The U.S. Labor Movement Must Struggle Against Racism and White Supremacy to Rebuild its Strength!—Twelfth in a Series on Key Issues in 2012

As the U.S. and global economic crisis intensifies, the scapegoating of the most oppressed sections of the working class also intensifies.

Racial profiling is a polite way of saying that Black and working class people of color are being targeted by state and vigilante repression. It is important that we recognize this targeting as a major part of the corporate strategy to divide the working class and to recreate major and long term antagonisms to prolong the life of the capitalist system.

What is often unstated and downplayed by the term of racial profiling is that it promotes white supremacy; a sense of white privilege and national chauvinism that has been structured in the economic, social and political culture of U.S. democracy, to align the white working class with the corporate elites and their system.

This racial profiling is part of the neo-liberal strategy of forcing down wages, eliminating pensions and the economic and social dislocation which has created massive unemployment, homelessness, and gentrification for millions of mainly Black and working people of color.

Racial profiling turns the dislocated into commodities for the prison industrial complex. There are more than 2 million mainly Black and working class people of color incarcerated in the U.S. prison system. They are a super exploited part of the U.S. working class.

“At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. “ While some states pay the minimum wage deducting for food, clothing and rent…, in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17¢ per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50¢ per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” (Vicky Pelaez Global Research, 3/10/2008)

Without a race and class analysis of the attacks on the working class, the labor movement looks at these attacks in a narrow and economist way, one that prevents it from being seen as an organization that seeks to unite and empower the broad working class.

The attacks on the trade unions thus are part of the corporate strategy to dismantle organizations that provide an organized and democratic framework for uniting and empowering the multi-national and multi-racial working class to resist these attacks. Capital recognizes that the trade unions, in order to survive and grow, must become part of the broader social movement that is challenging the corporate attacks throughout society and internationally.

The campaign in Wisconsin to recall Governor Walker points out the failure of the labor movement to struggle against racism as one of the major weaknesses in this important campaign. According to many credible reports, 39 percent of union households in Wisconsin voted in support of Governor Walker, partly in response to the racist messaging of the Walker campaign.

There is also something seriously wrong, when the U.S. national labor movement fails to make a concerted effort to organize labor in the South, especially when the U.S. economy has shifted a major part of its manufacturing to this region. The South is also a major concentration of foreign direct investments.

Labor’s failure to call for repeal of the right-to-work laws in the South, a region where they are the most concentrated and where labor is the least organized and the most exploited, also reflects an historical bias by the U.S. labor movement linked to its failure to mount a serious struggle against racism and white supremacy within its ranks and throughout society. Thus, the South as a region has been victimized by a form of racial profiling and national chauvinism, which has expressed itself against and aligned itself with U.S. foreign policies against other oppressed peoples of color throughout the world.

If the U.S. labor movement is to rebuild its strength during this period of major economic crisis, it must take up the struggle against racism and white supremacy/national chauvinism, not as an abstract debate, but as part of its social, political and organizing agenda.

Black workers are taking the lead in trying to build a movement to organize the South. Both of the corporate dominated political parties are holding their national conventions in Southern states because they understand not only the critical role in the presidential elections, but also in the U.S. and global economy.

Support the Southern Workers Assembly as a step toward building a Southern Labor Alliance and a mass social movement to organize the South!

Stop Racist Violence and Profiling Against Blacks and People of Other Oppressed Communities

African-Americans have endured through slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and now unprecedented racial profiling. Racial profiling has led to insults, humiliation and sometimes murder by police and vigilantes.

Shortly after unarmed seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida, a detective shot twenty-two-year-old Rekia Boyd in the head in Chicago. She did not have a weapon.

Other U.S. communities that have felt the sting and pain of racial profiling include Latinos, Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and immigrants.

So far this year there have been over 100 murders of African-Americans by police.

While it was assumed by some that we are in a Post-Racial era because of the election of President Obama, an estimated 32 million Americans—one in nine people—have been subjected to profiling. Racial profiling in New York City is graphically shown by the fact that 685,724 individuals were stopped by the NYPD last year, of whom 87% were Black or Latino and 9% were white (all statistics provided by the American Civil Liberties

The Malcolm-X Grassroots Movement released an extensive Report on Extra Judicial Killings. This report reveals there have been 80 Blacks killed at the hands of law enforcement since the Trayvon Martin murder.

The Fourteenth Amendment states in part, “…no state shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor to deny any person within its jurisdiction of the equal protection of the laws.”  It is high time that this provision be respected and enforced!

Justice for Trayvon MartinWe join the call for:

  • Stopping the use of indefensible deadly force against Black people and other oppressed communities.
  • Zero tolerance for State and City officials that continually defend acts by law enforcement officers responsible for these crimes.
  • Freedom for all prisoners unjustly incarcerated for defending themselves from police violence.
  • A national day of protest to stop police brutality, repression and killings.

About elnwebmaster

This is the discussion blog of the Labor Fightback Network, an auxiliary to the website. It is designed to facilitate discussion among labor activists concerning the critical issues facing working people in the current economic crisis. Readers’ comments are welcome, but flaming is not. Any comments which are racist, sexist/homophobic, or disrespectful on a personal level will not get past moderation.
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