by Ellen Isaacs
appearing on Counterpunch, November 7, 2018
We live in a nation totally beholden to racism. Founded on racism, built on racism, surviving by virtue of racism. From the near total eradication of Native Americans by disease, slaughter, and death marches; to the enslavement of 12 million Africans and the continued oppression, imprisonment, impoverishment and wanton killing of their descendants; to the exploitation and deportation of immigrants; to the Jews and Irish and Italians being eventually admitted into invented whiteness in order to turn them anti-black, but still maligned; to the wars fought against “gooks” and “ragheads” to increase rich men’s profits – US capitalism survives on racism. And the US that survives this way is not beneficial to any of its working people, tearing us apart from each other, impoverishing our souls and our pocketbooks, depriving us of health and learning and peace needed by all and the strength we could have in our oneness. Separated, we are likely to be led down the road to fascism.
Today we are witnessing national agonizing over the murder of 11 Jews, those only grudgingly admitted members of the white circle, although 6 million others were slaughtered as the US did little and turned back escapees begging for refuge on the ship St. Louis. Nonetheless, we know all their names and have witnessed the funerals of these latest victims and shared the grief of their intimates. This is not regrettable, it is only in contrast deaths of the approximately 1000 killed by police each year, nearly half of whom are black or Latin (Atlantic, 5/8/18), about whom we learn little and mourn less.
Despite these harsh words, it would be an error to seek a cause for these disparities in the sculpting of our brains or the failure of our morality. No, we live in a nation that needs racism and thus it is inserted purposefully deep into our souls in our neighborhoods, our classrooms, our media, our pulpits, our clinics, our labor unions –in most of our American experiences. This blog has many articles on the overt creation of racism (Lerone Bennett), and racism in housing, health care, immigration and migration, labor organizing and others areas our lives, things we are not taught and that are kept hidden from us.
Even today, wages and the opportunity to work remain vastly different by race. 51.3% of young black high school graduates are underemployed compared to 33.8% of whites; 23% of young black college graduates are unemployed vs. 12.9% of whites. 330,000 black high school graduates are not employed at all. (https://www.epi.org/blog/young-black-high-school-grads-face-astonishing-underemployment/). Keep in mind that unemployment rates do not count workers who have been discouraged from looking for work for more than one year, although those numbers are tabulated, nor those who have given up after more than a year of unemployment. According to Shadowstats.com, the Labor Department even counts as employed someone who works as little as one hour a week and earns as little as $20 a week. The Federal Reserve finds that only one fifth of the difference between black and white can be accounted for by differences in education, age and location. (https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2017071pap.pdf)
2.3 million Americans are in prison, 59% of whom are black, Latin or native American – not “employed”, but providing free labor. Black and Latin workers who are acknowledged to be full time employees earn about 75% of the wages of white workers, disparities based on education, training, and differences in wages paid for the same work.
According to the Center for American Progress report Unequal Education of 2012, schools are just as segregated and unequal now as they were in 1954 when Brown vs Board of Education was decided. The average white student attends a school where 77% of students are white and 40% of black and Latin students attend schools where over 90% are non-white. Not only are students deprived of knowledge and kinship of each other, but schools with over 90% students of color spend $733 less per student per year than schools with 90% or more whites.
How do we accept these disparities in our own country? How do we not rise up against the death of over 10,000 Yemenis and starvation of half of the population? How do we explain our ability to accept the death of half a million Iraqis due to sanctions before the invasion even started? How do we turn away from the deaths of thousands of Gazans imprisoned in their illegal concentration camp? How do we explain the assignment of troops to go to the border and threaten migrating families fleeing the ravages of US imperialism? We can only explain it by racism, and without that racism this government, under Democrat or Republican, would not be able to maintain profits at home or wield its imperialist might around the world.
So let us mourn all of those who die by violence or die young or die by neglect perpetrated by the ruling class or those whom they win to carry out their racist policies. Let us celebrate times we have fought together, in many union battles, in Selma, in Ferguson, in Charlottesville and many, many more. Let we who work, whether builder or waiter or teacher or unemployed, unite together in every way, in every struggle, in all our mourning, in all our resistance and continue together until we found a world based on equality, one that seeks to provide the fullest life for all. Not a capitalist world, for sure.