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by Alex Knight, 1/6/17
Republished on Countercurrents.
In 2000, I was 17 years old. I didn’t know the first thing about politics, history, or social change. My first preference in the U.S. Presidential Election was for George W. Bush.[i] Somehow in my ignorance I had figured out that the Democrats were the more popular party, and I reviled what was popular. The President for the last eight years had been a Democrat. I also knew that the society I lived in sucked. It sucked for teenage me, and it sucked in general. So, without any deeper thought on the subject, my infantile rebellion led me to the only alternative in a two-party system, the Republicans. Once again in 2016, “non-college educated white men” like my teenage self followed similar logic to give Donald Trump just enough votes to sneak into the White House. When asked in exit polls what was the “quality that mattered most” in deciding who to vote for, the number one quality voters sought was a candidate who “can bring change.” Of those change-seeking voters, 83% were captured by Trump.
After the election, it’s tempting to curl up into a state of shock and surrender to fear or apathy. The U.S. voting public just elected someone who is openly racist, sexist, and xenophobic. 30 states were won by a man who brags about sexually assaulting women, led a campaign to delegitimize the nation’s first Black president by questioning his citizenship, and wants to build a giant wall on the Mexican border to keep out poor immigrants who he called “rapists.” The people he’s now appointing to run organs of government are quite literally the very worst people in the country, whose entire careers have been based on undermining social and ecological protections. The future looks bleak. Is neo-fascism already here?
In our deeply cynical society, it is the task of revolutionaries to see the silver lining of hope that has just opened before us. We must appreciate that this moment is a great opportunity for radicalizing the millions of people who are dissatisfied with the status quo. Donald Trump is the most disliked major-party candidate to ever run for the Presidency. The election of a despised, buffoonish, billionaire capitalist to head the U.S. government provides anti-capitalists with a glaring demonstration that the system does not work.
In this article we will review how a figure as polarizing as Trump was propelled to become a viable candidate through the mass media’s obsession with celebrity and scandal. We will also explore how the failure of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party reflects the collapse of legitimacy for the status quo and its neoliberal capitalist project. Finally, we will face the threat of neo-fascism and explore what progressive radicals can offer now that a uniquely dangerous, yet uniquely unpopular, man is about to become the face of the U.S. government.
In the years after Bush II was elected, I was fortunate enough to encounter anti-capitalists who showed me and invited me into the amazing tradition of grassroots organizing. I was able to discover an alternative path where my teenage frustrations were sharpened into anti-capitalist critique and a lifelong commitment to social justice. It is now my calling to pay forward the gift that was given to me. We have a choice on how to respond to the election. We can either spend the next 4-8 years wallowing in fears of how everything can go wrong, or we can recognize the special opportunity we have to provide a path for people to discover genuine change, community, and meaning that can only come through participation in radical social movements.
A Billionaire Cartoon Villain is About to Become US President
(In the next two sections, we will analyze how the election reveals the dysfunction of the electoral system and mass media. To jump to the repercussions and how to respond moving forward, click here.)
The system has failed and Donald Trump is the personification of that failure. Before the election, only 38% of the American public had a “favorable” opinion of Trump, as compared with 58% “unfavorable.” That -20% margin makes Donald Trump literally the most unfavorable candidate ever to get the endorsement of a major US political party. Significantly, Hillary Clinton was the second-most unfavorable candidate ever, with a -12.6% gap.
The historic unpopularity of the two major candidates drove down turnout for the two major parties:
The US adult population grows by about 10 million people per 4-year election cycle. While the raw vote totals have remained somewhat stable, support for the two major parties proportional to US population has decayed since 2008. Consequently, 8 million people voted for “third party” candidates in 2016, which is more than in any election since 1996. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party combined for nearly 6 million votes. By comparison, Ralph Nader in 2000 was attacked as a spoiler for getting less than half that total. Putting Trump’s victory in perspective: it’s important to remember that 54% of voters, and nearly 75% of American adults, did not vote for Trump.
As the “democracy uprising” spreads from Tunisia, to Egypt, and now to Wisconsin, it seems the whole world is starting to look a little more like Latin America. Social movements “south of the border” have been pumping out progressive change, and winning, for a couple decades now. This victorious and active Latin left goes back at least to the Venezuelan “Caracazo” of 1989, an uprising very similar to what we’ve been watching lately in Tahrir Square, Cairo. This was long before Chavez showed up on the scene, you may notice.
As the following interview of Ben Dangl highlights, leftist states such as Venezuela are not by themselves particularly revolutionary, and in fact often play a counter-revolutionary role. Democratic, participatory, grassroots social movements have always been the real engine of change. Political leaders can choose to follow those movements (“lead by obeying” in Zapatista language), or they can choose to be largely a facade for neoliberalism and reaction. The question is not the quality of the leader, but the quality of the movement holding that leader’s feet to the fire.
This is the reason President Obama has been largely a flop. As FDR said to labor organizers in 1932, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” Real leadership comes from below.
Let’s hope we can follow the examples of Bolivia, Egypt, and Madison, WI and continue to work towards a global movement for justice. [alex]
Dancing with Dynamite in Latin America
by Nikolas Kozloff
Originally published by Huffington Post.
February 11, 2011.
Recently, I sat down with Benjamin Dangl, author of the recently released Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, for an interview.
NK: You’ve written an extremely ambitious book which takes the reader all across South America. One of the most impressive things about the work is that it is largely based on your own personal interviews with political participants at the grassroots as opposed to mere secondary research. How long did it take to research and what was the most fascinating country that you worked in?
BD: The book is the result of over eight years of research, traveling and interviewing across Latin America. This period of time coincided with the rise to power of most of the region’s current leftist leaders, and so the interviews I draw from in the book reflect a lot of the initial hope and subsequent disappointment among many social movements. The most interesting place I’ve worked in is definitely Bolivia, where the power of the grassroots movements is the strongest, and the impressive relationship between these movements and the government of Evo Morales is constantly changing.
NK: It can be tough in many ways to conduct research in South America. What prompted your interest in the subject matter and what were some of the obstacles that you encountered along the way?
BD: The main things that drew me to writing about politics and social issues in Latin America were the impact US foreign policy and corporate activity had on the region, and the hopeful and relatively under-reported social struggles going on. On the one hand, the connection to the US in the so-called war on drugs, and the corporate looting of natural resources, were all issues I thought more readers of English-based media in the US should know about. And the sophisticated organizing tactics, grassroots strategies and victories of social movements in the region were stories I wanted to help amplify and spread in the US, for the sake of awareness, solidarity and lessons to be learned. The main obstacle in doing this research is the actual cost of the traveling. I’ve worked all kinds of odd jobs over the years, in construction, farming, and various kinds of manual labor, to pay for the plane tickets to get to Latin America in order to conduct research and writing on the ground.
NK: Here in the U.S., many on the left idealize Chávez and the like, yet you suggest that many ostensibly leftist regimes may sap the energy of today’s social movements. How has this happened, and could one say, therefore, that “Pink Tide” regimes may ultimately exert a counter-productive or even pernicious effect upon local politics in their respective countries?
BD: The way this relationship has played out is different in each country. Some Latin American presidents, upon taking power, have been more willing and able than others to collaborate with the social movements that help bring them into office. The relationships in Venezuela and Bolivia are probably the healthiest in this sense. In other countries, such as Brazil with President Lula and the Landless Farmers Movements, the Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and the indigenous movements there, the relationship has been more difficult, with the governments repressing, criminalizing and demobilizing movements when possible. Dancing with Dynamite looks at how this relationship, this dance, has played out in seven different countries. It tells a story beyond what the presidents and major politicians have been doing or saying, and focuses more on the history of the past decade from the perspective of the grassroots. And this view from below is something I think more people in the US left would benefit from focusing on, if anything to understand the full picture of what’s been driving these momentous changes over the past ten years.
NK: Of all the South American countries you describe, Bolivia seems to have the most revolutionary potential. Why is this so, and what new radical developments can we expect from Bolivia in the coming years?
In fact it’s no mystery at all. It’s been well-documented for half a century now that the main cause of cancer is industrial pollution and the immense and growing quantity of toxic shit in our air, water, food, and bodies.
There’s no escaping it either. You can eat healthy and vegetarian, live out in a rural area where there’s no factories spewing death into the air, avoid filling your life with plastics and chemicals, and you’ll still be at risk, because even polar bears on the North Pole are getting dioxins built up in their fatty tissue. Dioxin, by the way, is the most toxic and carcinogenic substance ever seen on the face of the Earth. It can give you cancer from even a few parts per trillion – that’s 12 zeros. Dioxin is shot up into the air as a consequence of PVC production, and now it’s in our food, our bodies, and mother’s breast milk. (See “Dying from Dioxin” by Lois Marie Gibbs – on Google Books)
This article by Alan Grossman is succinct and clear. Studies show that cancer is caused by human activity, or more accurately, by industrial activity. I would go further and say that cancer is caused by the capitalist system, because in a human-scale and democratic economy, we could incorporate rational decision-making and say, “OK, if PVC is so fucking toxic, maybe we should make something that costs a bit more but doesn’t give us cancer.”
Unfortunately, in our capitalist system Big Business runs the show and their concern is not rationality, but profit. Period. That’s why capitalism is not only giving so many of us and our loved ones this deadly condition, capitalism is itself is a form of cancer. Capitalism sees ALL life, human or otherwise, through the lens of profit. “Can this make money?” is the bottom line for why our biosphere is under assault in so many forms – from the Gulf spill to the melting of the climate. As the late Edward Abbey once quipped, “Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
So I ask you, dear reader, is it fair to proclaim that the only cure for cancer is an end to the capitalist system? Because that’s what it looks like to me.
Cancer – The Number One Killer – And Its Environmental Causes
by Alan Grossman
Originally published by Huffington Post, August 17, 2010.
The World Health Organization projects that this year cancer will become the world’s leading cause of death. Why the epidemic of cancer? Death certificates in the United States show cancer as being the eighth leading cause of death in 1900.
Why has it skyrocketed to now surpass heart disease as number one?
Is it because people live longer and have to die of something? That’s a factor, but not the prime reason as reflected by the jump in age-adjusted cancer being far above what could be expected from increased longevity. And it certainly doesn’t explain the steep hike in childhood cancers. Is it lifestyle, diet and genetics, as we have often been told? They are factors, but not key reasons.
The cause of the cancer epidemic, as numerous studies have now documented, is largely environmental — the result of toxic substances in the water we drink, the food we eat, the consumer products we use, the air we breathe. (Some of the pollution is voluntarily caused — by smoking. But most is involuntary.)
As the President’s Cancer Panel declared in May, in a 240-page report titled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” : “The American people — even before they are born — are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.” It said: “With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented through appropriate national action.”
It pointed to chemicals and radiation as major causes of cancer and stated: “Cancer continues to shatter and steal the lives of Americans. Approximately 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, and about 21 percent will die from the cancer. The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing…The burgeoning number and complexity of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compel us to act to protect public health.” Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most descriptive and disturbing articles I’ve yet read about the Tea Party and the rise of neo-fascist movement in the United States. Max Blumenthal does not name it fascism, but it’s clear to me that the “Take Back America” crowd are striving to purify the US and return it to a mythical lost golden era, and they are not afraid to attack immigrants, Arabs, African Americans, queer folks, women, and anyone else that would deny their messianic mission of restoring white male supremacy.
The fabricated outrage over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” is only the latest in a long string of xenophobic lies to divide, distract, and diffuse the legitimate outrage of working class Americans. Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are leading these poor Tea Party suckers to destroy everything they claim to want to protect.
Wearing a tri-corner hat does not make you a patriot. Speaking the truth, and challenging the forces of tyranny, that makes a patriot. The tyrants of today are the corporations and banks that own our country, the Pentagon and security apparatus that violently impose their will, and the lying media like Fox News and CNN that fill our heads with propaganda 24/7. In short, the Tea Party are the unwitting pawns of tyranny.
Only a powerful grassroots progressive movement can blunt their hatred and redirect the public’s outrage towards the capitalist system which has bankrupted us. [alex]
Days of Rage — The Noxious Transformation of the Conservative Movement into a Rabid Fringe
Crusading to restore a holy social order, Tea Partiers have promoted disorder. Claiming to protect democracy, they smashed windows of elected representatives.
“He will tell you that he wants a strong authority to take from him the crushing responsibility of thinking for himself. Since the Republic is weak, he is led to break the law out of love for obedience. But is it really strong authority that he wish? In reality he demands rigorous order for others, and for himself disorder without responsibility.” — Jean-Paul Sartre, “Anti-Semite and Jew”
I am not sure when I first detected the noxious fumes that would envelop the conservative movement in the Obama era. It might have been early on, in April 2009, when I visited a series of gun shows in rural California and Nevada. Perusing tables piled high with high-caliber semi-automatic weapons and chatting with anyone in my vicinity, I heard urgent warnings of mass roundups, concentration camps, and a socialist government in Washington. “These people that are purchasing these guns are people that are worried about what’s going on in this country,” a gun dealer told me outside a show in Reno. “Good luck Obama,” a young gun enthusiast remarked to me. “We outnumber him 100 to 1.” At this time, the Tea Party movement had not even registered on the national media’s radar.
In September 2009, I led a panel discussion about this book inside an auditorium filled with nearly 100 students and faculty at the University of California-Riverside. Beside me sat Jonathan Walton, an African-American professor of religious studies and prolific writer, and Mark Takano, an erudite, openly gay former Democratic congressional candidate and local community college trustee.
In the middle of our discussion, a dozen College Republicans stormed the front of the stage with signs denouncing me as a “left-wing hack” while a hysterical young man leaped from the crowd, blowing kisses mockingly at Takano while heckling Walton as a “racist.” Afterward, university police officers insisted on escorting me to my ride after the right-wing heckler attempted to follow me as he shouted threats.
Who was this stalker? Just a concerned citizen worried about taxes? His name was Ryan Sorba and he was an operative of a heavily funded national conservative youth outfit, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Besides founding dozens of Republican youth groups across the country, Sorba has devoted an exceptional amount of energy to his interest in homosexuals. His intellectual output consists of a tract titled The Born Gay Hoax, arguing that homosexuality is at once a curable disease and a bogus trend manufactured by academic leftists. Adding to his credentials, Sorba has a history of run-ins with the law, he explained when I called him about the order.
My encounter with this aggressive right-wing cadre seemed a strange, isolated event. But the hostility turned out to be symptomatic of the intensifying campaign to delegitimize President Obama and his allies in Congress. The Right’s days of rage were only beginning. Read the rest of this entry »
Republished by Countercurrents, OpEdNews, Alliance for Sustainable Communities – Lehigh Valley, The Pigeon Post, Dissident Voice and The (Grace Lee) Boggs Blog!
The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.
The interview will be available in four parts. Scroll to the bottom to read all of Prof. Carriere’s questions.
Part 1. Crisis and Opportunity
MC: The current financial crisis is clearly a moment of peril for both individuals and the broader system of capitalism. But would it also make sense to see it as a moment of opportunity?
AK: Absolutely. I see opportunity springing from every crack in the structure of capitalism. For all those who wish to see a different world, this moment is dripping with opportunity because the old order is crumbling before our eyes.
The crisis extends far beyond the broken financial system. Millions of people are losing their jobs, homes, and savings as the burden of the crisis gets shifted onto the poor and working class. Public faith in the system, both the government and the capitalist economy, has been shattered and is at an all-time low. And it’s not just the economic crisis. The bank bailouts, the endless wars in the Mid East, the BP spill and the meltdown of the climate, and about a dozen other crises have shaken us deeply. It’s become common sense that the system is broken and a major change is needed. Barack Obama was elected in the US precisely by promising this change. Now that he is failing to deliver, more and more people are questioning whether the system can provide any solutions, or whether it’s actually the source of the problem.
Shattered faith is the dominant sentiment today. You can see it in people’s faces – the disappointment, grief, worry, and anger. To me, this loss of faith presents an enormous opening for putting forth a new, non-capitalist way of life. People are ready to hear radical solutions now, like they haven’t been since the Great Depression.
If we go back to 1929, we’ll see some interesting parallels to our current moment. When that depression started, millions lost their livelihoods to pay for the bankers’ crisis. Faith in capitalism sunk to rock bottom. The public flocked to two major ideologies that offered a way out: socialism and fascism.
Socialism presented a solution to the crisis by saying, roughly: “Capitalism is flawed because it divides us into rich and poor, and the rich always take advantage of the poor. We need to organize the poor and workers into unions and political parties so we can take power for the benefit of all.”
Socialism attracted millions of followers, even in the United States. The labor movement was enormous and kept gaining ground through sit-down strikes and other forms of direct action. The Communist Party sent thousands of organizers into the new CIO, at the time a more radical union than the AFL. Socialist viewpoints even started getting through to the mass media and government. Huey Long was elected Senator from Louisiana by promising to “Share Our Wealth,” to radically redistribute the wealth of the country to abolish poverty and unemployment. (He was assassinated.) Socialism challenged President Roosevelt from the left, pushing him to create the social safety net of the New Deal.
On the other side, fascism also emerged as a serious force and attracted a mass following by putting forth something like the following: “The government has sold us out. We are a great nation, but we have been disgraced by liberal elites who are pillaging our economy for the benefit of foreign enemies, dangerous socialists, and undesirable elements (like Jews). We need to restore our national honor and fulfill our God-given mission.”
When people hear the word fascism, they usually think of Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, where successful fascist movements seized state power and implemented totalitarian control of society. Yet fascism was an international phenomenon during the Depression, and the United States was not immune to its reach. General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in US history, testified before the Senate that wealthy industrialists had approached him as part of a “Business Plot” and tried to convince him to march an army of 500,000 veterans on Washington, DC to install a fascist dictatorship.
Today we are approaching a similar crossroads. When I hear the story of the Business Plot I think about the Tea Party, which has sprung from a base of white supremacist anger, facilitated by right-wing elements of the corporate structure like Fox News. This is an extremely dangerous phenomenon. The “teabaggers” have moved from questioning Obama’s citizenship, to now trying to reverse the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, such as the ability of everyone, regardless of color, to enjoy public accommodations like restaurants.
I think it’s fair to name the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, the Christian Right, etc. parts of a potential neo-fascist movement in the United States. Their words and actions too often encourage attacks on people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, and anyone they don’t see as legitimate members of US society. Ultimately, many in this movement are pushing for a different social system taking power in the United States: one that is more authoritarian, less compassionate, more exploitive of the environment, more militaristic, and based on a mythical return to national glory. This is not a throwback to Nazi Germany. It’s a new kind of fascism, a new American fascism. And it’s a serious threat.
On the other hand, this crisis is also an opportunity for all of us who see capitalism as a destructive force and believe the message of the recent U.S. Social Forum that “Another World is Possible. Another US is Necessary.” “Socialism” in the post-McCarthy/Cold War era of the United States is a dead word, because it carries a lot of baggage from the Soviet Union. Rightly so, the USSR was a terrible dictatorship that is hardly an example to follow. The question is, how do those of us who are progressive and anti-capitalist articulate our ideas to resonate with a mass audience in this moment?
I argue that we need to speak to the population in a language of our common values: democracy, freedom, justice, and sustainability. Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, has been warning us of the threat of neo-fascism in the United States for a few years now. This is one of his best pieces on the subject, comparing what is happening here and now with the Sarah Palins, Glenn Becks, and Tea Partiers to what happened to Yugoslavia 20 years ago.
However I must disagree with Hedges on the phrase ‘liberal elite’ – the ruling class is hardly liberal, unless it’s liberal to invade countries and kill millions of innocent civilians based on lies, or to plunder the atmosphere and seas, or to torture and spy on Americans and others, or any of the other awful things the government and its corporate cronies are carrying out all the time. Barack Obama may have a liberal streak as an individual, but he is carrying out a violent, imperialistic capitalist agenda for the real rulers. [alex]
Is America ‘Yearning for Fascism’?
Originally published by TruthDig, March 29, 2010
The language of violence always presages violence. I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.
“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”
The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward. They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear. Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.
The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies. They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.
The longer we appeal to the Democrats, who are servants of corporate interests, the more stupid and ineffectual we become. Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and they are right. Only 25 percent of those polled said the government can be trusted to protect the interests of the American people. If we do not embrace this outrage and distrust as our own it will be expressed through a terrifying right-wing backlash. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we can no longer afford to imprison nearly 2 and a half million Americans, a disproportionate number of them black and Latino. The choice is clear: break the bank to continue to punish people for mostly nonviolent offenses, or figure out a new way to operate “criminal justice” that actually heals people rather than just putting them in cages.
If we continue down a neo-fascist path we will be unable to treat prisoners as human beings, and continue to drive a racial wedge into the heart of the nation. Obama must remember that he is Black and stop these Jim Crow shenanigans. [alex]
The New Jim Crow
How the War on Drugs Gave Birth to a Permanent American Undercaste
By Michelle Alexander
Originally published by TomDispatch.
Ever since Barack Obama lifted his right hand and took his oath of office, pledging to serve the United States as its 44th president, ordinary people and their leaders around the globe have been celebrating our nation’s “triumph over race.” Obama’s election has been touted as the final nail in the coffin of Jim Crow, the bookend placed on the history of racial caste in America.
Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office is offered as proof that “the land of the free” has finally made good on its promise of equality. There’s an implicit yet undeniable message embedded in his appearance on the world stage: this is what freedom looks like; this is what democracy can do for you. If you are poor, marginalized, or relegated to an inferior caste, there is hope for you. Trust us. Trust our rules, laws, customs, and wars. You, too, can get to the promised land.
Perhaps greater lies have been told in the past century, but they can be counted on one hand. Racial caste is alive and well in America.
Most people don’t like it when I say this. It makes them angry. In the “era of colorblindness” there’s a nearly fanatical desire to cling to the myth that we as a nation have “moved beyond” race. Here are a few facts that run counter to that triumphant racial narrative:
*There are more African Americans under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
*As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
* A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.
*If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing undercaste — not class, caste — permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.
Excuses for the Lockdown Read the rest of this entry »
One of the best documentary series ever produced, Eyes on the Prize is a 14-part study of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This series is so important because it shows how ordinary people, when organized, can affect dramatic social change.
The Civil Rights Movement remains the most inspiring example of successful social movements in the United States, breaking down the evil system of racial segregation and opening up possibilities for Black people, as well as for other races, that never existed before. It’s important to remember that 50 years ago, most African Americans could not vote, but now we have a Black President.
Obviously the work of the Civil Rights Movement remains unfinished, as we still live in a racist society with many other severe social problems caused by capitalism as well. But as Eyes on the Prize displays so dramatically, the hope we seek lies not in politicians but in our very own hands. We must learn from the past in order to change the future.
I watched episode 1 today and will be viewing the others over the next few weeks. Would you like to watch and discuss the series with me? Please respond by leaving a comment!
Love and struggle,
p.s. anyone know how to embed these videos on WordPress?
Subjects: Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, Segregation, Black Soldiers in World War II, Brown v. Board of Education, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King Jr, White Citizens Council, Ku Klux Klan, White Allies
Subjects: NAACP, Integration v. Segregation, Little Rock AR, The Little Rock 9, James Meredith, University of Mississippi
Subjects: Student Sit-ins, Nashville TN, Direct Action, Civil Disobedience, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Ella Baker, Boycott Movement, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Freedom Rides, Southern Jails
Subjects: Martin Luther King Jr, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Freedom Songs, Albany GA, Bull Connor, Birmingham AL, Fire Hoses and Dogs, John Lewis, March on Washington, John F. Kennedy, Civil Rights Act
Subjects: Medgar Evers, Murder of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, SNCC, Voting Registration Drives, Mississippi Freedom Summer, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Failure of the Democratic Party
[This is the BEST video in the series. What SNCC did in Mississippi changed America forever.]