•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

Racist atrocities & class consciousness

Published May 7, 2012 8:38 PM

It took a month and a half after George Zimmerman executed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin before an arrest was made. Though special prosecutor Angela Corey asserts that an investigation had been ongoing, all the evidence and statements made by the police chief and others involved with the case make it very clear that, had it not been for a massive outpouring, especially from the Black community, George Zimmerman would still be walking free.

It was fear of a rebellion that led to the state responding and to Zimmerman’s arrest. And not to be forgotten or glossed over were the resilience and determination of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin to win some justice for their son.

It was definitely a surprise, but further injury, that George Zimmerman was released on bail on April 23 after a judge set the bond at $150,000, which meant his family only needed to lay out 10 percent, or $15,000.

With the recent discovery that the Zimmermans had raised more than $200,000 via the Internet, the parents of young Trayvon, their lawyer and the Black community are calling foul. They are demanding a review of the bail decision, especially in light of the fact that Zimmerman’s family failed to disclose the amount earlier and claimed not to have enough money to pay for the higher bail of $1 million that had been sought after it was determined that the judge would set bail.

There is speculation that some of the same wealthy right-wingers who supported the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the owners of Koch Industries, may be making donations. Whether this is fact or merely speculation, $200,000-plus is a hefty sum. That it was not disclosed and that bond was set relatively low, either because the Zimmerman family and his lawyer omitted giving information or were deliberately misleading, should lead to a rearrest. This is what Trayvon Martin’s family is calling for.

More cases of police violence and racist murders

As tragic as was the killing of Martin, the tremendous movement that rose up in response has brought to the fore more cases of police violence and racist killings.

Most notable is the case of two white supremacists who deliberately went into North Tulsa, Okla., early in April to terrorize Black people. They killed three Black men, an act that brought to mind the massacre of hundreds of Black people in the Greenwood section of Tulsa in 1921.

Another killing by a suspected white supremacist occurred in North Carolina months before Trayvon Martin’s death and is just now coming to light. Jasmine Thar, 16, her godmother and a friend were preparing to go Christmas shopping when they were struck by a bullet from a Remington rifle. Thar died as her 15-year-old brother was trying to stop the bleeding. The shooter claims an accidental discharge of his gun, but was found to have not only a Confederate flag but also Nazi memorabilia. No charges were filed.

There were also the police killings in March of Kendrec McDade, 19, in Pasadena, Calif., and Dane Scott, 18, in Del City, Okla. Others that happened a few years ago are now gaining more attention, like the 2010 killing of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, 32. A video has emerged of Border Patrol agents beating and tasing him to death.

The case that not only shows the brutality of the police but illustrates even further the systemic oppression and repression of people of color is the handcuffing of 6-year-old Salecia Johnson by police. Conventional wisdom would lead one to believe that even the most hardened of racists would show restraint in the face of a child, but history dispels such a notion. In fact, it is rife with the youngest and most innocent being brutalized just as viciously.

Salecia Johnson, although only 6, will live with the memory of being put in handcuffs and treated as if she had committed a crime — when she was guilty only of being Black and emotionally distraught. For this she was handcuffed and taken to jail.

It becomes more evident with each new day that the police are violent and routinely get away with killing people of color and other brutal acts of oppression and repression because they act as an occupying army in oppressed communities. The police are part of the capitalist state apparatus, an entity whose sole function is to be the buffer between the bosses and the workers and oppressed. It is those whom we must sell our labor to in order to survive who benefit from the racism prevalent in U.S. society.

Why ruling class needs racism

Racism is a tool that keeps workers separate and apart. Ultimately white workers will find their position is weakened by allowing separate and unequal conditions to exist and adhering to backward beliefs of inferiority based on race. More than being just a tool, though, racism in U.S. society has been deeply ingrained because U.S. capital was amassed through some of the most extreme and brutal forms of repression.

National oppression — the systemic oppression of sectors of the working class based on cultural, linguistic and historically shared circumstances — is a permanent feature of capitalist society because of its usefulness in keeping the working class divided. But it also persists because the most revolutionary sectors are those who have suffered the most brutal forms of degradation and repression — primarily the Black, Latino/a and Indigenous nations.

Revolutionaries say that political consciousness usually lags behind objective developments. Though economic conditions have worsened drastically for oppressed communities since the recession started four years ago, there has been no mass response yet. There have been some tragic and heartbreaking incidents in which massive numbers of oppressed workers showed up to apply for jobs or social services, but in most cases those events did not raise mass consciousness for a general fightback from the perspective of the oppressed.

The subjective or political consciousness only lags, but not forever. There is no telling what historical acts will lead to a mass response.

It remains to be seen if the murder of Trayvon Martin will lead to a sustained response, but its aftermath shows that the sense of needing to fight racism has grown, along with the understanding that the abuse of communities of color by police is systemic.

The cases of police killings and brutality cannot be separated from the economic conditions that prevail in communities of color — conditions of high unemployment, homelessness, poverty, a crumbling infrastructure and declining social services, and the criminalization of those who suffer the most desperate conditions. The conditions are stubborn. Capitalism finds itself in a deepening crisis, and it is in times like these that not only does the state become more repressive and the government begin to pass laws further curtailing democratic rights, but also the tool of racism is more aggressively used to pit the dominant sector of the working class against oppressed workers.

It is insidious but not inevitable. Revolutionaries should be in solidarity with the aims and desires of the most oppressed, but not abandon white workers to a debased right wing or ultra-right-wing. It is in the interest of all to rebel, fight racism, support self-determination of the oppressed and fight against the capitalist system. n