Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Racism - A tool that divides

It is a few years now, that I have lived here in the USA. Much has astonished me, much has delighted me but there is also the side of life and attitudes here that, quite frankly, shock and horrify me.

Foremost among the latter is the casual expression of racism that I frequently encounter. From family, from friends and from TV. Attitudes and expressions that leave me bemused and feeling dirty.

I am not suggesting that the UK specifically, or even that Europe generally is free from racism; it clearly is not. Here though there is an endemic racism expressed both personally and institutionally that is without comparasion on the other side of the pond.

In Oklahoma 25% of black males aged 18 to 24 are in jail, have been or will be. The figure for white males is around 10%, in itself shocking. (figures vary a little)

When will folk start to understand that crime and punishment is not a symptom of being black (or Hispanic). It is a symptom of being poor.

If you are black in the USA the odds are stacked against you from birth. It is likely that your parents are poor. You will go to largely segregated schools because you will go to the school in your neighbourhood, and if you live in a predominantly black area, this will be reflected in your school. Schools in the USA are failing, and schools in poor and black areas are failing most, and failing fastest.

Your chances of receiving more than rudimentary healthcare are low, and college opportunities are vastly more restricted (by dint of schooling and perception) than are those of your white counterparts. Poor whites will get similar opportunities, but without the doors closed to blacks.

Your chance of experiencing prison is very high, on the other hand. Your chance of being a victim of crime is very high, and your chance of being shot is out of all proportion to the actual population numbers.

A small example. Crack cocaine possession and dealing is treated very harshly. Few users and small-time dealers escape jail and the sentences can be lengthy. Powder cocaine is the same class of drug, but is treated very differently to crack. Most users in possession of small amounts will escape jail, and most small dealers will expect fairly short sentences or probation.

Crack is used predominantly by black people and powder cocaine is regarded as white, and middle class. Until this blatant injustice is overturned how can the black community feel any other than anger at the institutional prejudice being demonstrated.

The people I hear making racist remarks are not wealthy people. I don’t actually know many of those. No, they are white, working to middle class, sometimes with college education sometimes not. They are people who don’t have much, and have worked hard for what they have. They are people who sense that this country has problems that make their lives more difficult than it needs to be and have bought into the argument that black people, Hispanics and immigrants, legal or otherwise, are the root of the problem.

These ideas are not fostered or conceived by poor whites, they are rather a tool used by the ruling classes here to divide. The greatest fear of the corporations, and rich old white men is that the poor will call them on it. That one day their will be the realization that the ills they endure are not caused by the black man wasting welfare dollars, and increasing the cost of the drugs they need, but that the cause lies actually with the drug companies and those who allow them to prey on the welfare and health dollars spent here.

If that day ever comes then black, brown, white will not matter. The battle will be between the wealth producers and the wealth consumers. Poor v. Rich, if you prefer. When the day dawns that poor people recognize that they are deliberately kept poor by those who need them to be, and that those very leaders use racism as a tactic to split the poorer, working community, then their might indeed be a revolutionary war here.

Just before I left the UK for the USA I heard a speech by a hitherto little known Senator called Barack Obama. It was the address he gave to the 2004 DNC, and it was a speech that elevated him to the National Consciousness. For my part, it was simply inspirational.

Currently, Barack Obama is the leading Democratic contender in the race for the White House in 2008. I hope he wins.

Over the last week we have been subjected to excerpts from sermons given by the Pastor of the Church Obama attends with his family. Oddly, when Mitt Romney was considered a candidate for the Republican nomination, it was considered inappropriate to even mention his Church (he is Mormon). Now, apparently, because Reverend White made a few inflammatory statements, the chattering classes feel that Obama needs to redeem himself.

Obama didn’t make the statements (which actually were quoted completely out of context in any event) yet he has to answer to them. Mike Huckabee was a Republican candidate until very recently. Huckabee was a Pastor in a Baptist church, and a senior member of that church. Huckabee did not achieve that status without making some very controversial statements on subjects such as Gay marriage, abortion and Right To Life etc. Yet, despite this, we heard not a single word about his sermons. Not once do I recall the candidate being taken to task for anything he said from the pulpit. And he was the candidate, not the candidate’s Pastor.

The double standard is very obvious, and it’s racist. It’s a racist Press and a racist society. It’s another example of how the "uppity nigger" has to be controlled. If they can’t stop his candidacy (and they might yet), they sure as hell can clip his wings.

Today Barack Obama answered the critics. He challenged America to quit the racial squabbling because it was getting in the way of dealing with the problems. The problems are not race, they are poor.

The very people who I hear express racist opinions are the ones suffering just as much as poor black people. They are the white niggers, and if you don’t like hearing that then consider for a moment how much black people like it.

The fear is that the "black niggers" will join the "white niggers".

Today Barack Obama showed them how.

He is the President this country needs. I wonder if we will get him.