I wrote this essay on the past and current struggles of the Black and white working class in the United States. I noted that:
Racism has long divided the working class, and today is no different. Many white working class people voted for Donald Trump. And much like 2008, race was a reason. While some will salute a strong economy, in truth, wages have flattened for the working class. Because of this, and because white workers have grown suspicious of the burgeoning black power call by Black Lives Matter, the search for solidarity continues to escape a racially divided country, as noted by the current political climate.
I spoke to a crowed at the end of our protest march in front of the Boston State House. I am feeling a desire by many to bring true change. But that will not be easy. This march/protest was aimed against policies on deportations and refugees and Muslims.
I am with Jackie here, she is my friend; I am her friend. She is my ally and I am her ally. We stand with others as friends. Let me be clear here: I love people. And because I love working-class people, I have decided I can no longer be a friend with those who support the legislation of hate. What does this mean? I will not travel with you nor visit your home. If you are against LGBTQ folks, female rights, undocumented friends, black, brown, and others, and if you support hate and American exceptionalism, I am not your friend and you are not my friend. This is not just a virtual notion; it is true for me day-to-day. If you believe you are “just” due to your faith — we are not friends. To be my friend means you are my ally, and thus are seeking to evolve by walking with me to denounce bigotry. I will work with you on the job. I am working class and have to pay the bills. I have no interest in your religion or church if your members are not allies. I will be nice and say hello – Mom and Dad raised me well. I will work beside you at work — but just know I cannot be your friend; if you are not my ally, we are not friends. If you are arguing about my realities and the realities of my friends and allies – we cannot be friends. We cannot break bread in my home or have a glass of wine.
2017 CENTER FOR MARXIST EDUCATION ANNUAL FUNDRAISER
You have made the Center possible for over four decades with your volunteer time and contributions. Today, January 1, 2017, we celebrate 42 years of solidarity with you in our constant struggles. Now that we’re facing greater oppression and potential attacks, it’s more important than ever that spaces like the CME thrive.
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I am meditating and studying a bit today since Janette and I have no community obligations — though there is always work that needs to be done. Hence, part of my many weaknesses is allowing for comfort, while others do not have such a choice. In my study and looking back at Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s recent work on race and America…I have concluded that she supports my working argument of Black elite comfort that perpetuates the failure of the civil rights movement and drives class division of black people and the structural nature of intra-racism among Black folk. Solidarity is a myth, as many have acclaimed a status that separates those of wealth from those of cyclical Jim Crow configuration. Again — Black elites have more debt and less wealth than whites, but so many have ignored the race.
I have taught this before, and as my students will tell you, it is a staple in my history course. I started the session off by presenting an illustration that conceptualizes the growth of European modernity and the birth of what Arnold Toynbee would call the “Industrial Revolution,” as students looked at the transformation from Lynda Shaffer’s article Southernization to what is called Westernization.
“The Industrial Revolution”is a term coined by Toynbee in the late 1800s and used by Marxist and socialist historians to attack “the captains of industry” and expose “the conditions of the working classes;” after World War II, conservative social scientists like Rostow used Britain as model for industrial “take-off.” Recent scholarship suggests the story is not so simple. See e.g. Peter Sterns.
I worked to draw a conclusion on the relationship between European constitutionalism, mercantilism, geo politics, and the expansion of capitalism. Because of these factors and a number of others, the British middle class promulgated the growth of Atlantic slavery while modeling a new economic paradigm that the French bourgeoisie and nobility would desire. Unlike the traditional Marxist’s interpretation of the revolution that claimed it started as a matter of class conflict between the third estate (peasants & bourgeoisie) and the first and second estates, recent interpretations claim the revolution was a result of the Atlantic market system. Feudal lands and titles no longer carried the wealth that the Atlantic market offered. With an ancient system in existence that prevented the French nobility from prospering in this newly minted Atlantic market, the second and third estate unified to overthrow the French ancient class system. The change in market forces ultimately contributed to the demise of feudalism in Western Europe, though this process was much slower for the East.
Besides the colonial wars fought for geo-political gain in the Atlantic market, the dawn of neo slavery emerged. Paradoxically speaking, this institution heightened during a period in which the literature addressed both natural rights and racial inferiority. I believe the process of understanding European history from 1450 to 1815 rest on students’ understanding of the Atlantic market.
My lecture at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge titled, The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People, extended the narrative of class and racial alienation by offering examples of continual forces that have morphed color line tension. If you look at the screen beside me, you will notice an image of JJ from Good Times, as well as an image of Jim Crow, which was a fixture of the minstrel shows that toured the South; a white man, made up as a black man, sang and mimicked stereotypical behavior in the name of comedy. This behavioral norm continued into the 20th century. The mammy and sambo depictions were felt throughout the television run of Good Times, a popular 1970s sitcom. Though the intent was to showcase black folks in a positive and less stereotypical fashion, it quickly turned into a modern-day minstrel show. One of the main characters, JJ, often depicted the stereotypical buffoon often symbolized in a world driven by white supremacy. There were some good things about this show, as it depicted a hardworking black family working to maintain their unity, even in a world where there were struggles.
While speaking at the Center for Marxist Education on May 17th, I noted that W.E.B. Du Bois addressed the centrality of evil, which was pervasive in an American society fueled with both class and racial divisions. He believed that capitalism was the culprit for such centrality. Du Bois articulated how little has changed in America. Being black and American is a measure in conflict with the ideals espoused by white America. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America 1860 -1880, pointed to three common themes presented to whites about blacks: All Negros were ignorant; all Negros were lazy, dishonest, and extravagant; All Negros created elements of bad governments. This attitude continued as society advanced into the 20th century; it was here that Du Bois pointed to “the problem of the 20th century is that of the color line.”
Thus, the presentation of black folks to white society continued to illustrate such a problem. Good Times took off when JJ’s actions became reflective of the Jim Crow perceptions and writings found in Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction. White supremacy claimed, as Du Bois noted, that negroes were responsible for bad government during Reconstruction. There are those who further that line of thought today, articulating black dependency on the welfare state. Recent events in Baltimore points to such a message. It is the fault of black people for their suffering and urban condition. Yet, the willingness to link modern problems to the ancien regime of Jim Crow is absent. The progressive notion of American liberalism is cloudy. Although assumptions have been made about racial matters of the past, those past matters continue to look us in the face today. They are present on TV shows that remind us of America’s dark history. They are a reflective reality. So when riots take off, I am not sure why folks are surprised. I have been impressed by those who have sat down to look at the extent of deep cyclical pattens and imbedded racism that has remained a constant predator to the color line. Du Bois shared his thoughts here on the just and need for riots.
I have been studying Marxist thinker Herbert Marcuse “An Essay on Liberation.” I guess I have read it three times in the past few days, as I aim to reconstruct my new vision for making people conscious of their plight. There is much to consider here as he notes with the “Great Refusal.” Elements of society are rejecting a projected norm, as we see with ill societal elements in need of advancement toward Marcuse’s New Socialism. I feel entrenched in the 1960s and today’s cultural wars with each read.