We Are Not Going Back: Racism, the Right, and the Push Forward


Editor's note: This article was based on a “Black History Talk” given at the Workers Center in Chicago on Feb. 24, 2011.

There is a tremendous battle waging in our country. It is related to pro-democracy uprisings in the Middle East. This is a time for change and it is sweep across the world including here in the US. I think the uprisings in the Middle East have something to do with the election of Obama in 2008 which signaled a new direction for US  foreign policy. Can you imagine how McCain, Palin would have handled this situation. With Palin beating the war drums of war as she prepares for her run for the Presidency in 2012. 

What we are experiencing is a progressive offensive sweeping the globe.  

Madison is part of it…

What is happening in Madison, Wisconsin and elsewhere is a mighty class confrontation. It’s about the survival of working families and their unions. It is about the survival of public workers and vital public services that the extreme right politicians (brought and paid for by corporate fat cats) want to destroy.  

This class confrontation is about whether families earn enough to put food on the table and keeping a roof over their head. It’s about educating our children, health care, fire and police protection. It’s about sanitation and taking care of the disabled and elderly. This struggle is about promoting the “general welfare” mentioned in the US Constitution that these people claim to hold so sacred.   

Do they? I ask again, Do they? How can they? Based on their policies, corporate profits trump democracy every time. The unsavory super rich Koch brothers whose billions (which they have exploited from the hard labor of workers), are the big bucks behind ultra right (neo-fascist) groups, causes and politicians all over this country.  

They are out to eliminate collective bargaining because they are out to eliminate unions starting with the public unions. They are out to privatize and reduce the Federal Government because using the power of the government is one basic democratic way that people have to stop corporate power from running amuck over the rights and interest of working and middle class people.   

What is happening in Madison and spreading all across the country is not just about balancing the budget. It’s really about whose backs the budget will be balanced on. It not just about deficits. In its deeper meaning it’s about what kind of democracy are we going to have. This is a historic confrontation that’s unfolding in the country now and the Communist Party USA will do it’s utmost to help the working class and people win this fight. 

In that conversation between Gov. Walker and somebody he thought was David Koch who is a big contributor to the extreme right, the Governor told it all and the story was a disgrace. He admitted that he is conspiring to use this economic crisis to destroy the unions. And so are Kasich in Ohio and Mitch Daniels in Indiana. They all ought to be ashamed. These charlatans who wrap themselves in the Tea Party flag basically do nothing but serve the interest of wealthy.   

That goes for Christie in New Jersey and Cuomo and Bloomberg in NY are not much better.  

Shame on all of them. They want to reduce working people to second class citizens without the basic right to belong to a union and collectively bargain with employers public and private.  

The Communist Party believes that the right to collective bargaining, the right to unions is one of the corner stones of any democracy. Take that away and workers are at the mercy of Big Business.  

Martin Luther King moment   

It is significant that these explosive events took place in the middle of Black History Month. The month that we celebrate the history the African American people – a racially oppressed people whose struggle for freedom has been strategic to the strengthening and advancing of US Democracy.     

Jesse Jackson in his speech in Madison referred to what was happening in Wisconsin as “A Martin Luther King moment.” He was so right. Dr. King was the master coalition builder.

What we are seeing in Wisconsin and elsewhere is a living example of all-peoples unity of organized workers, the youth and students, uniting across racial, class and gender and political lines. This is around a righteous struggle in defense of public workers and vital public services. They united efforts are a powerful rebuff to the nefarious plans of the right.     

A “Martin Luther King moment” indeed. Last month, the Democratic Governor of Connecticut spoke out at a labor rally in Hartford and declared his support for collective bargaining. Even some Republican Governors have spoken out. The polls show a big majority on the side of the public workers and opposed to what the governor is doing. This is a broad struggle…

These cuts in government programs are wreaking havoc on the African American and Latino communities especially. It is workers whose capitalist employers pay Wal-Mart wages that need public assistance. They desperately need those food stamps, government health care, section 8, subsidized day care and WIC support. They need heating assistance, and other income supports, or they won’t survive. 

In a recent article by Steven Pitts (University of California at Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education) 42 percent of full-time Black workers earn less than $30,000 annually compared to 27.3 percent of white workers.

Pitts also points out that, “This attack casts a particularly sharp blow to the black community. Before the recession, 18 percent of black men and 23.3 percent of black women were public employees, making this sector the leading employer of black men and the second leading employer of black women. In contrast, 14.2 percent of white men, 19.8 percent of white women, 7.5 percent of Latinos and 14.9 percent of Latinas were public employees. It is important to note that these are national figures. In urban areas with large black populations, the role of the public sector in providing good jobs and creating a middle class for the black community is undoubtedly greater.”

Racism and right-wing attacks on unions

This struggle has a sharp racist edge. When unemployment is sky high and poverty is growing among African Americans and Latinos the drastic cuts in public jobs being pushed all over the country puts an extra hard burden on workers of color. To call for taxing the rich to close the budget gaps in state and local governments is part of the struggle against racism and the special burden working families of color will be forced to bear. This is a Martin Luther King moment.

About 14 percent of African Americans are members of unions. To break the public workers unions means you are breaking the largest number of organized workers including large numbers of workers of color.  

How you heard the conversation between Scott Walker and who he thought was David Koch. These people have plans to bring down the trade union movement. If they succeed, they will drive millions of additional numbers of black and brown workers into hard poverty.  

We are already moving toward the 50 percent mark when it come to poverty among African American children. This is not a failure of black families, fundamentally it is a failure of US capitalism.  

This is why Wisconsin and all the other resistance is so important.  

This struggle is a struggle against racism and for economic and social justice. Probably over 90 percent of African American children go to public schools. All over the country under strong pressure from the right-wing our pubic schools and teachers are under sharp attack.

The violence in our communities is rooted in poor schools, no jobs and a deep crisis in housing and healthcare. I think it is really irresponsible to talk about the violence and leave out the harsh conditions of poverty that our people are forced to live under and the use of drugs to criminalize a incarcerate a whole generation of youth.

Black unemployment is 16.5 percent. Among Black Youth it is 33.4 percent. Last summer (peak in teen employment usually), the unemployment rate among black youth 15-29 was 51.1 percent. 

Hispanic youth current rate is 21.1 percent.  

Republicans, Tea Party and Libertarian fanatics are blocking unemployment insurance to the jobless, section 8 to the homeless, food stamps for the hungry and heat assistance. What do they expect poor folks to do? How are they going to survive? These capitalist fundamentalist who think people are going to sit by and accept this abuse; this super oppression because it’s good for the capitalist class will have another think coming.  

History will not be kind to the Republicans, the Tea Party and the Libertarians – the corporate-sponsored Axis of Evil – for the suffering they are bringing down on working families especially families of color.  

Are they trying to push us back to Jim Crow?  

Michele Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, is a real expose of exactly what is happening. She points out that while African Americans are 14 percent of the population they are 42 percent of the incarcerated. Alexander’s thesis is that this is a human rights tragedy of the highest order.

A criminal record today means in most states, you have no rights. You can’t get a job. You can’t vote. You can’t get a driver’s license. You can’t get credit. You can’t sign a lease or get a mortgage. You are truly a second class citizen and IT IS LEGAL.  

And undocumented workers also are criminalized in order to rationalize sub level wages, super exploitation, no due process, the denied of basic rights and services even though they do pay taxes including billions into the Social Security system which they can never collect. The part of The New Jim Crow too.

Since the Republican/Tea Party Libertarian group won the majority in the house and a substantial number of state houses, there has been a rise in the open racism coming from these quarters. It’s like they are pushing us back to Jim Crow. After the civil rights gains of the 60’s it is well know that the old Dixiecrats shifted to the Republican Party and The Republican Party welcomed them.  

Ronald Reagan, whose centennial they are honoring, was an anti-working class con man who played the race card every chance he got. He delivered his first major presidential campaign speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi where, just two decades earlier, the three civil rights workers were murdered by fascist thugs for registering voters.  

“The sad truth is,” says Jack White writing in Time Magazine, “that many Republican leaders remain in a massive state of denial about the party’s four decade long addition to race-baiting.” The Republicans can’t win national elections without the use of overt and covert racism. Nixon, and both Bushes specialized in race baiting. Remember welfare queen, Willie Horton and Bob Jones University. They have a long a shameful record of racist scapegoating.

Since the 2010 elections they are on a racist rampage.

According to the NAACP the black community in North Carolina is in a major battle to stop the State legislator from stopping them desegregation of their public schools. And don't forget Sen. Rand Paul, R-Tenn., who openly stated his opposition to enforcing the civil rights laws against private companies.

Patricia J. Williams outlines a number proposal coming from the Republicans that is a push towards re-segregation. Rand Paul freshman Senator from Kentucky is against the Fair Housing Act because “a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on color or their skin.” (The Right Wing Reboots Segregation, “The Nation”, 1/6/11).

One has to ask, what kind of “free society” is Sen. Paul talking about that will allow “hate filled groups” to practice racial discrimination? This is what the libertarians call freedom? These people are serial racist and don’t seem to know it.   

The head of Tea Party Nation, Jodson Phillips, wants to bring back the old colonial law that restricts the right to vote to those who own property. Says Phillips, “If you’re a property owner, you actually have a vested stake in the community.”

John Cook, a member of the Executive Committee of the Texas Republican Party want to replace Republican Joe Straus, who is Jewish, as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives because “We now want a true Christian, conservative running it (The House).”

And don’t forget about Arizona and their law against immigrants and the proposal to elimination of ethnic studies and to deny the children of undocumented workers born in the US, the right to citizenship which is an attempt to basically overthrow the 14th amendment.

And there is the African American mother in Ohio who is been jailed and prosecuted in Republican Gov. Kasich’s Ohio for putting her child in a predominantly white school outside of her district. And the Tea Party legislators who are out to destroy Planned Parenthood and are pushing state laws to basically take away the right to choose. Republican Rep. Bobby Franklin wants all abortions described as “prenatal murder” and could involve the death penalty if “human involvement” can be proven to have caused a miscarriage.       

This people are not your run of the mill “conservatives” their ideology is closer to fascist. They will never get over the election of Obama. These are people hate the President because he is Black and a liberal and will stop at nothing to defeat him.

The public workers need our whole hearted support. What is happening today is the popular movement that FDR had and Obama lacked the last two years is now in formation. And it is non to soon. This is a time when the democratic forces can be mobilized around the sharp issue of the day. This is a time when the right danger can still be defeated.  

We need a united, multiracial movement of the unemployed. We need fight for a domestic Marshall Plan to reverse the effects of severe poverty which has entrapped one generation after another. We need to rebuild our country and create good paying union jobs as we meet the long term effects of crisis. The fight for public works green jobs needs to be stepped up. The fight for peace needs to be stepped up.The laws against discrimination should be strengthened and enforced not repealed. 

And it is urgent that the fight against racism in all it’s forms needs to be stepped up to met the new challenges and to insure that the unity of all  the democratic force grows as we face one of the most crucial elections in history. The election of 2008 was not flash in the pan it was turning point.  

The struggle must continue.

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  • The role of AFSME,CBTU,SEIU,NAACP,UL,La Raza others and all youth,including African American youth, will have to become more and more prominent to ensure the fight against racism and the unity of all workers.
    Unionists who are involved in this MLK moment and Gandhi moment have to find a way to unleash the tremendous energy and spirit of the African American community,which has lead all great movements for progress in the U.S.,which includes the great election victory which resulted in the Barack Hussein Obama victory in 2008.
    The CPUSA conference of 16-17 April 2011,will help here.
    We all have to give our best now,2008 must be consolidated in 2012.
    In a real way,the planet and its peoples are at stake.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 03/15/2011 5:58pm (13 years ago)

  • I am going to cite you in my grad school term paper this semester. I will forward a copy to you and/or your editor.

    Posted by Darrick H., 03/11/2011 1:58am (13 years ago)

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