By Florence Oppen
What a month of November! While our brothers and sisters in Brazil were getting ready to celebrate the month of Black Consciousness in the favelas and working class neighborhoods, in order to fight racism and the myth of a “racial democracy” in their country, here in the US we have seen another wave of resistance from Black youth, which is now uniting with Arabic, Syrian, Muslim and Palestinian solidarity. The racialized targets of US imperialism and its allies (because Assad is ultimately an ally of US Imperialism!) are increasing their revolt as the violent racist attacks increase. If last year we had a Black awakening, first with Ferguson and later Baltimore, now we have a concerted repression, a conscious unleashing of the putrid forces of racism. This not only has a face like Donald Trump- a mouth that speaks the threat of the horror contained in each imperialist society: there is also the threat of fascism, Nazism, genocide, call it what you want, the unbounded violence that will be exerted on the Black, Brown, female and LGBT bodies and subjects – the kind of violence re-activated in Ayotzinapa, Syria or Palestine.
Thanksgiving- or rather Thanks-Taking or the Indigenous People Day- passed and eating turkey felt awkward. It felt awkward to eat to celebrate anything in this country when you are sick to the stomach of the pervasive racist violence allowed under the leadership of a Black president. Obama, the first bourgeois, imperialist Black president, is the mutating sign of many things: from the projection screen of all the evils and hatred from the ultra-right wing during 2008 campaign (he was a Black-Muslim-Anti-American-Socialist, remember?), he quickly became the operator of a genius deviation of military and political defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan and the key to the electoral cooptation of successive waves of social resistance to the crisis (immigrant workers strikes, student unrest, Occupy, Wisconsin), but above all, he was the perfect cover-up for the largest bailout to US banks and imposition of austerity, the unravelling of a housing crisis and a cruel degradation of the standards of living for working people. Lately, even to his own surprise, he became the impotent, farcical and criminal sign of the bourgeois mimicry of Black solidarity when Ferguson erupted and Black Lives Matter got organized and remained passive to the pain inflicted on his people. Many began asking: is Obama Black after all? How can he keep a straight face? The ironic and infuriating betrayal of his people, his 7 years of inaction against institutional racism, his compliance to the racist and white supremacist ruling class have become the revolving door for the return of the of White supremacist fascism and the violent persecution of Blacks and other working class sectors in the US. We do not know where it will get us, we do not know how strong and entrenched is the Trump-scum in our society, but we can recognize the sign of what is happening and what unleashed it.
From Missouri to Minneapolis: Black People are Fighting Back
The Missouri university football players did a very bold thing: they went on strike against their bosses, the university corporate sports management and administrations, which thinks of them as semi-slave semi-labor commodities. Case in point: Black students are only 7% of the campus population in Missouri university, but 58 out of 84 of scholarship football players are Black.
The organizing group “Concerned Students 1950” wanted to educate us all to the fact that the problem was deeper: the campus built on 1839 was built upon black slave labor, and even though slavery was abolished by the state of Missouri in 1865, it wasn’t until 1950 that Black students were admitted into the University of Missouri. The public university of Missouri was, as most of the other ones in this country, only for white male students.
Black students have had to endure daily racism, silencing, slurs, insults, intimidation- like having cotton balls spread out fo their dorms to remind them of slavery, or swastikas drawn in restrooms with threats. After a number of racist incidents on campus, on October 2015, students began to organize and speak up. They created a group (Concerned Students 1950) and began to do some education around racial injustice and basic American history and put some demands on the administration. But they were ignored and bullied by school authorities, and almost run over by the President’s convertible, during a confrontation. Thus, the football team took the bold action, an action of the working class: they went on strike. On November 7th, the 32 Black members of the University Football team announced they will not play any game until the President will resign, which could have cost as a minimum a fine of $1 million dollars for cancelling the game (plus all the losses from tickets and commercial activities around it). The day after the strike was announced, the coach and the Missouri Students Association came in support of the players, and even the Governor of the State sent a message of support. The President resigned on Nov 9th, & it was a terrific victory, which showed the strength of united work action – even though it was only a first step to address the entrenched racism on campus.
Spurred on by this victory, Black students, who had been suffering from pervasive racism and intimidation, began to organize and speak up throughout the U.S. higher education system. The second week of November was marked by student protests and demands from Yale, to Ithaca College to Princeton. Yet, on November 15th and later November 24th, all of America was to discover all over again the same old story of endemic police violence and brutality against Black youth. First, there was Minneapolis when 24 years old Jamar Clark was shot by police. Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets, and five protesters were shot by neo-nazi vigilante groups.
Then there was Chicago, when on Nov. 24th the video of the police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, when he was in the middle of the street on Oct. 20 2014, was released. The shocking images of the gunning down (16 shots!) of a Black teenager who was walking in the street (with allegedly a 3-inch blade) disgusted and angered many of us. No confrontation, negotiation, or intimidations is shown, just a sudden 15 second straight shooting of a body that falls and keeps shaking by the bullets. 2015 Thanksgiving break was thus marked by the sordid reality of this country, by another genocide to commemorate the original one.
What do Trump’s Lies on Syrian Refugees, his Hatred of Mexicans and Muslims Mean?
Donald Trumps hate mongering is getting a lot of traction, and the Democratic And Republican Party leaders are just shifting responsibility out of their hands. All of these attacks are happening under a DP president and regime after all, which does not seem too concerned by the daily violations of civil rights. Trump’s anti-Mexican racist remarks have now escalated: the moving target of his hate speech varies from immigrants, to the disabled, the LGBT community, Muslims, Blacks, women… and now Jews. Trump’s job is not only to publicly name, identify and humiliate the designated scapegoats of the current state of poverty and frustration for American working people. He also wants to channel the frustration of the white male working class over the non-existing economic recovery for the 99% in order to point them to an easy target. Moreover, he wants to instill fascist behaviors, so working people become the executioners of their own sentence under capitalism. Knowingly or not, Trump represents the potential threat of fascism, which has been present in the US, as in any imperialist country, in moments of great economic meltdown and social decomposition. He warned some weeks ago, that if he is President, which is really unlikely for the moment (as major corporate powers do not support him): “Certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”
As an example of that “unthinkable”, of which the U.S. history is full of but is never really discussed, Trump recently proposed that Muslims should be mandatorily registered in a special national database and have to carry distinguishable IDs just because of their religion. Islamophobia is growing, and Trump is partially responsible for giving it wings and social acceptance in the public sphere. For one to state that “all Muslims are terrorists” or violent, or dangerous, has become something that is defended by raising it as “free speech” and “personal opinion”. Yet the result of Trump’s verbal provocation and aggressions is very concrete and material for the Muslim (or even “Arab/Indian looking”) community: in Texas for example, armed vigilante groups were patrolling around mosques in Texas and intimidating it’s assistants, Mosques have been vandalized around the U.S (Texas, Connecticut, Florida), and even a shop in Florida began posting “Muslim Free Zone” signs on its forefront. There was even a judge racist enough to side with the shop owners and against the civil rights groups who pressed charges. In the two weeks following the Paris attacks and Trump’s spiral of islamophobic speech, the Center for American-Islamic Relations has reported at least 27 hate attacks against the Muslim community.
Trump’s extreme talk pushed the bar lower of acceptable oppression in a democracy. For example, his Republican competitors have been now been able to revolt against Obama’s plan of welcoming 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country. So far, 31 states are opposing welcoming the refugees and only 5 have openly accepted to do so. The GOP candidate has made a profession of insulting and bashing an oppressed working class sector every week or so, and of course the Republican and the Democratic Party are delighted with the idea that someone else is doing the dirty business that is necessary to ensure the ongoing recovery of US multinationals: reinforcing oppression and division, & diminishing the political capacities of a united and confident struggle of the multiracial US working class.
Trump’s “extreme” style of doing politics is appealing to working people who are fed-up of the musical chair game of the ruling elite. People know that the so-called 1%, the alliance of this professional political elite of billionaires/millionaires and the major U.S. corporations with their armies of lawyers and lobbyist, are the ones running this country no matter who wins the elections. The problem is that it seems that there is no way to change that. And Trump wants to give poor white working people an illusion that he would do so, as he pretends to be a “powerful” business guy ready to “speak the truth to power”. Yet, behind Trump’s pretension to speak the “truth” to the “ordinary” White-male folk, and to mock “politically correct language” and “professional politicians”, the billionaire is only vocalizing and encouraging the spread of racist, sexist and homophobic tensions and oppressive relations that have been cultivated in this country since its foundation. Trump is just enabling one of the oldest escape valves designed by imperialist economies; the wars abroad, and the wars at home- where the violence unleashed within to the exploited is used to further subjugate, or even eliminate, some of its most oppressed sectors.
A New Radicalism and the Urgency of Stronger and Bolder Solidarities
The responses against the police killing of Black people (and against the police’s attacks on BLM activists) shows a glimmer of light in the darkness. There are Black people out there resisting and fighting, and there are also working class Whites, there are Muslims, Latin@s/Chican@s, immigrants, LGBTQ and many other oppressed coming out of the fear and apathy to stand up against the racist violence upheld by the status quo. And they are linking and uniting the struggle to see that this economic and social system we live under upholds it.
When the language of power superposes the attacks to different targets: Blacks, Muslims, Syrian Refugees and Palestinian, those sectors have the opportunity to united in a bolder movement. In fact, and just to take an example, both Black students at the University of California and in Minneapolis have began to shift the political slogans and rhetoric of Black Lives Matter: it is not anymore about denouncing the slow genocide of Black youth, and attracting the American public’s sympathy and outrage. Black bodies are rising as bold political subjects and not victims for the white liberal compassionate spectacle, as they have been trained to be in the past: they are confronting directly the State, all of its institutions, from the police, to the industrial prison complex to public education, they will not be satisfied anymore with small reforms or “increased representation”. They know a Black president has changed little. This new generation of Black activists is becoming aware that racism is entrenched in U.S. capitalism, and that an independent movement from the state and twin parties is needed, an independent movement that will bring about mass and bold action, even if in its beginning it will only be carried out by a minority. The Black Lives Matter movement has the chance to make history by breaking with, what Breitman (a socialist political leader of the SWP) called in 1964 “the teaching, the influence, the propaganda of the whole capitalist system from cradle to grave are aimed at brainwashing the people; at convincing them, among other things, that minorities can plead and beg, but cannot do anything significant, cannot accomplish any big changes, until they have the consent of the majority.”
Yet this minority cannot be left alone. It is our duty to mobilize the united struggle of all the working class oppressed sectors which are under attack, not only by Trump, but by the police forces and vigilante groups, like the attack on Planned Parenthood. From women and to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees, we need to build strong solidarity in action of all the exploited and oppressed. At UC Berkeley, union activists that rallied in support of the lecturer’s contract (UC-AFT) joined the protest organized by Black Student Union , & in another example, Vermont members of the United Electrical workers union (UE) organized against the KKK. We need to further and expand these actions of united struggle. Let’s bring this to the streets, rallies, and protests to show that the targets of this scapegoating strategy are ready to unite and put an end to this growing banalization of anti-Black, anti-Muslim and anti-women’s rights sentiments that has been fueled in our country!
 The 5 states that have accepted are: Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont and Delaware.