Thursday, July 23, 2015

Black Lives Matter is the Right Slogan.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

“The interests of the poor man and the rich man are the same in this country, one and indivisible. We have but two classes here, the white man and the negro.”

So Jeb Bush has jumped in to the “White Lives Matter” debate in the light of Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley’s apology after he responded to Black Lives Matter activists at a conference last weekend saying that “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.”  O’Malley received boos for his comments.

Asked whether O’Malley should have apologized Bush said today “No, for crying out loud, no. I mean we’re so uptight and so politically correct now that you apologize for saying lives matter?” Bush, who has never had to work in his life instead piling up mountains of cash due to family connections and dodgy deals like all of them, went on to remind us that, “Life is precious. It’s a gift from God. It’s one of the most important values that we have.”

Funny, the whole Bush family has the blood of millions on their hands but “life is precious”, when it comes to their lives no doubt.  Bush went on, “If he (O'Malley) believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn’t apologize to a group that seemed to disagree with it.”,

Now I am very careful about using the term “White Supremacy” or “privilege” as it has become very fashionable these days and is often used devoid of class content. Its become so fashionable that even such bastions of white supremacy like the Ford Foundation are sponsoring conferences on it.* We hear it all the time from some of the most successful recipients of it, professionals, academics and other sections of the middle and upper middle class as well as rich entertainers and the like.  Some lefts and liberal types use it as well, guilty as they are about their class privileges as well as their male or white skin status, they attack white workers for what they see as backward thinking, though in reality they have contempt for all workers.

But Bush, his parasitic family and those like them are the root out of which the white privilege philosophy is born and nurtured.  When Bush and other members of the white skinned ruling class speaks, we are hearing the oracle of white supremacy, the architects of white supremacy and the true beneficiaries of it.

It is undeniable, that certain aspects of this privileged social status apples to all whites as in the US “white” is a defined as a race, but this is intentional, it has been used to undermine class unity and divide the working class in this country just as sexism has. That many white workers have bought in to this idea is to our detriment. We only have to look at the US South to see that.  Unions are weaker and wages and conditions worse for all workers including white workers because the idea of white privilege has been stronger, workers more divided, our organizations weak or non-existent and the bosses in a more commanding position. The increased reference to “White privilege” by the academics and spokespersons of the 1% is designed to lay the responsibility for this philosophy at the foot of the white working class as opposed to the ruling class where it belongs.

Bush’s comments will strike a chord with many white workers who are not consciously trying to grapple with this concept and completely reject it in favor of strengthening class unity. In and of itself of course “all lives matter.” is fine, no worker, no matter what our background would disagree with that. But Bush, in his capacity as a representative of the white racist ruling class, is defending its use in order to undermine the movement that has arisen under the slogan “Black Lives Matter” and to obscure the institutionalized racism inherent in our society.

Ferguson black/white comparison
This movement and slogan arises in a certain context and out of certain social conditions, the ongoing murder of African Americans by the police or state security forces. It goes beyond the immediate as well.  While there are more poor white people in this country and most people in prison are most likely white, this is because there are more of us.  But as a percentage of the population, the incarceration rate for blacks is at catastrophic levels; it's bad for all people of color.  If the social statistics that we are all too familiar with in regards to African Americans, incarceration, poverty, unemployment, homicide and others applied to whites, the pundits would be referring to the US as being in a catastrophic economic depression.

The events surrounding the death of Sandra Bland are yet another disgusting example of this situation.  As I watched the video I felt her frustrations and anger at being treated the way she was by some moron with a gun and the power of the state behind him. She should never have been in jail.

Bush, uses the opportunity the question offers him to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement further when he says, that O’Malley shouldn’t apologize for his, “all lives matter” response “…to a group that seemed to disagree with it.”. Here he accomplishes two things; he paints the “Black Lives Matter” movement as racist and fans the flame of racism among white workers whose lives black folks don’t care about apparently. Bush then goes on to claim he doesn’t know why O’Malley’s comments were met with boos.

If the Amish were being murdered by the police at the same rates and an “Amish lives Matter” movement arose in response to it, would we counter that with “All lives matter?” Would Bush be suggesting the Amish don’t believe that all lives matter as he is with the BLM movement? Would we have a problem with this if the Amish, or Cajuns, were saying it?  It reminds me of a response I got from one person when I pointed to a statistic about the low number of women that reported rapes due to the crap they have to go through if they do.  He immediately tried to claim that as many men are raped as women if you count the rapes in prison.   Of course men can be raped but the level of it and the fear of it and how women are portrayed in society make it a specific issue for women.

The slogan, Black Lives Matter is an appropriate slogan in light of the mortality rate of African Americans and all the other statistics that are a product of institutionalized racism.  It is in the interests of all workers to support it and join it. It is time for class unity with our black brothers and sisters not a phony “race” unity with the white racist bosses. It's in  a white workers self interest to reject Bush's arguments.

Bush is consciously trying to obscure the institutionalized racism in society by his remarks. O’Malley, as a political representative of the ruling class did the same, until the pressure from below hit him and he corrected himself, he is seeking office after all.

To not oppose Bush and those that counter the BLM slogan with All Lives Matter will hurt white workers as the attacks on us from the same source are also growing and will continue to intensify as the austerity agenda of the 1% continues. They are forced by the system to attack us all and part of their strategy is to divide us and the most successful has been the black/white divide. This is why when a white cop kills a black man and they report on it in the news they always use the term “racial tensions” with regard to the mood in the aftermath. But the tension is between the police and their black victims. They want the rest of the white population to be thrown in to the mix but we avoid that by supporting black resistance to state terrorism and the white power structure. We condemn it. We make it clear on which side we stand.

As usual I have gone on too long but I want to add one more thought.

This idea that all whites, rich and poor are of the same race has been perpetuated for hundreds of years by the ruling class in this country. There are too many examples to cite and I have recommended Theodore Allen’s book, The Invention of the White Race as an introduction to this subject. But here is another small example from a history of Louisiana before and after the Civil War, “Whenever politicians among the small farmers of northern Louisiana pointed to the economic gulf which separated them from rich slaveholders, the press was quick to heal the breach by reminding all whites of their common superiority to the Negro.” **

What Irishman would have been included among the same race as an Englishman before coming to America?  They were described as “White Chimpanzees” by the British bourgeois.  But this was a smart move for the white ruling class in America, “Race prejudice filled the void of class hatred.”, as the author above suggests and the potential power of a united working class weakened.

That’s what Bush and other prominent figures are doing by countering the slogan “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter”, deflecting an inherent distrust of the wealthy away from them and at our class brothers and sisters as if black folks don’t care about the lives of others. We all know all lives matter, but timing is everything in politics. 

* The information on the White Privilege Conference is here:   Why and How Big Money Promotes "White Privilege" Rhetoric

Origins of Class Struggle in Louisiana by Roger W. Shugg Note: the introductory quote is also from this book.

The White Privilege Conference is here.

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