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Saturday, July 25, 2015
Amara Enyia on Sandra Bland's death
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
As I watched the dashcam video of Sandra Bland's unfortunate encounter with an armed representative of the state I felt a combination of anger and frustration, not at the same level as she felt it perhaps but it engulfed me for a moment. I am not naive, I think there are many, many people from all of the different communities in America who felt the same way. You'd have to have lost your humanity not to. This country is crying out for a broad based movement against the system and its defenders.
After about 25 minutes of the video I'd had enough. Some readers might not believe me, I am after all, a white skinned, European American male with and English accent and a GED after all., surely it doesn't affect me.
A policeman can be a complete moron but this is an individual with the power of life and death over you. The police, particularly here in the US, have a lot of power. They only have to say they feel threatened or that their life is in danger and you're a gonner. This is particularly the case with black folks, you'd have to be blind not to see this. The most important aspect of your blindness is a refusal to recognize that you live in a society in which racial discrimination is institutionalized and that the system was built on it; it treats people differently. Capitalism exploits all workers, white workers included, but women, racial or religious minorities and in particular people of African descent, have to deal with added discrimination and the poor of any group are at the bottom of the heap because if you are poor in capitalist society you only have yourself to blame. Leaving aside the genocidal war against the native population of this land, the most brutal offensive has been against those with black skin. It has been the most successful method of dividing the working class here and has hurt us all.
I had an experience with cops when I first came to America that really brought this home to me. If I had been black I could have been dead or at very least in jail. I recognized early on that my English accent was overwhelmingly a plus. That cop would not have treated me the way he did Sandra Bland. This does not make me a bad person, a racist or anything else. I need not feel guilty about it, and I don't. I leave that to the white middle class liberals and some elements on the left. But if I were to deny it, I would be as guilty as the cop.
Sandra, was black and a woman, and as far as I know she was from the working class as well. That fateful day she came up against the front line of the forces that perpetuate a class based racist and sexist system and it cost her her life. She was an intelligent person approached by an imbecile with power. As I shared her frustration it reminded me of my childhood. My father was physically abusive to me and mentally so to my mother. (He believed you shouldn't hit a woman but you could make them a non person) In my child's mind it was the sheer power of him, the inability of me to do anything about it that frustrated me the most, the beating was easier to handle than the frustration and sense of weakness I felt.
Don't let anyone speak ill of Sandra Bland and other victims of power in front of you, don't let them blame the victim which has been the standard excuse in response to domestic violence claims, "If only she'd stop nagging". If Sandra Bland's attitude was less than cheerful, so what, and all this for a lane change violation? Listen to the tape of her speaking on a phone call from jail. As a human being you will identify with her frustration.