Racism and unity

Racism exists today but has changed its form. The right uses racism to divide the working class, and therefore our documents and literature need to focus on why Black, Brown, white unity is necessary for working-class unity.

It is not an accident that the Bush administration has put a Black face at the front of its regime to champion its foreign policy, first Colin Powell and now Condoleezza Rice, seeking to prove to the world that the USA no longer is a racist power. The truth is quite different.

The crisis facing African Americans in this country proves that racism is alive and well. The crisis of the criminalization of African Americans has resulted in 50 percent of the prison population being African American, when African Americans comprise only 13-14 percent of the U.S. population. Women, especially Black women, are being imprisoned at an alarming rate. Over 2 million people are imprisoned in the United States and 70 percent are there because of illegal drugs. In the 1980s the CIA devised a scheme to make Black communities the center of the manufacture and distribution of crack cocaine as a way to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The result of that venture has been the devastation of many African American communities. (Read Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” for documentation.) The illegal drugs/guns industry is now part of the economy of Black communities throughout the U.S., replacing thousands of manufacturing jobs that have left the country. Police brutality and an unfair court system continue.

The official unemployment rate for African Americans is twice that of the national average, but in reality it is more than the 10.5 percent Department of Labor figure. In some communities in New York and Philadelphia it is 30 percent.

The suppression of the Black vote is historical. But in 2000 in Florida it was in the forefront of the fraud that resulted in the selection of George W. Bush as president and the right-wing Republican takeover of all three branches of government. The disenfranchisement of African Americans is a model to disenfranchise other oppressed groups and all citizens.

Racism is used to divide union members in every union struggle. Immigrant workers are now being pitted against all low-wage workers. Divide and conquer is the plan.

In its December 2004 issue, the NAACP’s Crisis magazine ran a special report on the health disparities threatening Black lives. The lack of heath care, the higher mortality rate, the higher infant mortality rate and the higher rate of disease for African Americans are cause for great concern. Half of those with HIV/AIDS in this country are African American and the number of women with HIV/AIDS has increased at an alarming rate, yet this disease is being ignored.

The attack on public education has a racist edge. Privatization, vouchers and charter schools are being pushed on school districts with large numbers of Black and Latino students. These districts and poor white districts lack funding for quality education. The No Child Left Behind law leaves people of color and poor people behind.

African American troops comprise 19 percent of the armed forces in Iraq, and 20 percent of the Army. Some refer to it as the “back-door draft.” Without living wage jobs or money for college, young people join the armed forces thinking it will improve their future. Instead they face loss of life and limb in a senseless war that has killed many thousands of Iraqis.

These are only some examples of racism in the USA. Each area needs to be studied further. An analysis is needed of how white workers are led to abandon their own best interests when they ignore or support racist policies. What is important is that the working class is weakened when racism and discrimination are allowed. A blow to one is a blow to all. Coalition work cannot be successful unless the fight against racism is advanced.

Rosita Johnson (phillyrose1 @ hotmail.com) is a member of the editorial board of the People’s Weekly World.

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