Monday, April 26, 2010

37. What If the Tea Party Was Black?

Tim Wise has a knack for observing and criticizing forms of anti-black racism in the American culture.  His recent post "Imagine If the Tea Party Was Black" is a case in point.  It is very much worth reading.  Wise points to various activities of the Tea Party and asks us to imagine if they would get away with it if they were black and not white folks.  

"Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

"Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington."

Any fair minded person cannot but conclude that such behavior by any black group would have faced immediate condemnation if not outright repression.  Not so with the largely white Tea Party crowd.

I like to add something to Wise's keen observation.  Imagine that the Tea Party crowd was immigrant, or Latino, or Arab-American, or Muslim,  or trade unionists, or the unemployed, or young pro-choice activists, or environmentalists, etc.  How would they be treated?  Experience tells us what the answer should be. Any peaceful strike, anti-war rally, or other protest for social justice or for broad interests of the working people, is tightly controlled and sometimes repressed by the police.

The truth is that anti-black racism in the United States is part and parcel of bourgeois class repression.  Other social groups and "minorities" are similarly, if somewhat differently affected by the same bourgeois repressive ideology.  They are consider outsiders to the power structure, and a threat to it.  At the same time, under pressure and as result of ongoing struggle by the outside social groups, some individuals are co-opted into the power structure.  Thus, we may have a black president, a woman in the Supreme Court, Hispanics in Congress, etc. However, they are there only to serve the ruling class power and ideology.  At the same time, these very same individuals can become subject of the white racist mobs, such as in the Tea Party protests.  

The strategy for fundamental social change must take into account this reality by explaining the class basis of racism in the United States. 

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