Stolen indigenous lands, stolen and enslaved people, stolen resources, and stolen elections mark US domestic and global history. Democratic and Republican Administrations have conducted wars and assassinations to annex foreign territories (Hawaii and Puerto Rico among others), oppose imperial competitors (Germany, Russia, and China), and remove pro-socialist governments (Congo and Chile among many others). Beneath its patriotic and racist calls to arms is a rapacious grab for for profits (https://multiracialunity.org/2018/02/02/as-u-s-imperialism-declines-we-must-fight-racism-and-nationalism/).
The US ruling class unleashed one of the worst genocides against the Indigenous inhabitants of the US territories beginning in the 16th Century. When the settler colonialists arrived, there were 5-15 million Native Americans; by the late 19th Century, only 238,000 remained. Because of 1,500 wars, massacres, the Indian Removal Act that pushed 60,000 people on the Trail of Tears into reservations, 230 treaties that seized Native land, and diseases like smallpox left untreated, rich white landowners and their government grabbed 99% of tribal lands to build their wealth.
Yes, movies are entertaining and fun, but they also convey important viewpoints about life.
Undoubtedly, we won’t all agree about the ideas in a movie. I’m sharing this review to offer some thoughts that you may wish to consider while thinking about the implied themes in the brand new Wakanda Forever film. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Here’s the original review:
For sure – as compared to many thousands of movies with no Black characters; or with just a few Black characters, all depicted as subservient; or with many Black characters but none given depth, complexity and leadership on the world scene – Black Panther is a breath of fresh air.
And it’s truly pleasing to hear about that day on the set, with hundreds of Black actors on the mountainside in a joyous mood between takes, celebrating the fact that so many actors of color have been employed in a major film, in a story about the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet. And it’s great to see women in leading roles: powerful, insightful, and on the cutting edge of scientific breakthroughs.
The editors welcome this article from Joe Ramsey who analyzes Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. He argues that we must extend our compassion and beliefs that people can change to those whose situations lead to harmful actions. He states that: “the hierarchical sorting of people into the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ invariably draws upon and contributes to the toxic legacies of nationalism, race, class, as well as gender, homophobia, ableism, and more. But, as Stevenson makes clear, it is not simply abhorrent as an expression of such injustice. It is fundamentally dehumanizing and alienating for all involved, and corrosive to the potential for positive social change in general.” Ramsey’s review contributes to the discussion of abolition, restorative justice, and mitigation. Is it possible to treat people with compassion under capitalism? Do we want to forgive perpetrators of crimes against the working class, whether police or fascist rulers? Can we abolish or mitigate racism under capitalism? Read on. The Editors.
“Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.”
-Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy
“I am human, and I think nothing human is alien to me.”*
-Terence, African Roman playwright & former slave
(*favorite ‘maxim’ of Karl Marx)
Far too many people in the United States are officially condemned to have their futures cut short. The most extreme of these cases are found on Death Row, where thousands now sit, sentenced to be executed by the state—some likely for crimes they did not even commit. To these we must add another 55,000 people who languish permanently in US prisons, sentenced to “life” without even the possibility of parole. They too are condemned to die, behind bars, if not today, then eventually—no matter what they do or say, no matter how unfair the events that landed them in prison in the first place.
What does it mean for a society to condemn so many, so finally?
There is no doubt that current day Nazis, racists and fascists with a direct link to the Nazis of World War II, are prominent among Ukrainian fighting forces. Paramount among them is the Azov Brigade, an official part of the Ukrainian military and the primary force in the battle for Mariupol, whose flag features an SS emblem. The Azov founder, Andriy Biletsky, has said that the mission of Ukraine is to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade… against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]” (https://jewishunpacked.com/the-azov-movement-lets-talk-about-ukraines-nazi-problem/). They also proclaim their intent to cleanse Europe of immigrants and homosexuals.
Imperialist countries cannot wage war for global power without the tens of thousands of workers they recruit and arm to fight for their empires. To the ruling class and military brass, these workers are cannon fodder for their interests. WWI wasted millions of young men sent to carry out insane combat orders. The US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq relied on voluntary soldiers, some motivated by patriotism and more by the economy and difficulty finding jobs. Army recruiters prowled the halls of high schools and promised training and benefits. During the 1960s when the Vietnam War began, the Army instituted the draft, giving deferments and better positions to college students. This deferment ended as the Army required more soldiers.
Class divisions mirrored those in civilian life causing resentments and conflict. During the Vietnam War, most combat soldiers had working class backgrounds and a high school degree or less while the officers had high school and college degrees. Officers working in safety far from the fighting made the combat decisions and ordered the troops to implement them. As we will see, the draft of men who did not want to fight created a tinderbox of rebellion.
As earlier articles on this blog have explained, we, the working class of all nations, should not take sides in the war in Ukraine. Russia, the United States, and the EU are fighting for control of natural resources, minerals, oil, gas, grains, and pipelines. Russia has aggressively and inhumanely devastated cities in order to grab territory to assert power. The US is intent on weakening the power of Russia and boosting the number of NATO military bases around Russia. The US has intervened in Ukrainian politics since 2014 when it installed their new president. Russia has retaliated against these threats with horrendous attacks on civilians.
Capitalism kills, and war is the most extreme example. Capitalists send working class men and women into horrific situations and count success as the number of enemy troops killed and territory seized. These capitalists are willing to sacrifice our lives whether in Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, or Libya. As we see on the news, Biden is more than willing to shelter 100,000 Ukrainian refugees while deporting hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who also face desperate situations in their home countries. He sends billions of dollars for military equipment to Ukraine, slashes funding for Covid relief, and maintains trade barriers on distributing vaccines to poorer countries with primarily black and brown people. This war is draining billions for arms (currently over $56 billion) from domestic social needs, such as healthcare, housing, and climate improvements.
On the “positive” side, soldiers have significant power by deserting, sabotaging equipment, and refusing orders. There are some reports of Russian soldiers deserting; over 30,000 have died! International Business News (June 22, 2022) reported that 200 Russian soldiers hid out in a village in Ukraine rather than fight. An officer shot himself in the leg to avoid combat, and another GI ran over an officer with his tank. The Russian Army released 100 national guardsmen who refused orders. Another soldier told a reporter that “none of us wanted this war.”
If soldiers on both sides refused to fight, they could end the war. WWI and WWII led to revolutions in Russia and China. The role of the armed forces was instrumental for their victories; soldiers mutinied against their ruling classes and refused to attack the revolutionaries. However, this is not inevitable. Successful revolutions require people’s commitment to egalitarianism and anti-racism, and the organization of workers, students, and soldiers into a party.
This article recounts the GI rebellions against the War in Vietnam. Later articles will cover other wars during the 20th Century. Soldiers from Ukraine and Russia must follow these heroic examples to end the war.
Denial of healthcare to Chinese workers creates distrust of physicians and public health officers
No cure existed
It took years to find the zoonotic cause and control transmission
No, it’s not Covid. It is the bubonic plague that appeared in San Francisco in 1901. The Plague at the Golden Gate, a documentary produced by PBS, portrays the desperate search for the cause of the rapid deaths among Chinese residents crammed into a crowded neighborhood known as Chinatown. Out of 120 plague stricken people, 119 died. The handling of the outbreak holds lessons for public health workers, government officials, and the public today.
The constant drum beat of white supremacy has enabled the murderers of many people: black Bible Study members in Charlotte, Asian women workers in Georgia, Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh, and Latinx shoppers in Texas. Now a white supremacist has killed 10 black residents in Buffalo. Shopping, working, and worshipping while black, Latin, Jewish, and Asian can get you killed. This shooting is a horrific outcome of the racism in Buffalo and elsewhere.
These attacks appear to be the random work of deranged people. While mental illness may be a factor, these men are deeply influenced by racism. It is hard to predict the exact time and place of these murders, but the intentional and perpetual inculcation of racist ideas by US capitalism ensures that it will sow division and distrust and erupt in violence.
After the shooting, The Washington Post polled a national sample of black residents on its effects, revealing a high level of mistrust of white workers and the police:
70% believed half of whites held racist ideas
55% wanted more economic investment to alleviate poverty and neglected communities instead of increased policing favored by 24%
1 in 4 considered buying a gun (Washington Post, Poll: Black Americans fear more attacks after Buffalo. 5-22-2022, A3).
Some white faces appeared at the funerals and vigils, but more white residents must overcome the segregation and reach out to their black neighbors with support and activism. While living conditions and racist violence differ in degree between black and white residents, both groups have high rates of poverty, 31% and 18% respectively, both over the 13% in New York State (Census data, 2000-2020, https://www.city-data.com/poverty/poverty-Buffalo-New-York.html).
This article describes how Buffalo businessmen promote segregation and racism to produce wealth for themselves and poor health, educational, and economic outcomes for black residents. It calls for building multiracial solidarity while rejecting the identity politics that divide us into separate silos.
Overturning a woman’s right to abortion is the latest effort to keep women powerless, providing free domestic labor in the home and under the control of the male-dominated state.
It is not the first attack. Seventeenth century witch hunts stigmatized and murdered outspoken women. Slavery turned black women into child and wealth generators for plantation owners. Throughout capitalist history, women have been demeaned and impoverished, especially black, indigenous, and Latinx women, in order to make extra profits. This article documents how capitalism oppresses women and argues that abortion supporters must broaden their demands to address the broader role of sexism under capitalism.
Public health activists in the American Public Health Association (APHA) have submitted a policy proposing universal vaccination, changes in global trade policy that protects manufacturers, and protection for asylee seekers and migrants. APHA must take a strong position for measures to prevent and treat Covid 19 and demand global working-class solidarity.
Adopting this policy will not guarantee action, but it gives credibility and science-based information to help advocates in the community, universities, and medical, health, trade, and labor sectors to organize more effectively. Writing it has given opportunities for more young public health students to learn about capitalism and to build relationships. What we learned:
On June 1, 2021, Newark undercover plainclothes police attacked four young black men–the four brothers Branden, Justin and Jaykil Rodwell and Jasper Spivey– in front of their home in the South Ward of Newark, NJ. According to the police complaint, the cops stopped the Rodwell/Spivey brothers because they were “wearing white T-shirts and dreads” — clearly racially profiling and targeting them because they were black. Without announcing themselves as police, the cops immediately began harassing and then roughing up one of the brothers. The other brothers, seeing their family being attacked by armed white armed men, rushed to their defense. The cops then violently attacked all the brothers, put them all in chokeholds, and arrested two and then filed serious aggravated assault charges against all four.