As we reflect on the current struggle for African American equality, there is a new racist assault taking place, associated with the Republicans' so-called Contract With America. Racism is being aggressively used to win support for their reactionary legislative and political agenda - especially around the issues of welfare and crime.
Last week, the right-wing-dominated House of Representatives passed the "Take Back our Streets Act" which - if this can be believed - is even worse than President Clinton's crime bill passed last August. This bill will cut $5.4 billion allocated for the minimal crime prevention programs and spend $20.5 billion more for prisons and police.
The bill continues a racist fraud: the "Bell Curve" myth that the main threat to people's ability to maintain a decent, secure way of life comes primarily from young African American street criminals. In fact, this bill will increase the crimes of the ruling class against the working class, especially the racially oppressed and poor.
Street crime is a real problem and the main victims of it are African American and Latino people. Genuine solutions to the crime crisis lie in the area of social and economic policy - jobs in the first place - not more cops and prisons. These fascist-like repressive laws will result in even higher rates of imprisonment and the railroading and execution of thousands of mostly racially oppressed, poor working class people.
But the people not only want safe streets, they want a safe workplace, safe air and water, safe products to buy and vehicles to ride in, safe places to live and relax. What stands in the way of all this is the insane drive for corporate profits. In fact, the main source of crime and violence is not in the streets but the corporate suites. Corporate crimes threaten the well-being of far more people in our society than street crimes or anything else.
Presently, there are about 22,000 homicides a year in America, with only a portion resulting from street crimes. At the same time, 600,000 people a year are dying from tobacco and alcohol-related diseases. Annually, 10,000 die from industrial accidents - the current Democratic and Republican effort to eliminate OSHA will increase the bloodbath in the workplace. "Death for profit" is the name of the game.
Heart disease, cancer and strokes are the leading causes of death in our society. All are linked to poor environment - what we breathe, eat and drink - and stress. Think of the loss of life, birth defects and shortened lives caused by pollution, the misery associated with prolonged, painful illnesses that so many are suffering because of toxic waste and poisoned air, food and water - all the result of the corporate drive for bigger and bigger profits.
In many cases corporate crimes are calculated acts of murder. Take the case of the Ford Pinto: in the 1960s and '70s, Ford Motor Co. deliberately refused to change the location of the Pinto's gas tank, which they knew would cause hundreds of fiery deaths, because they had calculated it would be cheaper to pay the law suits. This was premeditated murder, but no one went to jail.
General Motors did the same thing with its Chevy pick-up trucks made between 1972 and '87, which also had a dangerously-located gas tank. With over six million of these trucks still on the road, the corporation refused to recall the vehicle, knowing thousands of people would meet infernal death and injury. Instead they made a deal with the Clinton Administration to spend $51 million dollars on "safety research" in exchange for the government dropping its investigation.
Does the new crime bill address this kind of crime? Yes - but by encouraging it! Tragically, outrageously, the Republicans would make it harder, if not impossible, to sue against such acts of corporate murder.
Then look at drugs. Without the big-time drug dealers - many linked to the CIA - and the banks that launder the money, drugs could not be imported into our communities in such massive quantities. Without the greed of the gun manufacturers, assault weapons would not be in the hands of so many youth. Without police complicity and involvement in the drug trade, the streets would be much safer.
The fact that no one goes to jail for corporate crimes like these - including acts of murder - is a real commentary on the brutal, genocidal nature of American capitalist justice. While hundreds of thousands of victims of economic racism and exploitation are jammed into the prisons, anything in pursuit of corporate profits gets a wink and a nod.
We must not forget the government's role in perpetrating crimes and violence, in defense of capitalism and imperialism: the Tuskeegee experiments where Black men were injected with syphilis, the unnecessary nuclear slaughter of the civilian population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Dresden, the deliberate exposure of U.S. soldiers to radiation at bomb sites, the use of chemical weapons in Indochina and the Persian Gulf, and so on.
African American and other racially oppressed youth are not the source of violence in our society. The threat does not come from the ranks of the working class - it is the capitalist ruling class that is responsible for the deterioration in our ability to lead safe and secure lives. African American youth are being used as scapegoats to cover up the real source of crime and violence. Anti-racism is vital to the people's ability to defeat these policies. This means that, today more than ever, anti-racism is in the vital self-interest of the vast majority of Americans.
What is called for is a united movement and an independent people's electoral party of Black, white and Brown, with labor playing a leading role. To achieve this there must be a clear understanding of what is the real source of crime and violence: the capitalist ruling class. There is no other way out.
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