Basically, it's like this. Radicalism isn't going to work in the United States unless things change pretty fundamentally in American social culture. The climate is all wrong right now.
Read this, particularly those of you who are radical, or progressive, or even liberal. Read it well. alabama_grrl, lilyblack, besubversive, erin_c_1978, kallah, I recommend it to your attentions particularly. Because this is what we are up against.
The dominant American political culture, aside from a return to an imposed and artificial 1950s-privileging ideal, seems to be based on the idea of making sure people who "don't deserve it"--criminals, "welfare queens," non-supporters of the War On Terror, or, in the wonderful phrase of customers_suck, "entitlement bitches"--stay marginalized. More importantly, this marginalization gets dressed up and sold to the public in the diguise of "fairness."
American kids these days are, on the whole, large-hearted and fine people. They are great believers in fairness, and will do quite a lot to ensure everyone gets a fair deal. However, the way that the mass-culture is organized these days works to ensure that their definition of a "fair deal" works to privilege the status quo. Kids go to school, they sit in mandated American history courses, and they learn that yes, to be sure, there was bad stuff that happened in America's past. There was slavery. There was objectification and marginalization of women, homosexuals, immigrants, etc. etc. etc. But in how it is taught, all these problems are portrayed as things of The Past. And that in America here and now, the playing field is level. After all, we don't have slavery any more, and women can vote and own property, and [legal] immigrants are people too-- so we don't need any work on civil rights or feminism or anything like that.
More pertinently, whenever the middle-class white kids who believe that everything is fair get told that racism, sexism, etc. are alive and well in the U.S. today, they will disbelieve. Because they are large-hearted, a lot of them will also feel guilty. And when faced with this guilt, a lot of kids will resent the people pointing out the social problems of the U.S. today.
And this is where pop culture comes in-- because things are [perceived to be] fair and level to begin with, therefore anyone who works to improve minority rights gets portrayed as someone working for unfairness and injustice. Witness the whole anti-"P.C." backlash, the snide remarks against "ism-ism", the snotty stance that being small-minded and prejudicial is really a sign of integrity, intelligence, and personal courage ("ooh, look at me, facing down the Big Bad P.C. Thought Police!!")
I've ranted enough, and I've come to the end of my coherence. But this is my warning. Despite the conservative blather about "white liberal guilt," the fact remains that this guilt works more to serve the conservatives than the progressives. The cultural massmind portrays a simple chain of signification, namely: Liberal = Activist = Radical = Socialist = Communist = Totalitarian Death Camps.
I would not presume to suggest a course of action to progressives here. We're all adults and can make our own active decisions on how to change the world. But I would like to point out that unless progressives acknowledge that the cultural deck is stacked against them, and take steps to overcome that, then progressive action will fail.