Monday, June 25, 2018

Capitalism's Mass Media Decides What We Read About Racism and What We Don't.

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by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

This is a spoof I guess someone put on Instagram about white people calling the police on black folks for absurd reasons. I should add that it's probably much less common for black folks to call the cops for any reason because the cops may end up arresting them, or shooting them or their kids.

I don't know much about the barbecue woman except both of these women were slightly overweight, well educated petit bourgeois. The white petit bourgeois, even those liberal ones so terrified of being termed racist in any shape or form that they adopt the most groveling, condescending attitude to people of color, have contempt for workers from any background.

This clip is very funny and I am not criticizing it for being funny and satirical in pointing out the perversity of racism. But the capitalist mass media has made great use of these stories all over the world, it's a way of "sticking it to the yanks" for liberal outlets like the Guardian and in similar publications. As there is never a class analysis in US mass media, or rarely so, those reading it will look no further in to the issue, simply condemning the entire US working class despite these two examples involving two very middle class women. I am not saying the working class is free of racism or anything like that.

The stories are spread in ways that the millions of working class people here and around the world who are less likely to read analytical articles of any length will be informed about what's going on here in the US and hopefully draw certain conclusions about the US, or more accurately, draw conclusions about the US the owners of the mass media want them to.  It's akin to the 30 second political ads here that say nothing about the real politics of the candidate,

I lived and worked in Oakland for 30 years. It is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the US I think. It has a great history, the 1946 General Strike, Marcus Garvey, the Black Panthers, Huey Newton and others. There were Asian socialist parties that fought for rights, against repression and the exclusionary laws here.  It is segregated in a way many areas of Britain were not especially when I grew up there. I remember going to Hackney where I would see middle class whites, Jews, Muslims and working class native born English all living in close proximity. There were council flats there. I never ever saw a gated community growing up in England, they are everywhere here.  I went to housing schemes, what we call projects in the US and there were white and black people living in them.  I do believe the US is much more racially compartmentalized.

But when I go to Oakland now I hardly recognize it. The working class in Oakland, ever since I arrived here in 1973, has been overwhelmingly black or people of color. Much more diversified now, Latinos, Samoans, Tongans, Vietnamese, Cambodians Laotians and more. It's always had a vibrant Chinatown but the young Chinese are moving to the suburbs. I worked the streets and knew every neighborhood but the techie's and middle class have been moving in in droves. Gentrification has had a much more savage affect on the black population than some spoiled racist petit bourgeois calling the police on a child.  Trendy restaurants and shops are all over the place to accommodate the hipsters I think the term is for them. They wear black a lot, ride bicycles often and drink good coffee.  They are mostly white but not exclusively. The other aspect of this is that black people that have owned homes in some areas like West and North Oakland have done well out of it. I know a few black contractors that have made plenty of money renovating the old homes built in the 1940's and earlier. Bust for the vast majority of black workers, its driving them out.

Even deep east Oakland property is so expensive it's almost impossible for a young couple to purchase a home there. My little place we bought for $57,000 in 1980 is purportedly worth close to half a million now. Wages and economic power has have not risen in the same way. $15 an hour won't cover that mortgage.

What capitalism is doing here is driving out the urban working class and poor and the more affluent white (and Asian) middle class is coming in. Many of the black folks I once knew moved out to Vallejo and further east. The white workers that left for the suburbs in the post war era are not doing so well now either mind you.

My purpose for this is not to underplay the nastiness of some white petit bourgeois calling the cops on an 8 year old girl selling water. Anyone reading this is horrified by it. Cannot fathom it. But what will never get the same media coverage and yet is by far a more savage racist assault on people of color, is the affect US capitalism has on all of us but especially the poor and people of color. And all too often, Native Americans are left out of the "people of color" category, left out in people's minds anyway, and their conditions are catastrophic.

Also, the white working class has been driven back over the past 40 years. The life expectancy of white workers is declining and this is a "privileged" group. Racism is an integral part of the capitalist mode of production. The great US revolutionary Maclolm X wrote that "You can't have capitalism without racism". We don't hear that quite too often, especially from the radical black petit bourgeois for obvious reasons; they don't oppose capitalism, they just want to advance their individual and class positions within it. The white racist ruling class are forced to recognize people like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King but they are portrayed simply as "black" leaders who wanted justice for "their" people. Their ideas and views of the world are glossed over yet both were discussing and moving to socialist ideas before they were assassinated by the state and they were both moving closer to organized labor.

So enough already Richard. Enjoy the humor in the clip, there's humor in all situations, and I know from my associations with long specially oppressed minorities, the Irish and the blacks, that humor has long been a part of their revolutionary histories and struggles against oppression.

But lets not lose track of what racism is, who benefits from it and in what way and through what polices. Racism is a social problem, woven in to the very fabric of capitalist society, it's not just about calling the cops on someone for barbecuing. And the owners of the media that profit from these type of stories know what to make public fodder and what not.

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