A Manifesto for Our Times: The Challenge to Abolish Systemic Racism
REQUEST FOR SIGNERS:
This Manifesto is being circulated far and wide with the intention of opening a broad-ranging discussion of how today’s unprecedented movements against systemic racism and class oppression might develop toward new and independent organizations capable of challenging the ever-deepening incursions on fundamental social, political and economic rights. The initiators anticipate many activists will add their names and help circulate this text.
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Massive opposition to SYSTEMIC RACISM and the inseparable generalized social inequality that permeate every institution in U.S. society, are the only serious explanations for the magnificent, unprecedented, defiant daily multi-racial mass mobilizations in 2000+ U.S. cities and towns. In the face of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and police repression courageous millions have taken to the streets. The resounding declarations of Black Lives Matter! and No Justice, No Peace! have reverberated across the world. An unprecedented 84 percent of the U.S. population, according to CNN polls, agree with the anti-racist demonstrators. An estimated 15-25 million have participated in the protests.
It is this SYSTEMIC RACISM, not just the police murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, that has infuriated the vast majority. That daily racist police murders of unarmed Blacks has been the norm for decades is no longer denied with impunity. Minneapolis is but one example: Twenty percent of the population of 430,000 is Black. But when the police employ violence — with kicks, chokeholds, punches, shoves, takedowns, Mace and Tasers — nearly 60 percent of their victims are Black – seven times the rate of whites. Sixty-three percent of those recently killed by Minneapolis police – 19 people – were Black; 17 percent – or 5 people – were white.
INGRAINED RACISM: And a century and a half before these murders, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, 1865 to 1876, 2,000 racist lynchings of Black men, women and children were recorded, that is, after the Emancipation Proclamation. And another 4,400 lynchings between 1877 and 1950. And countless more since. And two more in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. And four looped lynch ropes ominously tied to trees in an Oakland, CA park a few days later.
SYSTEMIC RACISM: That is, the school-to-prison scenario, where ever-segregated, underfunded schools in the communities of the poor “graduate” near majorities of functionally illiterate students channeled into the ever-privatized-for profit mass incarceration prison-industrial-complex to work at Fortune 500 corporations at slave wage rates averaging 50 cents per hour. Half of the incarcerated are people of color. The nation that ranks first in the number of billionaires ranks first in the number and percentage of its population in jail.
SYSTEMIC RACISM: When COVID-19 deaths of Blacks, Latinx and Native Americans are triple the rate of whites and quality health care, if any health care, is absent for the great majority.
SYSTEMIC RACISM in the poverty wage, part time, “gig” economy, “flexible” workforce largely of the poorest “essential workers” forced back to work in deadly unsafe/unprotected conditions to salvage the profits of corporate America. The darker the skin color, the lower the wage. And even more so for the lowest rungs of the scale largely occupied by poor, Black women.
SYSTEMIC RACISM AND CLASS EXPLOITATION when trillions of dollars in the recent CARE corporate bailout legislation were gifted to behemoth corporations – with a handful of billionaires getting $457 billion – while a one-time pittance is allocated, if at all, to working people.
SYSTEMIC RACISM when 43 percent of the military’s soldiers are Black, Brown and Native American – victims of the economic draft – and trained to police the world at a cost one $trillion annually while our cities decay, our environment destroyed, our waters polluted, our schools fail, our health care disappears, our jobs deemed obsolete, our wages cut, our children go hungry and our hopes for a better future increasingly dashed.
Today, with undaunted millions in the streets, frightened figures in power have conceded more in days than in multiple decades, indeed centuries. Statues honoring the secessionist slaveocracy have been removed at the hands of the people and even by decree of local and state governments and in the nation’s capital. Their portraits have been ordered disappeared from the halls of Congress. Promises of “police reform” have been instantly announced in cities across the country. Generations of racist brutality and discrimination are pledged to be remedied with the passage of a piece of paper. Buildings honoring racist Klan member U.S. senators have been instantly renamed. A handful of police chiefs resigned. A few racist cops have been charged with murder and may be convicted in contrast to yesterday where such charges, not to mention convictions were the rare exception.
Spectacle of U.S. troops taking the knee
Even the nation’s leading generals, who oversee U.S. wars around the world, counseled caution with regard to sending active duty troops, 43 percent of whom are people color, to quell the massive anti-racist protests. “The right of the people peaceably to assemble,” they asserted, rather than be subjected to threats of martial law, at least for now, had to be respected. At least for now! No doubt the rebellious spectacle of U.S. troops taking the knee or otherwise fraternizing with rather than repressing their own people was a risk to be avoided. And Juneteenth, June 19, when federal troops arrived in Texas in 1865 to announce the end of slavery, is to be declared a national holiday. That is supposed to fix everything.
Where do we go from here?
We begin with the proposition that the term police reform is an oxymoron. Derek Chauvin’s knee has been on Black necks for four centuries. His police ancestors were the slave patrols of yesteryear formed to track down escaped chattel. They were the post Civil War police who arrested en masse Black Code designated “vagrants” turned into instant prisoners transferred to plantation chain gangs to work free for former slave owners; they were the racist Bull Connor heads of Birmingham’s Public Safety Commission hired to enforce the state’s “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws; they were and remain the cops employed to break union strikes and club civil rights demonstrators. They are all part of the system’s inherent function to maintain the social order of the few against the vast majority.
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass said it well, “Power cedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.”
Malcolm X, a century later came to the same conclusion, “Power never takes a back step – only in the face of more power.” Malcolm added: “I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. too: “Since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.”
The instant largely cosmetic concessions won to date in a matter of days and weeks affirm what Douglas, Malcolm and Martin learned from bitter struggle – with regard to Malcolm X and Dr. King, at the cost of their lives.
SYSTEMIC RACISM in U.S. society will be fundamentally altered only with profound changes in relations of power between those who hold and abuse it, and their victims – between the few who own nearly half the wealth of the nation and the vast majority who live pay check to paycheck, and the Black, Latinx and Native Americans who are often compelled to live on less.
Democratic Community Control: The Right of Self-determination
The right of Black, Brown and Native American people to democratically control and govern their own lives and communities will emerge today with the formation of new, united and independent organizations dedicated to the freedom struggle in all its manifestations. The struggle to disarm, defund, and disband the racist institutions of police power can only be envisioned in this context – in a political, social and economic framework where the $billions spent on the institutions of racist police repression can be deployed to defend and safeguard our interests not theirs – where the $trillions spent on bailing out the corporate elite, and the $trillions more transferred to them in “tax reform” bills will be spent on re-building the nation’s poor neighborhoods, inner cities, and tribal lands.
The movement we aspire to bring forth in alliance with all exploited working people will fight for:
* Free quality health care and education for all from the cradle to the grave, including generalized virus testing and PPE now!
* An end to all evictions and foreclosures during this COVID-19 pandemic and depression era! Limitations on rent to no more than 20 percent of household income!
* Billions for human needs not endless wars of intervention.
* An end to racist deportations. Tear down the walls! Full amnesty and equal rights for all! No human being is illegal!
* An end to the violence and discrimination against women and LGBTQI+ people!
* Save the earth! Stop the impending fossil fuel-induced climate catastrophe. Nationalize the entire fossil fuel corporate monopolies for a rapid transition to a safe, ecologically sustainable energy system. Jobs for all at a living wage for all replaced workers during the transition! No to environmental racism and to toxic waste dumping!
UNITY! UNITY! UNITY!
The courageous spectacle of unprecedented numbers of inspired white youth standing firm and side by side with their Black, Latinx and Native American sisters and brothers, in defiance of curfews, police clubs and exploding noxious gas grenades, portends wondrous victories to be won now and in the immediate future. What was impossible, unimaginable, unexpected, unthinkable yesterday is on the order of the day today.
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