Newsletter: The Movement Must Respond To Racial Violence

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We had planned to focus on climate change this week given the contradiction between not just the science of climate change but our lived-reality of it getting stronger while the Trump administration denies this reality. An impressive government report on the climate crisis was recently leaked out of fear that the Trump administration would prevent its publication. At the same time, a wide variety of resistance actions are being taken by people across the country to stop the construction of more carbon infrastructure and people are working to increase the use of cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday required us to change course and attempt to put the racist violence that occurred into historical and political context as well as to discuss what the movement should do to respond to aggressive racism by extremist groups.

1ffFull Frontal Racism

The United States is a country founded in the establishment of both white supremacy and resistance to it. As we discussed last December on Clearing the FOG with author Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, the theft of land and resources from Native Americans, then called ‘savages’, funded the rise of the United States. Slavery was also a dominant sector of the economy and one reason for seeking independence from Britain, which was moving to abolish slavery. The US’ property-rights, not human rights, Constitution was written for the ruling class to protect its most important “properties”: slaves and land. Yet, rarely are these facts discussed or their implications for our society today considered.

Alongside this history is an ongoing struggle for equal rights and restitution or reparations. This struggle has waxed and waned for centuries, and is coming to a peak once again. Many had hoped that the election of the nation’s first black president would prove that we truly lived in a post-racial society, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. With a few minor exceptions, President Obama continued the same policies that perpetuate systemic racism and white supremacy. It was under Obama that the US destroyed Libya and tightened its military grip on Africa, that poverty and economic inequality grew and that the militarization of police and aggression towards communities of color, including Muslims and immigrants, persisted. It was under Obama that the Black Lives Matter movement was created to respond to police killings.

The election of President Trump has taken this to the extreme. He lacks the sophistication of past leaders and so he fails to hide it well. As a people, we in the United States are now experiencing blatant bigotry, racism and imperialism. It can no longer be ignored. And it forces each of us to make a choice.

1cville3As we wrote last week, the crises that we face have given rise historically to three outcomes – the rise of right wing nationalism, an era of progressive reform or great social transformation. Right wing nationalism protects the interests of the ruling class because it maintains the systems of oppression that allow them to exploit people and the planet and to justify the restriction of civil and political rights. Most recently, the US has financed and supported right wing extremists in the Ukraine and South America in order to conduct coups. Will this administration passively or actively allow those elements to rise at home to suppress popular movements?

Charlottesville as a Flashpoint

The events that occurred in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, August 12, 2017, were an escalation of a struggle that has been going on for the past several years in Charlottesville and nationally to remove monuments that glorify the confederacy. In February, the city council of Charlottesville voted to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson and to rename the parks where they are located. This decision was met by protests and lawsuits organized by right wing groups and counter-protests led by anti-racists. “Unite the Right” protests and counter-protests took place in May and July in Charlottesville.

Tensions and altercations at the protests have escalated. The May protest, led by Richard Spencer, was fairly small and uneventful. In July, about 60 KKK members, with a heavy police presence, were allowed to march to the statues, rally and leave. They were surrounded by 1,000 anti-racist counter-protesters. Police used tear gas on the counter-protesters and arrested a few of them for blocking the KKK. For this weekend’s protest, Unite the Right organizers urged people to bring weapons and several militias attended wearing military gear and carrying assault rifles.

1uvaOn Friday, a group of people wearing khaki pants and white polo shirts, like President Trump, marched through the city chanting “blood and soil,” a Nazi slogan. Militias also marched through the city and assembled at “Emancipation Park,” where the Unite the Right rally would take place the next day. That night, a large group marched with tiki  torches on the University of Virginia campus chanting “White Lives Matter”  and “You will not replace us.” Counter-protesters were present and there were conflicts between the two sides.

Saturday, fights started in the morning well ahead of the planned rally at noon. Pro Publica reports that police stood by during the conflicts in which young right wing protesters attacked counter-protesters. The Governor called off the rally before it started and police forced Unite the Right supporters from the park.

Car hits people in Charlottesville racism protest. By Ryan M. Kelly, the Daily Progress.

Anti-racist counter-protesters were starting to march away from the park when a 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields, drove his car into the crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, five of them critically. Support Heyer’s family here. Her mother says she is proud of what her daughter was doing and hopes her death becomes a “rallying cry for justice.” Fields was later arrested gently by police. It was hard not to speculate how he would have been treated if he were black or brown. Unite the Right protesters vow to return.

The Response

Public responses to the violent, racist protest and the terrorist attack by Fields were swift. Politicians across the political spectrum spoke out against the racist-hate violence. People marched and held rallies across the country and internationally, and solidarity rallies are planned across the country for today. Friends of Heather Heyer are asking people to hold a candle outside their house tonight at 10:00 pm Eastern in her memory and against hate. These public displays are important to show that the KKK, Nazi and other right wing extremist groups are the fringe and do not represent the views of most people in the US. It is important to prevent the extreme right from gaining any momentum and escalating violence, and there is also a need for self-defense and justice.

1milWhat happened in Charlottesville raises many questions.  Why were armed militias allowed to march and gather in public when it is illegal to carry weapons openly? Why did police stand by when protesters and counter protesters fought? And why didn’t the police escort the counter-protest march when it left the park? The FBI and Department of Justice plan to investigate the events. This must be done in an open and transparent way and with a mechanism to hold local authorities accountable. In Germany, there is no tolerance for Nazis and those who espouse hate. We must demand the same here. President Trump’s weak response opposed violence and hate but avoided criticizing racist hate groups.

People in the US are facing the consequences of a long history of racism and oppression, which are connected to an economic system based on profits for the few no matter the costs to the many. The economic crisis and growing wealth inequality have created great insecurity. Economic insecurity is being used to generate fear and divide us against other. It will take great effort to resist.

The US is becoming a majority-minority country and for children five years old and under it already is, as a majority of five year olds are non-white. This change along with economic insecurity is making some uncomfortable. Both political parties play on these fears with, in general terms, the Republicans and Donald Trump reaching out to insecure whites and Democrats seeking the support from communities of color. Trump’s theme of “Make America Great Again” was interpreted as a dog whistle to many — harkening back to the time before there was a black president. Former KKK Grand Dragon, David Duke, said at the Charlottesville rally that they were fulfilling Trump’s agenda. And, while Trump was criticized by many leading Republicans for refusing to name the Nazis and racists, white supremacists applauded him for not doing so.

The Tasks Of The Movement

1equalWe must present a vision of a future that is better for all of us, one in which we recognize our history and take measures to resolve the damage that has been done while we transform our current systems to be more equitable and sustainable. This means seeking racial justice and ending white supremacy, and educating fearful whites that this is not an attack on them individually but a systemic problem that has existed since the founding of the country. We must all learn that if we are not working to dismantle these racist roots, we are condoning them.

At the same time the movement must work to create a fair economy for everyone, where among other things, high quality health care is available for all, a basic income ensures people’s economic stability and a national jobs program is put in place to rebuild US infrastructure and transition to new forms of energy.  At the same time, we must consciously build a new economy in which all people build wealth, workers own and direct businesses, post-high school education is tuition free and the wealth divide is shrinking. See our economic project, It’s Our Economy, for more on this. One vision that is being shaped currently is the People’s Congress of Resistance Manifesto. Join us on September 16-17 to participate.

20818873_1353693134728860_1816855271666312447_oNone of us can be silent in this time. Silence is complicity. Each of us can do something. Read to better understand our history and discuss how it impacts us today. Don’t allow us to be divided against each other. Build solidarity in your communities, especially with those who are most oppressed. Speak out when and where injustice occurs and work to meet each other’s needs. We can weather this storm if we are prepared for it.

 

  • David Zaiss

    The Constitution was written so effectively to protect property rights and slavery it was a breeze for the Supremes to rule that corporations are people… ie. people are slaves, corporate slaves.

  • Aquifer

    Why was an armed group allowed to march? Because the authorities folks put in office allowed it …

  • mwildfire

    political solutions? Like what?

  • Aquifer

    Putting decent folks in office …

  • mwildfire

    HOW? Never mind, you and I have argued about this before. I say, the system is quite deliberately rigged so that it’s nearly impossible to put what you and I would consider good people in office–and the few who get through are too few to accomplish anything.

  • Aquifer

    “Nearly” impossible …. :)

    “The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.”

    So we better get crackin’ …. :)

  • AlanMacDonald

    Dear Margaret and Kevin, your first paragraph of apology for having to switch focus of ‘the movement’ from global warming to street violence says it all about the difference between ‘the movement’ needing to have a (not plural) coherent and comprehensive strategy, rather than the dozens (or more) tactics related to specific subordinate ‘issues’.

    “The events in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday required us to change
    course and attempt to put the racist violence that occurred into
    historical and political context as well as to discuss what the movement
    should do to respond to aggressive racism by extremist groups.”

    A truly “The Movement” can not be truly effective at the ‘strategic’ level (nor at the ‘narrative’ level) if it can so easily, frequently, and at the whim of the opposition be forced to shift gears every month, week, or even daily ‘news cycle’.

    As I have been preaching into the wind for some time, if we let the truth of the old saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees” be leveraged by the opposition into a successful deployment, disguise, and distraction of, “Can’t see the forest of EMPIRE for the trees of Issues” then no effective Resistance, nor certainly the essential Second American Political Revolution Against Empire can succeed.

    This weekend’s curve ball (which the EMPIRE IMHO clearly pitched) has done exactly that. Turned the limited progress on a number of very important, but subordinate ‘issues’, from any sustainable ‘strategy’ or ‘narrative’ into the same sort of mush that the media/propaganda-sector of the EMPIRE did to the multiple-issued “Occupy” movement when violence was injected by the EMPIRE.

    It boarders on the height of absurd that the progress on progressive issues has now been so easily hijacked by the EMPIRE turning any coherent into such a stupid and unproductive bottom line as, “alt-right vs. antifa” — what a useless and ‘in the gutter’ fight for no good purpose.

    The only possible, accurate, coherent, logical, understandable ‘narrative’ and effectively competitive winning ‘strategy’ that can so easily win this war — because we are now in a war (of words and ideas) — is to shift the battle to a higher, broader, and more accurate strategy and believable ‘narrative’ of simply:

    Anti-EMPIRE vs Pro-Empire

    All of obviously tiny minority of; racists, Nazis, cheaters, Wall Street looters,
    sociopaths, war-starters, haters, takers, self-proclaimed Emperors, direct or indirect
    killers, lying phonies, etc., etc., etc. are nothing but PRO-Empire
    loosers, who could so soon be dispatched by simply asking the seminal question: “Which side is on the side of EMPIRE?” —–

    Which side stands, as early Americans did on the side of; Liberty, equality, democracy, justice, progress, freedom —- and “NOT acting like an EMPIRE”??

    Conversely, and Provably — which side deceitfully plots to be “Masters of the Universe”, employ violence, supports oligarchy, power, serves plutocracy, is autocratic, authoritarian, is proto-fascist (or uber fascist), militarist, arrogant, boastful, bullying in the extreme, and most obviously in the character of Trump (but also Hillary) wants to be an Emperor (or in her case, an “Empress-in-waiting’ and certified War Hawk [NYT Magazine 'cover-story' Mark Landler].

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/24/magazine/how-hillary-clinton-became-a-hawk.html

    Kevin and Margaret, the last thing in the world that the principled progressive left should ever want to accidentally cause —- which this first in world history; ‘effectively-disguised’, ‘truly-global’, and crony ‘capitalist-fueled’
    EMPIRE which is only nominally HQed in, and merely ‘posing’ as, our
    former country may well IMHO have plotted is to have faux-Emperor/president Trump removed in order to get a ‘smoother-lying’ neoliberal-con compliant global faux-Emperor back-in and installed!

    If ‘the movement’ doesn’t have a truly well thought-out and promulgated ‘strategy’ and effective ‘narrative’ defined by now to support a successful and peaceful “Political Revolution against Empire’ (and both its Vichy parties) then as John Maynard Keynes should have said, “We;re all dead in the short run”

  • AlanMacDonald

    Revolution:

  • AlanMacDonald

    Yes, the Empire’s militarist, media/propaganda, and extra-legal sectors all worked with the Vichy political sector of the EMPIRE to insure that this violence meme of the Empire’s ‘narrative’ and ‘strategy’ could be played and ‘drilled’ into the homes and heads of the manipulated ‘subjects’ just at the correct time and to achieve the correct effect.

  • AlanMacDonald

    NO to the title and illogic of this article:

    The only thing the “The Movement Must Respond To Racial Violence” with is An Accurate, Compelling, and Effective ‘Strategic Narrative’!

    This is the 2nd comment I submitted to an obscenely stupid Op-Ed in the NYT this morning — and I’m waiting to see if they have the guts to publish it, as they did my with 1st comment:

    “If the informed, progressive, anti-racist, empathetic, moral,
    egalitarian, and anti-war majority left of Americans in the 99% are so
    deluded and blind as to allow the ‘strategic narrative’ to be reduced to
    such stupidity as “alt-right vs. antifa”, rather than more accurately
    as “Pro-EMPIRE vs. Anti-EMPIRE”, then the principled left, and
    unfortunately the entire 99%, are going to continue to loose the
    opportunity to overthrow the tiny minority 1% behind the orchestration of
    this “divide by violence and conquer” entrenched ruling-elite EMPIRE in
    America.

    Unquestionably, the vast majority of all Americans are against Empire
    — just as our founding fathers were 242 years ago. There are so few
    Royalist Pro-Empire voters that they dare not show their faces or flag,

    “Give me Liberty (over Empire) or give me death” — which is what Pat
    would have shouted if Tom had been a pain and edited his quote!”

    Link to Bret Stephens right-wing propaganda Op-Ed:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/opinion/trump-obama-terrorism-charlottesville-isis.html?comments&_r=0#permid=23716630

    Here’s my 1st comment as published in the NYT:

    “Stephens, like a broken 24 hour clock, was at least correct once today,
    when he said “failing to call evil groups by their correct name” is a
    problem.

    Yes, Bret, the majority of non-violent, sane, empathetic,
    and progressive social democratic Americans only need to; loudly,
    bravely, publicly, with solidarity, in a sustained manner ‘in the
    streets’, but peacefully fire a “Shout (not shot) heard round the world”
    to ignite the coming and essential Second American “Political
    Revolution against EMPIRE” by ‘calling-out’ and exposing this first in
    world history; ‘effectively-disguised’, ‘truly-global’, and crony
    ‘capitalist-fueled’ EMPIRE by its “correct name” (as you rightly said)
    and as our founding fathers did 242 years ago.

    As Pat would have shouted, if Tom had edited his quote, “Give me Liberty from EMPIRE or give me death”.

    Empire
    is the only enemy of the people — and always has been — which you
    will understand, Bret, when you read Justin du Rivage’s deeply
    researched and fabulously revealing work on our American Revolution,
    “Revolution Against Empire”.

  • AlanMacDonald

    Wow! the old grey lady, NYT, surprisingly not only allowed and published my 2nd comment, as I had submitted and listed above, but also allowed my reply to an obvious right-wing shilling troll, “Rusty” to be published giving him a deserved ‘push-back’:

    My 2nd Comment as published:

    Alan MacDonald

    Wells, Maine

    3 minutes ago

    If the informed, progressive, anti-racist, empathetic, moral, egalitarian, and anti-war majority left of Americans in the 99% are so deluded and blind as to allow the ‘strategic narrative’ to be reduced to such stupidity as “alt-right vs. antifa”, rather than more accurately as “Pro-EMPIRE vs. Anti-EMPIRE”, then the principled left, and unfortunately the entire 99%, are going to continue to loose the opportunity overthrow the tiny minority 1% behind the orchestration of this “divide by violence and conquer” entrenched ruling EMPIRE in America.

    Unquestionably, the vast majority of all Americans are against Empire — just as our founding fathers were 242 years ago. There are so few Royalist Pro-Empire voters that they dare not show their faces or flag,

    “Give me Liberty (over Empire) or give me death” — which is what Pat would have shouted if Tom had been a pain and edited his quote!

    My NYT published reply to “RustyT”, a troll from VA.:

    Alan MacDonald

    Wells, Maine

    2 minutes ago

    No, Rusty, you’re too rusty to torpedo us this time, with violence, like the ruling-elite Empire did with “Occupy”!

    Today, we aren’t “antifa”, we, like 99% of Americans, are Anti-EMPIRE — just as our founders were 242 years ago.

    Let’s be deadly accurate in the correct ‘strategic narrative’ of the vast
    majority of informed, progressive, anti-racist, empathetic, moral,
    egalitarian, and anti-war younger left of Americans — those who tried
    to improve American excesses of imperialist wars, racism, and Wall
    Street looting in the “Occupy” movement.

    Allowing the ‘strategic narrative’ to be reduced to such stupidity as “alt-right vs. antifa”, rather than far more accurately as “Pro-EMPIRE vs. Anti-EMPIRE”, will not be a mistake that this expanded and more aware “Occupy 2.0 Anti-Empire” movement will make this time, nor allowing the ruling-elite Empire of the 1% to deceitfully practice in the background by orchestrating of this “divide by violence and conquer” scam again!