by Karyn Pomerantz, June 7, 2020
appearing in Counterpunch, June 12, 2020
Kudos to everyone taking a stand and acting against racism. Your ongoing protests have inspired a vision of a better world based on cooperation and equity. Your militancy, persistence, and inclusivity reveal a passion for multiracial and global solidarity. As you continue resisting, we now see the hypocrites coming out of the woodwork hyping their phony pledges of anti-racism.
This message criticizes the liberal organizations that pose as anti-racist while supporting the system that creates inequity. It is not an attack on those who work for them.
During the week of June 1, I received over a dozen “statements” from businesses, universities, and non-profits bemoaning the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery among the 1000 other men, women, and children killed by police every year, killing a disproportionate number of black men and women who have over twice the chance of being killed by police than white people. The messages acknowledged the centuries of enslavement, genocides, and disparities in health, wealth, and covid. It feels like people just discovered the oppression of the working class, especially workers of color.
Where was everyone when Black Lives Matter, Ferguson militants, families of dead children, and immigrant activists demanded an end to state violence, stood up to heavily armed police and ICE, and demanded indictments of killer cops who rarely serve any prison time?
Generations of activists have called for an end to brutal racism. Public health scholars and others have quantified the unequal distribution of those “social determinants of health,” you know, those conditions like housing, poverty, and unemployment that affect health. Who knew? Who cared? Yet rarely does anyone, including “radicals” like Bernie Sanders and AOC, name and oppose capitalism’s profit driven demands as the underpinning of these problems.
Major public health organizations and schools have advocated for health reforms but only color within the lines of lobbying, petitioning, and begging Congress for money. Do you know that it took three years for the American Public Health Association to pass a resolution that police brutality hurts health? That the GWU School of Public Health refused to make a statement against the rash of police violence until it became popular and impossible to ignore? That faculty and NGO staff have to censor radical ideas to keep their grant funding and their jobs?
Now we have cops posing on their knees when they aren’t kneeling on necks, football bosses apologizing for racism in the NFL, and businesses like Walmart pledging money for a center on equity and blathering about structural change as they continue to exploit their workforce ($15 per hour!) and lay-off thousands of employees. (Hint: they are the structural problem).
Are we expected to praise politicians when they urge decarceration but leave people in death traps called jails in Prince George’s County and elsewhere? When they rename a plaza and paint Black Lives Matter on the street while sharing surveillance camera data to identify protestors? These utterly hypocritical actions only occurred when massive, angry, and determined people threatened the peace of the ownership class. Let us expose and reject the politicians (yes, Biden and Cuomo included) and opportunists who mouth platitudes in order to appease us and safeguard their power and wealth.
Let’s keep fighting back and organizing sustainable movements to overturn this system.