Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Race, Class, Hate, Coming Together


I'm Forwarding this to the blog as an intelligent precursor to the type of discussions that must prevail if progressive americans are going to finally lead anyone away from what the media, political parties and haters and what they want us to believe. The next revolution will be more about who we are as human beings, our commonality, our desire to love and simply raise our children, love our partners, and do the work we want and need to do in order to be apart of this society. tb

     For those who don't know Andre Taylor: his older brother Che Taylor was killed by Seattle police last February, and shortly after that Andre founded the Seattle group Not This Time.

Here are Andre's very wise thoughts in brief:

"[People say about Trump supporters] They don't like Black people. They want Latinos gone... Well, I reject that idea. I'm insulted, really, by that idea, especially from what we might consider white progressives, liberals. It's a dangerous game that you're playing. To just discount millions of people... I know what being overlooked looks like. I know what being disenfranchised looks like... As an African-American male, I'm in a position to recognize it when I see it. What I see is individuals that have given this political process time and have seen over and over again how it has not benefited them and their families and their children. They would rather blow the whole thing up and start over, and if Trump is that vehicle in which to do that, I believe they feel like we're going to take this chance for change. If we had the numbers as African-Americans, I believe we would try to do the same thing."
 

You can, and should, watch Andre's full five minute video statement here:  https://www.facebook.com/andreltaylor/videos/10155394608254622/?permPage=1

At that 1980 lecture Kwame Ture said -- and I grossly paraphrase from an imperfect and faded memory -- "When the children of those dispossessed of their land fight the children of slaves, the only group that wins is the group that dispossessed both of them in the first place, the same group that continues to discriminate and oppress them now... why are poor white people fighting poor black people over the meager crumbs offered to them by the very people that keep them both poor?"

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey would observe: 

     In Boston, in 1980, I had the privilege of hearing 1960's US civil rights leader Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Charmichael) speak along with Northern Ireland's  civil rights leader Bernadette Devlin McAliskey.
It was just four years after the Pulitzer Prize winning picture "The Soiling of Old Glory" was captured at the height of the Boston busing struggle (where Irish American kids attacked African American kids).
The picture taught us many things, not the least of which was that American patriotism is inextricably entangled with racism and that some 321 miles north of the Mason-Dixon line virulent racism thrives in chilly climes.


You can watch her discuss these themes in her 1979 Boston interview -- skip to 6:42-10:43:  http://bostonlocaltv.org/catalog/V_MKFIEIBV0KEJ4MA


     In different language, at a different time, these people were stating what Andre Taylor stated yesterday. This should never be interpreted as an argument for ignoring racism, or even an argument for somehow making racism a secondary concern. It is an argument for understanding racism -- most certainly institutional racism (a term first developed by Kwame Ture) -- not as a product of human failing, or inherent tribalism, or simple hatred, but rather as a product of those who seek to gain and maintain economic advantage. It is also an argument for confronting and fighting the people that eat many a fatted calf and not the ones that get some extra leftover grain.

     People often argue abstract and theoretical positions, and some will say "Well that's all fine and well to debate class, but the racist, homophobic, misogynists are real and they want to hurt us and take our rights from us." But what is abstract and theoretical became very real for me and 15 other black and white teenagers/very young adults in 1971 on an American Friends Service Committee work camp in Fremont, Michigan. That summer we came to rebuild the "homes" of a small community of African Americans who arrived in Newaygo County in the late 1930's and early 1940's, at the peak of the Great Migration of African Americans from the south. They came to work in the Gerber Products factory, and were settled in houses which the US government started to build but stopped when World War II started, leaving people to live underground in tar papered concrete basements with no running water, no toilets, no sewage system.

     Newaygo County was less than 1% African American, and we were faced with the most in-your-face virulent racism on a daily basis: motorcycle gangs that attacked us and tried hard to provoke violent confrontations, we were thrown out of bars for inter-racial dancing, local construction workers volunteering with us refused to let the African American campers into their cars, and attacks on the school we slept at. There was nothing abstract or theoretical about the white Fremont resident who once came to our defense and had his head caved in with a very large open-end wrench. What to do in a situation like that: fight back, debate intersectional politics, lecture on institutional racism, challenge folks to explore their implicit biases (actually 99.9% of the bias was quite explicit), explain the Quaker principles of non-violence, boycott the work, run away to safety? We did what was surely the hardest thing: stayed and worked for nine weeks, strictly adhering to the principles of non-violence we committed to that summer, and every day learning new ways to navigate the racism that confronted us and constrained our work. It was hard work to get the local white construction workers just to eat lunch with both the black and white kids in the group. Eventually those workers let everyone ride in their trucks, they listened to the black kid from Mississippi tell his story of watching armed Klansmen break into his home to lynch his father (because the kid was the first in his area to go to an all white school; his dad was saved by his mom and a shotgun), they came to our parties, and hugged a black person for the first time at the end on nine weeks when it was time to go. These "rednecks" donated their tools and sweat to rebuild the homes of African Americans in their community. Everyone benefited and grew that summer, except the racist bikers who never stopped threatening and doing violence -- but at the end of the summer we defeated them in a way that violence never could have.

     Sometimes you have to meet people where they are as opposed to forcibly dragging them to where you are (or think you are). There was no point fighting the people who got some extra leftover grain.

     When the children and grandchildren of those workers from Newaygo County lost their homes and savings after 2008, and no one came to help them rebuild, 67% of them voted for Trump. And, racist or not, I still think they would come to the aid of their African American neighbors like their forebear's did 45 years ago.



     Bernadette Devlin McAliskey gave a lecture two months ago which revisits these issues 37 years after she spoke in Boston. The first half of the lecture focuses on the current conditions in Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland peace process. She argues "protect us from the con-men who have corporatized and sell the Northern Ireland peace process to the rest of the world." Very worth watching.

The second half -- from time 32:55 on -- is about how people end up turning against each other in battles for the equality of injustice, the equality of poverty, and the equality of misconception, i.e., battles which end up being about how to make us suffer equally rather than battles to enfranchise and empower all.

Mandatory viewing at a time like this.

     Some thoughts on how we can do the very necessary work in the months ahead so that someone else doesn't have to re-post these same videos and arguments 37 years from now?

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