Why racism breeds resistance

From New York to Baltimore

Based on a talk titled “White supremacy over the White House: Why racism breeds resistance” by Richard Kossally at a Workers World Party Aug. 1 forum in New York City. 

Donald Trump has been at it hard this past week or so. He has always been a horrible human being. He has been especially so for the entirety of his candidacy for and tenure as the president of the United States. We have become so familiar with and expect his offensive behavior that sometimes it passes with barely a comment or just becomes the butt of jokes on social media and content in internet memes — most of which is not helpful at all, because a lot of this stuff concentrates on his appearance.

There is, however, real pain, suffering and death caused by his words and policies.

Much of the harm that he has caused isn’t even quantifiable.

As a landlord, his racist housing policies caused such harm.

His words and deeds as they relate to the case of the Central Park Five caused immeasurable harm, and he has doubled down on that issue even since these young men have been vindicated. They were just boys when they were persecuted.  

His sexual assaults against women, both physical and verbal, are disgusting. The trauma caused by such behavior is undoubtedly everlasting in some cases.

His administration has continued racist colonial policies against Puerto Rico. He has the blood of many Puerto Ricans on his hands due to his response — or rather nonresponse — to Hurricane Maria, and he has made vile statements against Puerto Rico’s brave resistance to austerity. The Junta there was put in place to suck Puerto Rico dry, but repression always breed resistance. Viva Puerto Rico!

His administration has put children and adults in separate concentration camps with inadequate food and hygiene. Asylum seekers have to spend months at the border waiting for a hearing. Some turn back toward what they were fleeing. The commander in chief boasts about this as success in “protecting the border.”

Back in April a report by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs estimated that 40,000 people had died as a result of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. That number is not static.

I will skip many other issues that could be a part of this presentation. Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil, Haiti and more.

In the past week, the president’s anti-Blackness has been front and center.

None of Trump’s comments about Baltimore are due to any real concern for the people of that city.

In my estimation [U.S. Congressmember] Elijah Cummings is not a sympathetic figure, but Trump is using him to attack Baltimore, and by Baltimore I mean Black people. A statement like “Nobody wants to live there” or descriptions like “drug infested” are racist dog whistles. Trump cannot even hide his contempt for Black people when he makes ridiculous claims that he has been good for us. 

He doesn’t seem to have the ability to say “Black people.” He always uses some variation of “the African Americans,” which comes off his tongue in an awkward way. The sentiment of what he says would probably not suffer much if he said “Martians” or the N-word. 

Now Trump is not completely wrong that Cummings has been an ineffective advocate for Baltimore, but he is not, as Trump claims, a racist with primary responsibility for the degradation of west Baltimore. U.S. politicians on the national level are not usually advocates for the communities that they supposedly represent, but are instead beholden to the ruling-class interests that fund their campaigns and provide lucrative jobs when they leave office. 

Places like Baltimore, Md.; Flint, Mich.; and Erie, Pa. have all suffered from the flight of capital from once-vibrant manufacturing centers that had attracted large populations of Black people. In these situations, the poorest people also lack the means to move somewhere else, so they stay as long as they can. They suffer as blight increases and property values plummet.

‘Trump prompts NYPD dragnet against young Black men’

Trump has heavily influenced the current dragnet that the New York Police Department unleashed against young Black men here in New York over a few cops getting wet. The water thrown on cops did not come from water cannons, like the ones that cops used against the Civil Rights Movement or at Standing Rock in N.D. But Trump’s responses and those of the police unions and the corporate media would make you think their very lives were put at risk.

It’s been a hot summer in New York, and many residents here can’t afford to artificially keep their dwellings cool, so we spend a lot of time outside during the daytime hours. Water from fire hydrants is sometimes used to stay cool. The fire department used to provide sprinkler caps for this purpose; they might still do so.

The occupying forces of the NYPD will use any pretext to demonize Black people or to distract us. Just a couple of weeks ago, the feds declined to prosecute the murderer of Eric Garner. Their reason was flimsy. Movement people here have responded and have visited Daniel Pantaleo [the chokehold cop] at his home a few times. There are calls to fire him.

Creating a distraction to obscure this development might be what’s behind the decision to raid communities for using water to cool down during a heatwave and for the subsequent dragnet. The charges against the youth are also revealing. They are some of the same charges brought against activists when we are in the streets — [obstructing governmental administration, criminal mischief, harassment, disorderly conduct]. These are the default charges that the cops lean on when they don’t have any good reason to arrest anyone but want to break up a protest. This is hardly the stuff that should make national news, but the ruling class is just as aware as we are that their system is in trouble.

All charges against these youths are bogus and should be dropped. Killer cops running around in our city are a far greater danger to us. The police do not deserve our respect; they do not serve us.

In New York, we currently have another local presidential candidate. In his famous song, “Love me, I’m a liberal,” Phil Ochs says that liberals are 10 degrees right of center on issues that affect them personally. Bill DeBlasio demonstrated this truth by joining in the demonization of the youth after Trump dissed him. This was actually a better time to tell how he has raised a Black son, but he is a spineless liberal. Yes, liberals are a shady bunch indeed.

Contrast Trump’s condemnation of Black people, immigrants, refugees and women with his tweet about the mass shooting at the garlic festival: “Law Enforcement is at the scene of shootings in Gilroy, California. Reports are that shooter has not yet been apprehended. Be careful and safe!” Some words seem to be missing in his tweet: white supremacist, murderer, terrorist and maybe some others. In his mind, white people can’t be any of these things. After all, there were “fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, Va. 

His targets are primarily Black and Brown populations, his hatred of women being somewhat of an exception. His personal victims have been primarily, if not exclusively, white women.

These assaults against segments of our class by Trump come from every direction. Racism continues to be the biggest barrier to unity in the U.S. and Trump has tapped into this. It comes naturally to him.

With all his cruelty, hatred and disgusting behavior, Donald Trump is actually pointing the way. The ruling class is its own gravedigger. He is telling us that he and his class hate us — all of us. As a class we need to hate them back. 

More important than this hatred, however, is the flip side of the coin. The flip side is love and unity within the working class. Concentration camps for migrants and refugees, along with the concentration of so many Black and Brown people in prisons, is a basis for Black/Brown unity. 

The formation of FIRE [Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere] and the Workers’ Solidarity Day Coalition are two of our recent endeavors that will be helpful in building unity in this period.

We are indeed living in dark times, but it is always darkest before the dawn. As a pastor from Baltimore likes to say, “We are all we got, but we are all we need.”

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