In the 1930s, a new type of union, an “industrial” union that welcomed all workers in a single workplace emerged as the cutting edge of working-class struggle. Previously, unions and employers both had a long history of racism and support for white supremacy. Certain jobs were reserved for whites, and Black workers were kept out of factories and union halls. This had catastrophic consequences for the working class. For example, in the 1919 Steel Strike, employers brought in 30,000 Black and immigrant workers to break the strike staged by white workers and their racially exclusive unions.
In the summer of 2020, the people of the United States witnessed the largest anti-racist struggle in the country’s history after a video of the brutal murder of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin went viral. While Floyd’s murder was the catalyst, the first year of the pandemic was marked by increased police and vigilante violence. Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot in a botched “citizen’s arrest” by vigilantes and Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead while asleep by police, were among the most egregious cases. In the year 2021, it was the turn of the US government, particularly its judicial system, to respond to the protests of 2020. Historic trials of the killers of unarmed Black people and protestors were set to answer an important question: how would the system respond to the outcry of millions against racist violence?
The demobilized troopship HMT Empire Windrush that arrived at Tilbury Dock on 22 June 1948 was not Britain’s first migration ship, but its passengers were the first to be promised British citizenship, which the British Nationality Act of 1948 conferred on “every person born within the United Kingdom and Colonies.” Of the 1029 passengers, 802 from the Caribbean, 96 were household domestics and 85 were mechanics; there were also, in smaller numbers, scholars, civil servants and a judge. They had accepted an invitation to help rebuild the Mother Country and arrived full of hope for a warm reception.
Anti-racism demonstrations took place across the UK on 11 September as the four officers charged over the killing of George Floyd in the US went on trial. Protesters said they are determined to show that previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations were not “just a moment”. Mass protests were staged across the world after footage emerged of officers kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a Black man, killing him. The four men are charged over the death, but it’s understood they will push for separate trials in order to diminish their roles in the incident.
Three months ago, protests in Minneapolis gave way to a national uprising. Ushering in a new focus on racial justice, the uprisings have challenged the way people relate to one another and how some talk about community safety. Coupled with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the uprisings have forced people to rethink how to protect their communities through strengthening their bonds with one another. Mutual aid groups and block-level community defense are two ways people shifted beyond traditional American individualism. A climate organizer with TakeAction Minnesota, Magdalena Kaluza said that in the midst of the uprising, neighbors began meeting and planning with each other. For Kaluza and many others, the focus was on protecting people first and foremost.
A few years ago, I was walking in Minneapolis, just a few miles from where George Floyd was murdered, when a panicked, young Native American man ran by me and into the street. Immediately afterward, a Minneapolis Police squad car pulled next to me. One officer jumped out, tackled the young man in the middle of the street and started pounding his face into the pavement. I approached the officer and told him that he was using excessive force and I had his badge number. His partner quickly escorted me back to the curb while informing me that I would be arrested for interfering with the arrest. I stood, yelling, while the beating continued. Recently standing at the memorial in front of the Cup Foods where Mr. Floyd was murdered, I recalled my earlier experience.
Despite my having grown up in the South, Portland is the most racist place I have ever lived. This is because being anti-racist isn’t about using politically correct buzzwords and giving lip service to sensitive conversation topics. Being anti-racist is about constructing a landscape that is safe for dark people to inhabit. It is not about white people trying to prove they are “woke” by putting up yard signs. That is not even what “woke” means. “Woke” is a territory of open-eyed, unsuperficial, cultural awareness white people are nowhere close to occupying; they are not even in the neighborhood. But being anti-racist in this dangerous era is something they can do, by going out of their way to make nonwhite people feel safe.
The easiest way to find local White antiracist groups is to look at SURJ’s list – which includes SURJ chapters as well as other White antiracist groups – organized by state and city. SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) is a nationwide network of White antiracist groups, with chapters in roughly 100 cities. For building White working-class antiracism, see SURJ’s commitment to such organizing, as well as the more explicitly radical, self-defense oriented group, Redneck Revolt. White antiracist groups, historically and in the present, tend to be predominantly female. White women and LGBT people are far more likely join antiracist groups than men, and especially straight men. STAND is one example of an organization working to bring White men into antiracist work.
Ever since fascism first crawled out of the ideological sewer, anarchists and autonomists have been there to confront, antagonize and organize against it. You need not dig deep into past history to find evidence of this. After the mayhem of Charlottesville, Cornell West, reported to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!
A coalition of more than 100 civil rights groups—including ACLU, NAACP, National Education Association and National Organization for Women—released a criminal justice reform platform for the 2020 elections on Thursday that calls for the legalization of marijuana and supports the “dismantling” of the criminalization of other drugs. As part of the document’s plank on ending the war on drugs, the organizations said states should “legalize marijuana through a racial justice framework that focuses on access, equity, and repairing the damage of prohibition” and the federal government should end cannabis prohibition and “implement marijuana reform through a racial justice lens.”
The painful truth about public education is that racism is as common as bored students and overworked teachers. While many in our home of Seattle take pride in the city’s “progressive” reputation, the students of Seattle Public Schools, especially students of Color, know reality starkly contrasts with this reputation. In fact, Seattle Public Schools is home to some of the worst racial disparities in the entire country – and the district has known about them for decades and decades. Yet little has changed – exemplified recently by a white teacher calling 911 on a 10 to 11-year-old Black child.
This Aug. 12 marked the one-year anniversary of the murderous “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. The mainstream media have been bursting with commentary, but almost all of it misses the most important lesson from that infamous event: that it was a tremendous victory. A year later, the national fascist movement is greatly weakened. It’s divided by infighting. It lacks an agreed-upon leader, let alone a program. This weekend in Charlottesville there were hundreds of anti-racists on the streets and virtually no fascists. The attempt to hold a rally in DC instead also failed miserably.
In this way, I think the Black Lives Matter (BLM) at School movement and the broader movement for Black lives inspired the idea for Teaching for Black Lives as a book that could be used by educators, students, activists and community organizers. The BLM at School movement went national during the 2017-2018 school year and educators in over 20 cities participated in a week of action from February 5 to 9, to affirm the lives of Black students and challenge institutional racism. The BLM at School movement developed three demands: (1) End “zero tolerance” discipline and implement restorative justice; (2) Hire more Black teachers; (3) Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum.