Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Martin Luther King blocked bridges.

"You can’t have capitalism without racism."  Malcolm X

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Protesters blocked the westbound lanes of the Oakland San Francisco Bay Bridge last night in the ongoing struggles against police abuse, particularly with regard to murder of black folks, but also in opposition to gentrification and other institutionalized forms of racial discrimination.

In the papers this morning there were the usual quotes from upset and angry motorists, “I feel like whatever they’re protesting I want to be against it right now.” one commuter says adding, “People have the right to protest but don’t have the right to block traffic.”

 “They could put their energies into a lot more useful venues than sitting on a bridge and making everyone suffer,” another motorist said.

I can’t fault people for being upset, it is disruptive and it’s meant to be disruptive. After all, what good is a strike that doesn’t shut down production? But what “more useful venues” does the motorist above suggest? Another comment I read was that there’s “No need for this bullshit.” Is that so?  Then what is needed? What alternative(s) do the authors have to the shocking murder and outright assassinations of people of color by the beefed up police forces in the US? Or are they saying that there is no crisis, there is no targeting of blacks, there’s no racism in US society?

Leaving the racists aside who would never find it within themselves, or almost never, to look at the world from a victim of institutionalized racism’s point of view, there are far too many of us who simply shut it all out; who can’t bide by anything that might interrupt their desire for a peaceful life. Then, when those who are the direct victims of something or those who refuse to numb themselves with addiction to drugs, sports, crap TV and instead take action that might rock the boat, they are condemned for doing so.

If other venues worked, and if millions more of us who ignore the real world for temporary peace, chose to reject the mindless diversions of the ruling class and act, especially on issues that appear to not affect us directly, last night’s event might not have occurred, or better still, we'd have been there with them and other issues would be raised, issues that affect all workers

A Facebook friend expressed it this way:

“This is about all our lives. Despite the momentary discomfort the people on the bridge might have felt...reality is that without that disruption there would be no discussion. Dr. King did disrupt lives on a bridge many years ago. Let us remember the bigger picture of the message and not argue about its delivery.”

The feelings the motorists expressed above were mild compared to some of the comments I read on the Internet. They should be “shot” “ tasered” “thrown off the bridge” etc. But this is how progress is made and we should all do it.

I remember when the air traffic controllers, members of PATCO struck in 1980. Reagan fired 11,000 of them and banned them for working in their industry for life. The labor hierarchy to their shame did nothing. But the mass media, owned by the 1% went on the offensive as well. We were told or it was implied as it always is in strikes, that they were greedy, lazy etc.  I recall a reporter at an airport asking a stranded traveler, “How does it feel to be held hostage by the strikers?”  Not biased was it?

But that strike like most strikes was as more about conditions than pay. I remember talking to one of the strikers and he asked me, “Do you play PacMan?” I responded in the affirmative. Who didn’t back then? “Well I play it all day…” he replied, “ …. and if two blips collide I lose 300 people.” The stress and working conditions of that job was the major issue which is why they had a demand for a shorter workweek. The more of us that act in unison the less disruption.

The killing of black people by the police is not a recent occurrence. And it is not just about cops murdering black men. On every single issue, life expectancy, jobs, pay, infant mortality, health care, education, incarceration, executions, the disparity is staggering. I welcome the racists who blame this situation on black people themselves----it’s their fault----because we can eliminate them from the discussion. We know where they stand.  But if we do not ascribe some sort of deficiency with regard to peoples of African descent or those people we call, people of color, the only alternative is that these crises are a product of society. Then we can begin to seek a solution to the problem and also understand why we should try our best ,if we are not yet ready to join activists in struggle, to be patient and at least have solidarity with them.  Compared to the conditions some people have to face in life, an hour or two traffic logjam is a minor detail.

But it is important to understand that the state has not beefed up the police apparatus for nothing. They intend to use it. They have driven auto-workers, once the job that was the entry in to what we call the middle class, down to poverty wages.  As I write, the population of Flint, scene of the great sit down strikes of the 1930’s, has had its water supply poisoned by the authorities in an effort to save money and make the US working class pay for the crisis of capitalism; they then covered it up.  A state of emergency has been declared there as well as Southern California where a natural gas leak continues to spew tons of poison in to the air. Oklahoma is riddled with earthquakes and ground water in other states is being poisoned due to fracking. West Virginia is in a state of extreme depression. Let's disrupt away. Let's shut down all the damn freeways and lets shut down the system for good.

We are under assault and it will not stop.  At some point there we will an explosion in this country as workers are forced to fight back and we will see what is happening in the black communities occurring much more frequently in the suburbs, directed at white workers as well. The bosses will play the race card, more accurately the color card, trying to turn black against white, “real” Americans against foreigners and at all times men against women.

In every movement there are mistakes made, there are things that could have been done differently.  There are different currents in the movement that have different views.  When the working class moves in to struggle in a major way, the class solidarity becomes stronger and differences less pronounced.  I believe history teaches us that when workers move in to struggle, initially anyway, there is a tendency to seek class unity and overcome the divisions, the divide and rule diversions of the bosses.  This can change if the class is thrown back but is a general tendency I believe.

Watch this video again even if you’ve already seen it. 

This happens very frequently. It has happened for generations and the perpetrators have gotten away with it. After shooting this kid, who was walking away from him, the cop shot him another 15 times as he lay on the ground. He assassinated him.  Why didn't CNN show that?  They should have. Then the authorities only released the video because they were forced to by a judge and because the black population recognizes that the usual “venues” don’t work.

Let the racists justify the cop’s actions, I won’t.

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