U.S. RACISM AND BLACK AND LATINO STRUGGLES
I read “Racism and the fight against it take center stage in the U.S.,” in the Sept.-Oct. News & Letters and need to respond to President Obama’s refusal to act on the racism behind bars, the “disenfranchisement of convicted felons” and the potential hiring of someone like New York City Police Chief Ray Kelly who is strictly against a policy to change the state of racism.
The greatest achievement that came with Obama winning the presidency was the fact that he was an African American. Obama can’t change anything for Black America that ain’t in the program. Where is the international concern for the African plight in America?
“Racism and the fight against it” was rewarding reading, presenting the current situation in the context of the unfinished American revolution, as discussed in Dunayevskaya’s American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard. Contemporary gun rights stand-your-ground thinking and vigilante justice as a latter day outgrowth of a post-Reconstruction Southern Jim Crow concept of Law and Order—where white men conducted paramilitary patrols to police the never-ending escapes and rebellions of slaves—was all tied together.
In the context of the history spelled out in ACOT, today’s prison system is an outgrowth of a society that was under slave patrols and slavemasters’ summary justice.
I was raised with racist, immigrant-hating parents and I took their racism as my own. Then I moved to Chicago and started my own trucking company. Lots of the workers the company hired were Black and Latino. They were just the nicest, most honest people I ever met, compared with my parents and the people they hung out with. I was surprised they were not how I was told they would be. They changed my mind about the racism I was taught and now I am free from it.
A changed man
N&L has been a political tool that I use to help prisoners understand the world we live in. The paper has been one of the many to help keep us up on what’s happening, especially during the current hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. The independent press is essential for a real movement for human rights and justice. Our class enemies realize this—this is why N&L was recently censored here. My only suggestion is for there to be more articles about Chicano/as.
Crescent City, Calif.
Before the 2012 presidential election, President Obama spoke out in favor of the Dream Act which gives a path to citizenship to undocumented youth who migrated to the U.S. with their parents when children. His position today has been ambivalent as other issues like the debt ceiling have taken priority. But while the Dream Act is on Obama’s back burner, over two million migrants have been deported under his administration. Shame.
LABOR UNDER ATTACK
On Oct. 1, thousands of Los Angeles County social services workers of SEIU Local 721 rallied and marched from downtown L.A.’s financial district to the County Board of Supervisors to voice opposition to the new contract proposal. The old contract expired the day before. They have not had a cost of living increase for the last five years while each social worker’s caseload has dramatically increased. An organizer said the present proposal was unacceptable. Although it offers a 3% wage increase, workers must pay a larger percentage for healthcare. The net result is a decline in their wages. With that kind of deal, I can’t help but support them.
In 1968 the minimum wage covered 90% of the poverty level. Today it covers only 59%! If the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be about $15 an hour instead of the incredibly low $7.25. The income gap between the 1% ultra rich and the rest of us is wider now than since the “gilded age” of the 1890s. Workers are mobilizing throughout the country to mark the 75th anniversary of the first minimum wage and to demand a living wage.
New York City
Capitalism is running out of places to look for lower-wage workers and cheap energy. It paints exploitation as economic development, which translates into substandard living for workers in places like Bangladesh. Here in Los Angeles, a young worker told me she is working 80 hours a week to save money for college. Another told me she works up to 60 hours some weeks. Capital brings with it its own end, which will be when the unemployed and the displaced will rise against capital’s mode of thinking and producing.
The U.S. default “crisis” will provide an excuse to cut Social Security, Medicare and other programs that benefit the working class. The ruling elite will not allow the U.S. to default. The Tea Party denizens will be betrayed by the corporate leadership of their Republican Party just as the liberals will be betrayed by the equally corporate leadership of their Democratic Party. As Obama just pointed out regarding the default crisis and the national debt: everything else is up for negotiation, except increased taxes on the ruling elite.
Automation in the service sector continues to eliminate jobs. DTE Energy, which provides electricity and gas to Southeast Michigan, is installing outside meters that can be read with an electronic device from a passing vehicle. This will greatly reduce the number of meter readers. A young DTE worker said, “I hope I’ll still be working; I hope they find us other jobs in the company.”
CTA vs. THE HOMELESS
The new “Ventra” card pay system for the Chicago Transit Authority seems designed to rip off riders as much as possible. If you have a problem with the machine and have to cancel a transaction, you don’t get the money, only a receipt, and have to call their service number. It’s going to be hard on the homeless who depend on the trains at night. Having been homeless myself, I know how painful it’s going to be. Chicago contracted out to a California company for this mess, Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., so homeless people who end up frozen this winter will have literally been privatized to death. I told a CTA employee, “I know this wasn’t your idea, but anyone who votes for Emanuel for Mayor again…” She finished my thought: “…they should be shot!”
DISABILITY AND HUMANITY
I’ve just learned about several parents murdering their children with disabilities and it is extremely upsetting. One parent I read about said that they “were doing their child a favor” and they “can’t understand what all the fuss is about.” They act like they are entitled to this inhuman act, and more and more people seem to agree with them. Some of these children have the same disabilities as my daughter. It makes me unbelievably sad. I yearn for a new world where all children and adults are cherished as every human being should be. This is one of the reasons Marxist-Humanism is so important to me. It calls for the removal of capitalism and state-capitalism and the working out of a new world for our times.
ABORTION IS A HUMAN NEED
Working at a clinic that offers abortions is exhausting yet rewarding! No one can possibly understand what it’s like when I am discharging a patient and she says “Thank you.” It’s not about hearing a patient saying those words. It’s about the way she says it. From her heart. It’s her knowing I’m not there to judge her, but instead it’s me being there for her. It’s because for her I was that one person who listened and cared enough to say, “It will be okay,” or, “Trust me, I do understand what you are going through.”
When the Muslim Brotherhood was elected in Egypt, I thought they were the most incompetent rulers I had ever seen. Instead of uniting Egypt they started killing people. The only thing I had liked about Mubarak was that he suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood. Now the army has taken over and is killing thousands. How did those who created the revolution in Tahrir Square respond to the fact that their enemies, the Muslim Brotherhood, are being murdered in the streets?
Terry Moon’s column in the Sept.-Oct. N&L quoted a lot from Egyptian-American feminist and writer Mona Eltahawy. Eltahawy was in Egypt when the army arrested President Morsi. She is no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet she took a principled position: the army is not our friend. The army is clever, had been looking for ways to destroy the revolution, and found a popular way to move. The army is conducting a propaganda campaign, calling those who oppose them “terrorists.” It’s divided the revolutionary movement. It’s important to support those like Eltahawy who are opposed to any fascism, be it from religious fundamentalists or secular forces.
Some young men at the Social Security office told me a man in a suit “gave them some blue shirts with [Detroit Mayoral Candidate] Duggan’s name on it and $45 to be given to us at 5:30.” All they had to do was walk around and ask people: “Do you live in Detroit?” “If they say yes,” the men continued, “We were to give them some pictures or paper with Duggan’s name on it and say, ‘He will turn Detroit around.’ So we did.” I asked why? They said they did not have any money and they were hungry. Then, they asked, “Who is this white man anyway?” I just said, “A white man who will make it harder for you, your family and friends.”
I appreciated the article “Detroit defends homes.” The author describes how the Detroit Eviction Defense Center is a small but growing group, where, she stresses, “We want to pull people in, so that they see others thinking creatively, and begin to talk to each other about how to make their block safer.” I take it she means save our neighborhoods from thugs in three-piece suits with eviction notices, as well as thugs with guns about to mug you. I’m all for real law and order, which comes from the community rank and file.
While the U.S. and other Western nations hold Iran’s feet to the fire in terms of stopping the enriching of uranium for nuclear bombs, Chernobyl and Fukushima prove that even nuclear energy is destructive of the earth’s ecology. Two years after the Fukushima reactor meltdown, it is still draining tons of radioactive groundwater into the ocean daily. The process of building nuclear power plants contributes tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is not a green technology. Decades after the “Atoms for Peace” policy in the 1950s and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signed in 1970 that allows non-nuclear countries to build nuclear reactors, the NPT is irrelevant.
WHY A NEWSPAPER LIKE N&L?
I really appreciate reading the news from a perspective other than the mainstream media. When I am finished reading your newspapers, I always donate them to one of the library shelves so others can read them. Thank you for your generosity.
I want to thank all at N&L as well as the donor that paid for my subscription for making this paper happen for us. What I like the most is that your paper touches on many things that the news on TV does not. And when the TV news does talk about it, it’s all cut down to how “they” want us to see it. But your paper puts it out there for the people the way it is.
Crescent City, Calif.
The ideas and philosophies expressed within N&L are relevant to all international human rights struggles that are being waged against the diabolical empire of U.$. imperialism. However, for N&L to continue to exemplify concrete examples of intercommunalism, it must commit at least an entire section of its paper to report and to receive reports on the human rights struggles within these slave kamps so that the humanity of political prisoners, prisoners of wars, activists, etc., can reverberate throughout the world. This way our oppressors’ ability to criminalize our human rights struggles, as was the case with our most recent hunger strike, can be neutralized.
Kijana Tashiri Askari
Crescent City, Calif.
Editor’s note: N&L regularly prints reports on and voices from prisoners’ struggles. We invite prisoners—and all others who have broken with the ruling bureaucracies—to send in your views, ideas and reports on struggles for freedom and debates on revolutionary ideas.