Racist provocations and violence are on the rise and a cause for great concern. Racism represents a grave danger to our nation.

James Watson, awarded a Nobel Prize 50 years ago for DNA research, prompted outrage on both sides of the Atlantic recently, by stating in a London Sunday Times interview that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospects of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.” Adding that he hoped everyone is equal, he cautioned, “People who have to deal with Black employees find this is not true.” Watson, who has a long history of outlandish racist, homophobic and sexist utterances, was immediately fired from his job at a prestigious Long Island research lab.

Unfortunately, Watson’s ideas are not isolated. Racist speech today fills the airwaves and is spread online all over the world. Witness the tirade of Michael Richards, or Don Imus’ insults, or Paris Hilton’s use of the “n-word.”

Then there is former Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ suggestion that women (of all races) aren’t as smart as men.

The frequency of such statements is cause for alarm. Clearly, racist discourse in certain circles has become acceptable speech. Public figures would not make such statements if they didn’t think they could get away with it.

We think these racist attacks are inspired by the blame-the-victim policies of the Bush administration and its Justice Department, who refuse to enforce civil rights laws and whose policies have resulted in African Americans making up 50 percent of those in prison and 30 percent of those who die in police custody.

When Bush refused to respond to the victims of Katrina; when the Supreme Court majority continually rules against working people, racial minorities and women; when the attorney general uses the Justice Department not to combat but to enforce racism and discrimination; and when civil right leaders are constantly vilified and old-line segregationists are praised, it all sends the signal that racism is OK.

An especially sharp edge in this racist offensive is directed at people of African descent. The proliferation of lynch ropes at workplaces, schools and other public spaces springs out of the history of Klan terror and the brutal suppression of the African American people in the South and other parts of the country. Displaying this symbol of some of the most brutal acts of murderous racist terror in our nation’s history is not only illegal, it is a threat to democratic principles most people hold dear. Certainly it is no joke or childish prank.

Racism and violence

Racism and violence go hand in hand. There are reports in the media of the growth and launching of violent racist organizations, which are attracting some white young men.

In Staten Island, N.Y., first it was the “n-word” scrolled on the bench of a visiting Harlem football team. Then within days a Black youth was viciously beaten by bat-wielding white youths.

In Jena, La., the lynch rope was hung on a “white tree” by racist elements who later beat up a Black youth with fists and beer bottles, screaming racist epithets. Hanging a noose is indeed a hate crime, but the Bush Justice Department refused to enforce federal law or intervene when local authorities threw the book at the Jena Six.

Then there is the violence in the criminal justice system. The New York policemen who murdered unarmed Sean Bell without asking questions thought they could get away with it. In Florida, a 14-year-old Black youth was beaten to death by staff at a juvenile “boot camp.” Then the staffers were acquitted.

In the face of this new racist offensive, we strongly feel that the main responsibility for negative behavior of some Black youth should not be placed on women-headed households, as some are saying, but rather on structural racism. Those who put the main blame on the household are in some instances contributing to a well-organized effort to destroy the movement to end racism.

Who is to blame?

This rise in racist provocations is a reaction to the political shift of the country away from the disastrous right-wing policies of Bush and the Republican Party. This administration fears the poll results which show that the two leading candidates for the presidency are a women and an African American. The far-right fears that with a new administration the Iraq war might actually be ended and racial and economic justice advanced. It doesn’t like all the talk of ending the tax cuts for the rich and the growing concern about the environment and bringing an end to a foreign policy driven by corporate profits, oil and empire building.

The far-right is desperate at the prospect of the country moving in a new direction away from war, racism and economic royalty. Their strategy is to split Black, Brown and white and weaken the anti-right-wing vote in 2008. The rise in attacks on African Americans reveals the centrality of anti-Black racism in the right-wing drive to advance their anti-working-class agenda.

At the same time there is also a rise in attacks on immigrants in general and Mexican Americans in particular, including an increase in fascist-like government raids. There is a rise in anti-Semitic vandalism at synagogues and homes, with swastikas and “Hitler is back” slogans appearing in some communities in the New York City area.

United for justice

The 50,000 marchers for justice in Jena recently have been hailed as the beginning of a new civil rights movement. It clearly frightened the forces of racism. United multiracial marches such as this are needed all over the country. The only way to defeat racism is with unity in struggle.

What else is needed in response? A forthright public recognition of what is going on and expression of strong opposition by every public official and body and by every leader in the labor movement, in every democratic organization, and by individuals, in ads in local papers and other public proclamations of unity. Mayors, governors, state legislators and city council members should be speaking out. The public needs to hear the united voices of anti-racism, not just from the Congressional Black Caucus but from every elected official at all levels of government.

City councils should pass resolutions, and there should be hearings at the city, state and the federal level to determine what is really happening and to review existing anti-hate legislation and toughen it. Police commissioners should be called before city councils to account for what they are doing to prevent and punish brutality by police and others who engage in racist attacks.

All presidential candidates should be called on to speak out against racist violence and call for unity.

The time to act is now.

Jarvis Tyner, Communist Party USA executive vice chair, and Sam Webb, CPUSA chair, have written this on behalf of the CPUSA National Board. For more information on the Communist Party: .