How long….how long?

The recent police murders remind me of the most terrifying days of the civil rights movement, when people were being killed with impunity and if the perpetrators were apprehended, were then set free by Jim Crow juries. Or during the days of the Black Panther Party when political assassinations were carried out across the country and in plain sight.

The killing of Mike Brown and so many others are the strange fruit of today’s institutional racism, which devalues Black lives while far too many whites respond with either active hostility or cold indifference to protests against the carnage.

This hostility and cold indifference is part of a culture of white supremacy which itself developed from conscious efforts to divide working people against one another for economic gain. It has long achieved a life of its own, evolving and changing with the times. Today it includes such absurd myths as the “post-racial society”. Or that it is white people who are the most discriminated against. Racism can have a toxic effect on the minds of white people.

Whiteness does have an economic advantage even if many white people stubbornly deny it. Paradoxically, it sends a covert message of white inferiority, that white people are too stupid and incompetent to succeed in a racially equal society. Without that white advantage or privilege or whatever you want to call it, they would be lost. That’s a lie, but a persuasive one for too many white people.

Yet that division in the working class has cost the USA dearly. It has hurt African Americans and other people of color the most, but has not been good for a lot of white people either, millions of whom still live in poverty and near poverty. Because of our disunited and weakly organized working class, we lack the most basic social reforms that are taken for granted elsewhere in the capitalist world.

Institutionalized racism is extremely profitable and is a major factor in the soaring wealth inequality that is a danger not just to the US economy, but to the global economy as a whole. The last time we had wealth inequality like this was in 1929 when Wall Street crashed the global economy, a disaster that was a factor in the subsequent spread of fascism and militarism in Europe and elsewhere.

Need I mention that the explosive wealth inequality of the 1920’s was preceded by violent riots by white racists against African Americans as well as by the repression of the US labor movement?

Honestly, I’m 67 years old and I’m tired. Thankfully a new generation of Black youth and their allies are taking leadership of a multi-racial social movement for justice that is very promising, carrying on a tradition that goes back to the abolitionist movement. Despite the odds against us, we have to keep on keepin’ on as best and as intelligently as we can.

November 29, 2014 by
Filed under: Race and gender, Society and Economy 


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