Despite all the noise coming from the Charlottesville assortment of racist lunatics, it is important to recognize that they do not have the real power. We should pay even more attention to the people with the real power; the power structure that forced President Donald Trump to do something he didn’t want to do — condemn racism. We should really fear those with the power to legislate, implement and institutionalize racism.
No matter how important the avowed racists believe they are, in a racist/classist society they, too, are suckers. Because, bottom line, this society is organized around class, with White supremacy tossed in to make sure the rich and powerful remain rich and powerful, while the rest of us fight among ourselves for the crumbs. White supremacy was employed to “divide and rule” and it is working.
Regardless how racist the Charlottesville White mob could have been, they would not have been invited to a party given by the Rockefellers, or the Vanderbilts, or the DuPonts. Those who tried to get into that party by asserting their White privilege and pointing to their White skin would have been politely turned away and told: “We are sorry, you are our color but not our kind [class].”
The greatest threat to civil rights, human rights and racial justice has always been the U.S. government doing the bidding of the ruling class.
Consider the history of this country. It was the government that passed laws, including the Fugitive Slave Act that allowed slavery. When Dred Scott sought freedom from slavery after having resided in free states, it wasn’t some stick-wielding thug who wrote Black people, “have no rights that the White man was bound to respect.”
Rather, it was a member of the executive branch of the U.S. government, Chief Justice Roger Taney of the U.S. Supreme Court, who wrote those words in the famous 1857 case declaring Blacks — free and un-free — were not citizens of the country.
It was the federal government that allowed the Southern part of the United States to legally codify racial segregation for the purpose of discriminating, disenfranchising and dehumanizing Black people. The executive branch in 1896 in Plessy v Ferguson codified Jim Crow segregation, making it the law of the land, disingenuously declaring that “separate is equal.”
Even the Depression Era’s New Deal, which introduced Social Security, knowingly excluded menial laborers, maids, house servants, gardeners, and landscapers. Primarily Blacks held all these jobs.
It was the U.S. government that sanctioned the thieving of Indian land. It was the U.S. government, not a bunch of Wild West thugs that used military to force Indians off their land.
It wasn’t loud-mouthed racists, but government policy to rip Indian children from their parents and place them in re-education centers like the Carlisle School, which recently made news by returning the bodies of children who died or was murdered at the racist institution.
It was the U.S. government, not a group of Nazis that passed legislation limiting Chinese immigration. It was the U.S. government, not a group of racists that interned Japanese in the 1940s.
While the racists scream anti-Islamic epithets and insults, it is the U.S. government that has invaded and bombed Islamic nations. The neo-Nazis make xenophobic and anti-immigrant insults, but it is the U.S. government that has separated children from their parents under the guise of border security.
The Obama Administration set records for deportation, while its drones delivered cruise missiles that killed thousands of innocent Middle Easterners.
It was the federal government that segregated its troops. As government doled out GI Bill benefits to White veterans, the government did not insist that segregated institutions and neighborhoods allow Black veterans equal access to those benefits. They chose not to intervene, effectively sanctioning the racism and discrimination of the day.
It was the federal government that opened the door to segregated housing policy. The government had a hand in redlining as well. In 1934, the U.S. government’s, Federal Housing Commission gave bonuses to contractors who agreed to disallow Blacks in their new suburbs.
Even when the Supreme Court granted a little relief from oppressive segregation in Brown v Board of Education, the government lacked the will to enforce it with the exception of token shows like the one put on in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
Indeed, the federal government’s legislative branch passed Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws in the 1960s but they didn’t provide the ability to enforce the law; thus Black folks still experience discrimination to this day.
When the Black and Brown communities of the U.S. were hard hit by the cocaine and crack epidemic, the government response was draconian. The U.S. Congress passed laws and declared a so-called war on drugs that turned out to be nothing more than a war on Black and Brown people (incidentally, evidence has revealed that the U.S. government played a role in delivering crack to the doorsteps of inner city USA).
The results of that war on drugs are still being felt by staggering numbers of Black men and women being locked down resulting from the criminalization of drug addiction. In contrast, notice the more humane approach to the opioid and heroin epidemic, primarily impacting the White community.
The Black and Brown society has been terrorized and traumatized by “legal” police violence, harassment and humiliation carried out primarily by deputized racists throughout their existence in the U.S. That, too, has been codified in U.S. law. Modern communications technology and social media has made those actions difficult to ignore.
In Terry v Ohio, 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is legal for police to stop and frisk Black and Brown folks, thus violating their constitutionally guaranteed Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Furthermore in 1985, the Supreme Court in Tennessee v Garner ruled that it was ok to shoot persons in the back if a cop thought it was reasonable.
Paul Butler author of Chokehold: Policing Black Men got it right when he said, “Stop-and-frisks are brutal assertions of police dominance of the streets, communicating to African American men through — sexual harassment, torture and even terrorism — that they are objects of disdain by the State.”
Strangely, these same agents of the State stood by on that Friday night in Charlottesville as torch-wielding thugs surrounded a brave group of predominantly White young people who were shouting “Black Lives Matter.” The same agents of the state, the Virginia State Police, dressed in riot gear during the disturbances on Saturday, actually allowed a group of the thugs to rush their lines pushing and cussing them.
Yet, the armed agents of the State showed tremendous restraint, refusing to mace or hit anyone with their sticks while claiming to defend themselves, as they would surely have claimed if the folks doing the pushing and cussing had been Black.
Racists in the U.S. are cause for alarm, no doubt, but if we are going to eliminate racism once and for all (like it or not) we must start at the top, the system of capitalism buttressed by White Supremacy and maintained by the U.S. government.
Justice then peace
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.