agency also involved in the response) in responding to a local disaster. It was interesting; they have a pretty phenomenal capacity to pull together an operation on short notice, and they can raise a lot of money swiftly - which they did put towards the immediate response as well as holding some for "longer-term" response needs; basically, they wanted to be able to keep responding well after everyone else was done, knowing that there would still be needs to respond to. By and large, they did, from what I could see, but there was an undercurrent of comment from some of the other large responding bodies that the Red Cross tends to sit on the money raised and at the end of it all, walk away with some of what they raised left over. There's an argument to be made that they hold that money to jumpstart their next response, but that doesn't sit well for me - when you fundraise for a specific thing, you are supposed to use the funds for that thing.

Anyways, long story short - I saw them do some good stuff here, but I also heard and saw some things that left me with questions that may or may not be fair.
posted by nubs at 12:20 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

In the US, the Red Cross has been known to hold blood drives in areas that are served by private blood centers without telling the people donating that their blood will be sent to another community, thus robbing the local blood centers of donations needed to supply the local hospitals they are contracted with.
posted by diane47 at 12:30 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Since there's a discussion of the American Red Cross and shelter operations... according to Miami-Dade County, the Red Cross failed to come out to run shelters during Irma.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thank you for this post - I really appreciate you bringing more attention to these organizations doing such heroic work for their communities, their neighbors.

It's encouraging to hear someone talking about the emotional labor component of the work they're doing. It's nice to have that made visible.

For what it's worth, my negative opinion of the American Red Cross started with herrdoktor's comment on the MeFi thread about Propublica's "The Red Cross' Secret Disaster", and reading further just seemed to confirm all the mismanagement he describes in that comment.

Thanks for this, The Whelk - I'm amazed at how much service organizations like DSA and unions provide to their communities (not just their members), and it's great to read more about that.
posted by kristi at 1:21 PM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have a relative staying in a Red Cross shelter in Miami. He is fwiw a Person of Color and older. He also works with the homeless community in a professional capacity. I've been reading his FBposts with great interest. His apartment building was condemned as a result of storm damage. He was himself rendered homeless. I've tried to reserve judgement on the American Red Cross. Mr. Roquette is not a fan. A lot of ex military people do not have warm and fuzzy feelings about the Red Cross.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:34 PM on September 15, 2017

Speaking of the DSA and mutual aid, they are continuing their successful free brake light repair clinic in New Orleans.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2017 [12 favorites]

The Red Cross is a tough one because they don't seem to do as much as everyone thinks they do. But they also seem to be critical in mobilizing people in pre- and early stages of a disaster.

The people I know who volunteer for them really believe in the work they do so I have tried to strike a middle ground with my donating - for every dollar I give to Red Cross, I give a dollar to something set up on the local level (and I try to do research as best I can on that).
posted by double bubble at 4:25 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speaking of researching who to donate with - any leads on how to help Barbuda?
posted by double bubble at 4:26 PM on September 15, 2017

The Red Cross' own 5-year report on Haiti funds. CNN points out challenges with some of the negative reporting.

Not everything about the Red Cross lately has been negative. Ran across this in the usual back-and-forth on Facebook. Charity Defense Council isn't new, although their defense of the Wounded Warrior Project after a big donation from WWP to CDC raises questions. If the Red Cross donated a bunch of money to the Charity Defense Council and got this as a quid pro quo, that's going to be... really bad.
posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 8:08 PM on September 15, 2017

We've been hating them since before it was cool.

Red Cross has been increasingly fucking up as they've become more corporate,...

Mississippi Fred McDowell has a song for you.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:51 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

So, why do a patchwork of organizations like The Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and now the DSA even handle disaster response and relief in the first place?

Is it actually better to have this sort of system than a centralized and fully funded agency staffed by trained professionals?
posted by FJT at 11:38 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is it actually better to not live in a failed state?
posted by Space Coyote at 11:49 PM on September 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm more asking who decided that this was a good idea? I feel like this somehow goes back to conservative belief that the government isn't as good as private charity when it comes to helping folks.
posted by FJT at 7:06 AM on September 16, 2017

Yeah a goverment sponsored series of professionals is the goal - except the current ones are wildly underfunded, don't go to poor or marginalized groups, and under the current administration have no plans to expand to even maintain current levels of deployment.

This is a response to the actual crisis level collapse of the state in all ways save defense and policing. This is working in areas that have allready become failed states because the state treats them like they don't exist

This is not charity, this is triage.

So on one hand, it is moral and right to go into communities to provide mutual aid with the aim of helping the communities help themselves. This is building socialism, in literally providing aid and announcing who we are and what we can do for our nerighnors. We are a part of your community, and we are here to help. Down the line this kind of help and awareness will hopefully allow for the easier expansion into electoral and legislation spaces - places where the creation and/or funding of professional, trained community disaster response teams is a possibility.

its a question of doing something or doing noting, and my heart cannot take doing nothing. Doing nothing supports the status quo, and the status quo is monsterous.

Mutual aid, trade unionism, electoral politics, direct action, these are our tools. We need to use all of them, all at once, in the fight against people who put profits over people and property over lives.
posted by The Whelk at 8:02 AM on September 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

Y'know I was seeing all these people with big platforms *imploring* folks to donate to the Red Cross this time around, and was hoping against hope that just maybe the organization had gotten its shit sorted and would be there on the ground doing great work in a timely fashion.

But no. Why, after all the scandals just a handful of years ago, would that have been the case?

It's great to read about all of the groups doing the hard, crucial work in the aftermath. What that money diverted to the Red Cross once again could have done had it gone to better organizations.

Here's my previous comment outlining my experience with them during Sandy.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:29 PM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Occupy Sandy was utterly amazing on so many levels, and also the most positive volunteer experience I've ever had. I've been looking at the charities involved in helping out Houston and Florida, looking for any that had a similar model, so thanks for this. I imagine that some of the people in the DSA helping out might have been involved in Occupy Sandy.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:02 PM on September 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

« Older “...the longest winning streak in the majors in...   |   Providing temporary public open space . . . one... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments