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following articles are from the February 1-14, 2017, issue of People's
By Liz Rowley, leader of the Communist Party of Canada
The first two decisions by President Trump following his inauguration were to
withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and to renegotiate
the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He campaigned on the mass
permanent unemployment, slashed wages and living standards, and de-industrialization
that NAFTA caused in the
But Trump’s plans aren’t intended to help workers, to reduce climate change, or to respect the sovereignty and independence of its trading partners, or their economic needs and well-being. A quick look at the Trump Cabinet tells the whole story: this is a government of billionaires intent on running the country like a corporation. They aim to rack up the biggest private profits ever, for themselves and for the US-based transnational corporations they speak for. Their foreign and trade policies fit the same mold.
January 10th Op-Ed piece in the Globe and Mail by Gordon Ritchie, former ambassador for trade
negotiations and deputy chief negotiator of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) warns that there is no level playing field in US-Canada trade
Ritchie writes, “If, as president, Mr. Trump is determined to rework NAFTA in favour of the US protectionists, Canada must come to the table with its own serious demands and negotiators tough-minded enough to stand up to the neighbourhood bully. High-minded tinkering will not be enough.”
But NAFTA is, and always has been a bad deal for
What Trump Wants
Richie’s Op-ed piece summarizes the key demands that the
It’s clear that softwood lumber is at the top of Trump’s demands to change
NAFTA. But why would
Trump also wants to change the investor state dispute settlement (Chapter 11)
which is a cornerstone of NAFTA, and a powerful reason to get out now. But he
doesn’t want to get rid of ISDS, he wants to strengthen it to benefit
Trump is also out to change the agricultural supply management system, which
has been vital to protect Canadian agriculture, and to protect the food supply
from companies like Monsanto, and from additives like rGBH which is already in
the milk supply in the US and Mexico (and would have been allowed here under
the terms of the TPP). The
Trump wants US and foreign car-makers to move their parts and assembly plants,
so that cars sold in the
Trump wants more access for mass corporate culture, in the way of
He wants to open up access for US healthcare corporations to operate in
Trump wants access to Canadian water, and to commodify the
There is much more that the new US government wants to re-negotiate in NAFTA, including reductions in workers’ rights and in the powers of elected governments at all levels, in favour of the large national and multi-national corporations and supra-national institutions like NAFTA itself, and the Investor State Dispute Settlement sections of NAFTA.
There is nothing in NAFTA of benefit to working people for negotiators to salvage. This rotten deal should be finally buried.
Needed: a new trade policy
What working people urgently need is a new trade policy that protects our interests, respects the sovereignty and independence of our trading partners, and works for multi-lateral and mutually beneficial trade, secured in a foreign policy of peace, disarmament and mutual security. This new trade policy should include extending long-term credits to the developing countries.
Canada also needs an industrial strategy that includes a basic steel industry, and builds up value-added manufacturing and secondary industry, to create good jobs, raise living standards, and build the country. This should be done in an environmentally sustainable way, using science and technology to reduce greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions.
It should include a national strategy to build affordable social housing across
It must include improved social programs and public services, expanded to
include a national childcare program that is universally accessible,
affordable, and public. It should include expansion of Medicare to include
vision, dental, long term care, pharmacare, and mental health care; and
enforcement of the
The real change that working people seek includes expanded labour, civil, democratic and equality rights, and the protection of all citizens and residents from racism, xenophobia, sexism and homophobia.
Trudeau should take note of the outpouring of resistance at the Women’s March.
Bowing down to Trump will cost him dearly. Now is the time to stand up for
The January 21 Women’s March on
Washington, and its sister marches in cities across the world, have thrown down
a powerful challenge to the new
Mission & Vision
We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.
The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity,
and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence
in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on
We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.
HEAR OUR VOICE.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” - Audre Lorde
Women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability. We practice empathy with the intent to learn about the intersecting identities of each other. We will suspend our first judgement and do our best to lead without ego. We follow the principles of Kingian nonviolence, which are defined as follows:
Principle 1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is a positive force confronting the forces of injustice and utilizes the righteous indignation and spiritual, emotional, and intellectual capabilities of people as the vital force for change and reconciliation.
Principle 2: The Beloved Community is the framework for the future. The nonviolent concept is an overall effort to achieve a reconciled world by raising the level of relationships among people to a height where justice prevails and persons attain their full human potential.
Principle 3: Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil. The nonviolent approach helps one analyze the fundamental conditions, policies and practices of the conflict rather than reacting to one’s opponents or their personalities.
Principle 4: Accept suffering without retaliation for the sake of the cause to achieve our goal. Self-chosen suffering is redemptive and helps the movement grow in a spiritual as well as a humanitarian dimension. The moral authority of voluntary suffering for a goal communicates the concern to one’s own friends and community as well as to the opponent.
Principle 5: Avoid internal violence of the spirit as well as external physical violence. The nonviolent attitude permeates all aspects of the campaign. It provides a mirror type reflection of the reality of the condition to one’s opponent and the community at large. Specific activities must be designed to maintain a high level of spirit and morale during a nonviolent campaign.
We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women - including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women - are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.
Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.
We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.
We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.
We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers - must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.
We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to
worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and
protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We
believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the
We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.
Rooted in the promise of
We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed - especially at the risk of public safety and health.
Speech by Angela Davis at the
Women’s March on
"At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women's March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.
"We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.
"The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of
this country's history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be
made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in
slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history
"No human being is illegal.
"The struggle to save the planet, to stop climate change, to guarantee the accessibility of water from the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, to Flint, Michigan, to the West Bank and Gaza. The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air—this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.
"This is a women's march and this women's march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. And inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.
"Yes, we salute the fight for 15. We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance. Resistance to the billionaire mortgage profiteers and gentrifiers. Resistance to the health care privateers. Resistance to the attacks on Muslims and on immigrants. Resistance to attacks on disabled people. Resistance to state violence perpetrated by the police and through the prison industrial complex. Resistance to institutional and intimate gender violence, especially against trans women of color.
"Women's rights are human rights all over the planet and that is why we
say freedom and justice for
"Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out.
"The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.
"This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, 'We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.' Thank you."
People’s Voice Editorial
For weeks after the
Those naive hopes were dashed by subsequent events, and by the first actions of
the new administration. Instead of putting together a cabinet of mixed
outlooks, Trump has put “a fox in charge of every chicken coop in
The new president’s views on the global situation are also ominous. Nobody was
surprised that Trump and his big energy pals would move quickly to push for
higher carbon emissions. But for some, Trump’s call to renegotiate NAFTA and
scrap the FTT, and his seemingly anti-NATO views, indicated that he might be
open to “fair trade” and reduced military tensions. Instead, he has issued loud
warnings that the world must dance to the tune of Yankee imperialism, or face
dire consequences. There will be no “renegotiation” of NAFTA, simply orders to
change trade policies for the benefit of US-based corporations. NATO will not
be dismantled, but
As Bob Dylan warned in a different time period, “a hard rain’s gonna fall.” This is no time for illusions.
People’s Voice Editorial
As the bad news came out of
There were two notable strengths of the Women’s
This broad understanding of the nature of the present danger, and of the level of unity needed to fight back, is a great beginning to the next stage of the international struggle for labour rights, democracy climate justice, gender equality, reproductive rights, fair trade, and solidarity against imperialist wars and occupations. This struggle will be complex and difficult, with no easy short cuts. It will require an unwavering commitment to put the needs of working people and the environment ahead of corporate greed. But the way forward is clear: No Pasaran! They shall not pass!
By Norm Knight
Leaders from Elsipogtog, a Mi’kmaq first nation community in eastern
If the claim were to succeed today, it would create the largest area under
Aboriginal title in
Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock, one of two plaintiffs bringing forward the claim, characterizes it as being “about protecting our lands and waters for our children and our future generations.” The other plaintiff is Kenneth Francis, Speaker of Kopit Lodge, formed by the First Nation to handle natural resources issues.
Elsipogtog was heavily involved in the fight against shale gas fracking in 2013. Several times that year, RCMP squads violently broke up protests and blockades of shale gas seismic testing equipment. More than 60 people, mostly Native, were arrested during those struggles.
It was shortly after that experience that Elsipogtog leaders decided they should pursue a title affirmation by the courts.
The First Nation is also concerned about ongoing degradation of their forest by clear cut logging.
Even if the Sikniktuk claim is successful, it will not give the First Nation absolute control over the territory. Under current Canadian law, Aboriginal title is not radical or underlying title. The crown retains underlying title, and can encroach or infringe on the Aboriginal title holder’s rights of occupancy, enjoyment, benefit, and control if the government can justify the encroachment as being “in the broader public interest.”
In a recent land claim case from British Columbia, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada wrote: “In my opinion, the development of agriculture, forestry, mining, and hydroelectric power, the general economic development of the interior... protection of the environment or endangered species, the building of infrastructure and the settlement of foreign populations to support those aims... can justify the infringement of Aboriginal title” (Tsilhqotin Nation v. B.C., 2014).
Holding officially recognized Aboriginal title does, however, improve a Native group’s chances of forcing government to consult and accommodate its interests.
Bruce McIvor, the lawyer representing Elsipogtog in the title claim, says it “is not a silver bullet”, but “a strategy to force the provincial government to seriously engage” the Native people concerning the land.
It is an expensive strategy. Aboriginal title cases typically take years or decades, involve professional anthropologists as witnesses, and cost millions or tens of millions of dollars. There is serious asymmetry between the resources that the state can deploy in the legal battle and those of the Native side.
It has also been questioned why a people such as the Mi’kmaq, who never ceded their land by treaty and are asserting sovereignty, should have to plead their case in the court of the colonial power which opposes them, rather than before a neutral tribunal; and why they should have to make their arguments in the terms of English common law, not Aboriginal concepts of justice.
Stan McKay, a Cree spiritual leader from
And even a staid legal scholar, Kent McNeil, has written: “the domestic law context... is not the only context for analyzing Aboriginal claims.”
Morning Star Editorial, Jan. 21, 2017
Anti-racist campaigners will express their anger over the inauguration of
Donald Trump in over 20 towns and cities across
It is clearly a matter for US citizens alone to decide who is their president — and the alternatives offered were less than enticing — but their choice affects the whole world.
It beggars belief that a country with a population of 325 million could narrow down the decision facing the electorate to a binary choice between a warmongering Wall Street shill with an aura of entitlement and a brash billionaire bigot ready to spout vile racist abuse any time he believes it will help his cause.
Racism is the only accurate description for Trump’s casual threat to ban
Muslims from entering the
His sexism is equally marked, as is his contempt for the almost universally held belief among scientists that human activity causing climate change should be curbed and indeed reversed.
Trump’s vanquished opponent Hillary Clinton would never have given vent to such
obviously obnoxious expressions of bigotry and prejudice, but she shares the
assumptions of the
Her backing for regime change in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa
reflects contempt for the aspirations of people in these regions unless they
can be exploited, as in the so-called Arab Spring, to the benefit of
But when Wall Street demands free trade treaties that involve jobs being exported overseas and pay levels being degraded, national minorities and organised labour are cast aside.
Trump was able to profit electorally from the Democrats’ record of letting down
the working class by claiming that he will bring back “
He boasted that a mere threat to put import taxes on cars produced in Mexico had reversed plans for a large new car factory there, but the president-elect is no friend of workers of any colour or nationality.
His record of union non-recognition, employment of labour at starvation rates and arranging accounts so that his companies pay zero federal taxes illustrates clearly his priorities.
Trump’s corporate agenda is aimed at “encouraging” business by eradicating so-called red tape, such as health, safety and environmental standards that are supposedly holding back the sacred cause of maximising profit.
Excusing businesses from paying taxes means that there will be insufficient funding for public services such as education, health and welfare. This could put the Trump administration on a confrontation course with the organised movement.
At the same time, despite his presidential campaign pledges of opposition to
wasteful overseas wars, his aggressive stance towards
By Melaney White
In the aftermath of Fidel Castro’s death, western mainstream media jumped upon
the opportunity to further demonize the gains made by the Cuban people since
their revolution effectively freed the nation from the imperialist grip of the
Among many other falsehoods perpetuated by imperialist media sources, a common
thread woven by media regarding
Cuba, much like any other country, has not always treated members of the LGBTQ2SI community fairly. Prior to the Cuban revolution, anti-gay laws existed in the Cuban Social Defence Code. However, anti-gay laws and attitudes were and remain rampant around the world – these ideas are not limited to only Cuban history and likely developed in Cuba as a legacy of colonial and imperial inference.
The 1960’s saw a dark turn for gay men in
As early as 1975, anti-gay laws began to be overturned by the Cuban Supreme Court, however it wasn’t until 1987 when public homosexual acts were removed from the penal code and jailed offenders of such acts were released from prison.
During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, there were several people in
Cuba has made incredible gains in recent decades, by carrying out active measures to facilitate Pride organizations, denounce homophobia, improve sexual health education and enact more progressive policy by embracing sexual diversity.
By 1989 the first transgender surgery was performed and in 1993 gay Cubans
could join the Communist Party. In 1993 the Cuban film Strawberry and Chocolate criticized homophobia in
Leslie Feinberg, in Rainbow Solidarity
in Defense of Cuba, has compiled a number of resources regarding
same-sex love and sexual diversity, addressing issues such as homophobia in
pre-revolutionary and revolutionary
The work of Mariela Castro Espin, the daughter of President Raul Castro and
revolutionary feminist Vilma Espin, has made major gains in the fight against
Indeed, homophobia is still present in
(The author is a member of the Central
Pride Commission of the Communist Party of
In our previous issue, we
reported on the BC Teachers’ Federation victory in forcing the Liberal
provincial government to allocate more funding for public education. This Jan.
19 commentary on the same topic, by former
In a written statement this week the Vancouver School Board (VSB) says it’s “delighted” to have “additional resources” in the form of 95 full-time teaching positions it’s restoring due to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) Supreme Court of Canada win.
It’s great news to see some of the previously cut teaching positions starting to be restored after so many years of cuts. The court found in November that the government acted unconstitutionally in 2002 by stripping the teachers’ contract which led to thousands of teaching positions being cut from B.C. public schools.
Having made the difficult decision to vote for some of these cuts in my eight
years as a
However, I was taken aback that Acting VSB Superintendent John Lewis used the word “additional” nine times in his 253-word statement.
In fairness to Lewis, the positions are in addition to current staffing levels
but to me they’re actually a small down payment on a long-outstanding debt to
B.C. kids. That’s because the VSB’s $4.4 million-dollar piece of the $50
million pie being divided up among school districts — as the government’s first
step in response to its stunning loss at the Supreme Court of
To put Lewis’s “additional” teaching positions in perspective we need to look back 15 years.
(Editor’s note: The online version of this article includes a VSB infographic highlighting how much it would take to restore staffing, services and resources to the equivalent level provided when the BC Liberals first came to power. The 2002/03 VSB budget was $415 million. By the year 2015, the amount required to maintain the service levels from 2002 was an estimated $559.4 million. Yet the VSB budget for 2016 was only $480 million - a shortfall of $79.4 million. This amount would cover the hiring of 810 entry-level teaching positions, and $13.2 million in lost services and supplies.)
As a former VSB Chair who wrote or signed off on many statements and news releases, I would have chosen my words more carefully to provide context. After all, those positions are just a partial restoration of what students were robbed of for 15 years.
However, I was elected and Lewis is a government appointee, and it may be that he’s just doing his part to carry the government’s message, hoping voters forget the past and give the Christy Clark government credit for the “additional” teaching positions.
The BCTF deserves credit and thanks for fighting and winning this long and difficult battle through the courts in the face of pressure to give up and give in. Students will benefit from having those teaching positions back and teachers’ increasingly heavy workloads will likely begin to improve.
But as we head into a provincial election in May, it’s important to remember what’s being put back this year is just part of what government stole from B.C.’s public school students for the last 15 years and that they’re only doing it because they have to.
And the thousands of kids who’ve left the system over the past few years will never get back what the B.C. Liberal government took from them.
From the Morning Star (
Rampant inequality has reached the point where a group of men owning the same wealth as half the planet’s population could squeeze onto a single golf buggy.
Eight billionaires now have a combined wealth equivalent to 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people, according to an alarming revelation from Oxfam. The anti-poverty charity is calling for an overhaul of a “warped” economy that allows a small group of people to hoard more wealth than they can spend while billions go hungry.
Out-of-control pay ratios also mean the average FTSE 100 company boss rakes in 129 times as much as a typical employee’s earnings — and equivalent to 10,000 people working in Bangladeshi garment factories.
The shocking statistics were released as new improved data on global wealth distribution, particularly in India and China, found that the world’s poorest are worse off than previously thought. And the report also warned that if things carry on the way they are going we could see the world’s first trillionaire in just 25 years.
Oxfam’s study is directed at world leaders gathering this week for their exclusive annual knees-up at luxury Swiss ski resort Davos. The annual World Economic Forum has been heavily criticised as being little more than a networking event for the rich and powerful.
Oxfam is demanding the international political and business leaders clamp down on global tax dodging, build in more benefits for staff rather than just shareholders back and wealth taxes to fund healthcare.
Businesses should also commit to paying the living wage and provide more opportunities for women, it said.
If the new data had been available when the charity conducted similar research last year its report would have found nine billionaires, rather than 62, owning the same wealth as the poorest half of the population.
Among the eight billionaires from this year’s research is Bill Gates, who tops the list, and Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest man. Both have pledged to eventually give away most of their wealth, but the charity said cases of individual largesse do not replace the need for a fairer tax system.
Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring said: “This year’s snapshot of inequality is clearer, more accurate and more shocking than ever before. It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity. While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become. Inequality is not only keeping millions of people trapped in poverty, it is fracturing our societies and poisoning our politics.”
Oxfam’s study is based on the Forbes billionaires list and Credit Suisse global wealth distribution data.
Talib Kweli's solidarity with
Hip-hop star Talib Kweli is a
consistent political activist. In 2000, in the aftermath of the
The International Federation of Musicians (FIM) is campaigning on behalf of imprisoned Iranian musician Mehdi Rajabian and his filmmaker brother, Hossein Rajabian. The two were sentenced last June to six years in prison for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state” through the production and promotion of underground music. The Rajabian brothers began a hunger strike on October 28, and are now facing increasingly severe medical conditions. The Iranian state frequently intimidates, persecutes, imprisons, and bans artists and cultural producers. Musicians need government authorization in order to perform concerts and produce music albums and videos. Online distribution of alternative music is also a political challenge. Even when they're issued concert licenses, there's no guarantee that musicians can safely hold their scheduled appearances. FIM is urging Iranian authorities to drop charges against the Rajabian brothers and release all artists who are detained for having exercised their fundamental right to freedom of expression. For more information visit www.codir.net.
SF Symphony protests anti-gay laws
Leonard Cohen: 1934-2016
Tributes to Leonard Cohen abounded
in the weeks after his death on November 7th. Of particular interest to me were
the many homages to Cohen on Facebook by left-wing activist friends. While he's
known and loved as a poet who explored personal relationships and the
"human condition", Cohen expressed progressive political sentiments
in many of his songs. His first overtly political recordings were released on Songs From a Room (1969). "The
Partisan" celebrates the heroism of the anti-fascist French Resistance,
and "Story of Isaac" is a biblical parable condemning the Vietnam
War. "Joan of Arc" (1971) is an admiring portrait of a strong
woman, personified by the 15th century French heroine. "Dance Me to the
End of Love" (1984), embraces life in the face of atrocity and death, and
was inspired by stories of Jewish musicians in the Nazi death camps. The wry
"Everybody Knows" (1988) confronts a neoliberal world where
"everybody knows that the dice are loaded", but makes it clear that
the world of the rulers is coming apart too. "Democracy" (1990) is
replete with irony. "Democracy is coming to the
By Zoltan Zigedy, Dec. 24, 2016
Convinced, with the election of a Black president, that we had finally arrived at a post-racial society, US opinion-makers and political leaders retired the charge of racism from public discourse.
With the doors to most private clubs, plush neighbourhoods, and fancy accommodations now open to African-American elites, with Black celebrities, sports heroes and entertainers “crossed over” to be widely accepted by whites, the racial barriers — we were told — were a thing of the past.
Barack Obama himself did much during his presidency to highlight this image, assiduously avoiding any allusion to patterns of racial injustice or intolerance.
And when previously ignored racist police violence was brought to the fore through the explicit exposure using the ubiquitous mobile phone or video camera, the media and political leaders dismissed it as aberrational or legally ambiguous.
President Obama sought to minimise that awareness in April when he lectured a
However, racism is back. Actually, racism never left, but it has caught the attention of the previously blind and deaf. The catalyst for the new awareness is Donald Trump. Trump’s systematic racism in constructing his real estate empire is well documented, though it has not troubled the media or Democratic Party leaders until now.
His hysterical and heavily publicised attempt at lynching five innocent black
youth — the Central Park Five — did not keep him from reality television
stardom or elite celebrity. The
Like the Clintons and most elites, his racism is entangled with ambition. When
it is economically or politically expedient — imposing racist real estate
covenants (Trump) or dismantling welfare (
Hillary Clinton would like us to forget her labelling Black youth in gangs as “superpredators,” a racist term conjuring imagery of wild animals.
She opportunistically dropped her liberal facade to promote President Bill Clinton’s draconian Crime Bill that effectively criminalised hundreds of thousands of African-Americans and terrorised even more.
So it is easy to see the media campaign against Trump’s bigotry as
hypocritical. But it is worse than special pleading for
The bloody first step toward the emancipation of African-Americans came with their escape from the bondage of slavery. After over 200 years of forced labour and the indignity of existing as chattel, the hope of full citizenship that came with the overthrow of slavery was quickly stifled.
Segregation, civil rights denied and the broken promise of even minimal economic independence ("40 acres and a mule") left Blacks nominally “free,” but bound to a universal inferiority.
The long and persistent civil rights struggle bore fruit in the 1960s with the gaining of a broad suite of rights barring legal segregation, delegitimising discrimination and removing many barriers to voting. African-Americans took another important step toward full emancipation, but one that — again — fell short of gaining full equality.
For liberals, the road to racial equality ran through public education. Placing Black students among white students and vice versa within urban school districts was thought to break down existing barriers and provide equal educational opportunities. Liberal elites who sent their children to private or parochial schools were fine with this solution. But when educational reformers took the logical step of integrating poorer urban districts with well-funded middle and upper-middle strata suburban communities, the campaign for equality folded.
After the 1974 US Supreme Court decision in Milliken versus Bradley (argued over integrating the 85 per cent Black Detroit school district into white suburban school districts), school integration has been in full retreat.
Today, excepting the former segregationist South,
The other route favoured to achieve full emancipation was affirmative action — effective policy goals for including African-Americans in public and private life.
After some initial successes, the policies of affirmative action have been eroded to the point where they are virtually nonexistent today, outside of higher education.
The Democratic Party, the party benefitting the most from the African-American vote in the modern era, has virtually abandoned the quest for full equality and the elimination of structural and institutional racism.
Twenty years after the passing of historic civil and voting rights legislation, the Democratic Party policy commission of the Democratic National Committee presented a policy proposal that barely mentioned African-Americans.
New Choices in a Changing America (1986), an 83-page document, recognises no obstacles to black citizens, offers no solutions specific to African-American problems, and affirms the “benign neglect” that has been the Democratic Party policy ever since.
The struggle for full
emancipation of African-Americans in the
African-Americans significantly trail their white counterparts in every major indicator of social and economic wellbeing.
Until blacks are guaranteed the means as well as the formal opportunities to participate in all of the institutions of US society, they will remain shackled to the legacy of slavery.
When a people lacks the economic means to advance, when they remain held back by physical isolation, when they are weighted down by substandard homes and public services, then formal opportunities are clearly not enough.
Put simply, the liberal ideal of equality of opportunity is not alone sufficient to continue on the path toward full equality.
It is increasingly clear that 21st-century racism intersects overwhelmingly with class. While a substantial stratum of “successful” African-Americans enjoy the fruits of the civil rights era — a group that the writers at Black Agenda Report derisively call the “Black Misleadership Class” — the masses of US Blacks still struggle with poverty, low incomes, shabby services and neglect.
Assassinated leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were recognising the limitations of formal equality and stressing the necessity of economic equality before we lost them — they were beginning to challenge whether capitalism could ever deliver equality.
There are encouraging signs that groups in the US like the Black Radical Organising Collective and the Black is Back Coalition are, in that spirit, seeking answers beyond electing a Black president and moralising about an election outcome.