Date: Thu, 1 May 97 10:53:19 CDT
From: Jim Davis <>
Subject: Anti-black violence: How it’s used to control America
Article: 10133

Anti-Black violence: how it’s used to control America

People’s Tribune, Vol.24 no.5, May 1997

The history of violence against African Americans in this country is so horrific as to be almost beyond belief. But it happened, and it’s still happening. The recent attack in Chicago on Lenard Clark, a 13-year-old black youth who was beaten into a coma by three white youths for straying into their neighborhood, is a case in point.

And of course, even more barbaric acts have been committed. Since 1859, over 5,000 African Americans have been lynched in this country. Blacks have also been tortured to death with blowtorches, dragged to death behind cars, and doused with gasoline and set afire in public spectacles. The case of Emmett Till comes to mind; in 1955, the 14-year-old Till was abducted, brutally beaten, shot in the head and dumped in the Tallahatchie River near Greenwood, Mississippi, for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

And the lynchings continue, in one form or another, to this day. In perhaps no other country on earth do skin color and nationality constitute such explosive material.

While African Americans have suffered more or less continually from an ongoing nightmare of segregation, discrimination and violence, there have been periods when things seemed to improve somewhat—as a result, for example, of the modern civil rights movement—and periods when things got worse. For about the past 20 years, it seems, things have been getting steadily worse. We are now in the midst of a reign of terror against people of color generally, and against the African American in particular.

There are reasons why this is happening now, and reasons why this violence—or more specifically, the ideology of white supremacy it represents—has profound implications for the future of all of us. There is also cause to hope that the day is at hand when we can put white supremacy and racial violence behind us once and for all. If we don’t, there is little hope for building a new society free of poverty and repression.

Outside the South, Chicago has been the scene of some of the worst racial episodes in the country’s history. A lot was symbolized by the recent beating of Lenard Clark in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood.

The location itself was symbolic. Bridgeport has a long history of anti-black violence. It is perhaps the most segregated neighborhood in a city that has been described as the most segregated in America. Bridgeport, where the roots of the politically powerful Daley family are, is also the historic seat of mayoral power and patronage in Chicago, a city that epitomizes how this country’s ruling class has used racial politics to divide the people. (It’s said that the late mayor, Richard J. Daley, had the Stevenson and Dan Ryan expressways built where they are to act as a barrier between Bridgeport-Canaryville and nearby black neighborhoods. And up until 1982, a locked iron gate at 42nd Street made access to Bridgeport impossible from the black Fuller Park neighborhood.)

Bridgeport, a once-booming industrial area, also exemplifies what is happening to America’s industrial working class as aging plants shut down, replaced by modern, automated factories which are often located in other countries.

That there is a campaign of terror under way against the African American population is undeniable. There has been a general increase in hate crimes since the 1980s, including an ongoing assault on the black population, and working-class blacks in particular, by the police. Consider, too, the suicides of young black men in Southern jails; the black church burnings; and black police officers being beaten and shot by white officers. Couple this with all the media propaganda about blacks and crime, blacks and welfare, and blacks and child abuse, which has helped foment an anti-black hysteria. Add to it the anti-affirmative action proposals that were considered last year in 35 states, plus the California anti-affirmative action initiative which was approved by voters last year and thus far has been upheld by the courts.

Throughout this country’s history, the capitalists have used white supremacy to control the white worker, and thus control the country. This has been especially true since the Civil War

The role that white supremacy plays in the politics of America is bound up with the historical role of the South. The South became a colony of the North after the Civil War, and the forms of political control of the South flowed from the historical forms of control of the black slave—segregation, brutality and terror.

The capitalists used the ideology of white supremacy and the granting of petty privileges to whites to get the white workers to unite with the ruling elite. The inability of whites to unite with the black worker kept the working class as a whole powerless. This method of control has been extended from the South to the whole country.

At the same time, the capitalists use the South as an economic and political reserve against Northern labor. The control of Congress by right-wing Southern politicians and the lower wages and living standards of the South make it impossible for Northern workers to realize their democratic aspirations or win their economic struggles.

In the 1870s, Wall Street consolidated its control of its first colony, the South, and through the South, the country. This process was marked by a reign of terror against the blacks and the use of white supremacy to tie the whites to the ruling class. Today, a similar process is under way as a group of now-global financiers, led by the United States, moves to turn the entire world into one big investment colony. To do this, they must lower the standard of living of workers in the industrial countries, including that of most U.S. workers. They must ultimately impose some kind of worldwide fascism. This is at the root of the resurgence of white supremacy and anti-black violence that we see today. It’s a divide-and-conquer strategy.

But this is not the 1870s. For one thing, over the last 50 years the black worker has been economically (if not socially) integrated into the urban working class, and the black capitalist into the capitalist class. This is a material basis for working- class unity. Even more significant, today the combination of labor-replacing electronic technology and a global economy mean that a new class of permanently unemployed, destitute people is being created in our country. They are of every color and nationality, and they are economically united. With no hope of being able to buy the things they need to have decent lives, they have no choice but to fight for a new, cooperative society in which the necessities of life are distributed according to need.

But they must be politically united around a strategy for victory. The role of revolutionaries is to give them this strategy. If the workers are not united around a program of class unity across the color line, most of us will suffer grinding poverty under the rule of a police state.

The economic unity of the rising new class of poor eliminates the material basis for the ideology of white supremacy that has held the U.S. working class back. A number of whites in Bridgeport have publicly said that Lenard Clark’s attackers do not represent them. Bridgeport’s workers and the black workers in the surrounding neighborhoods have more in common with one another than they do with any capitalist, white or black.

Chicago has been the site of profound working class struggles, including the fight for the eight-hour day, which led to the Haymarket massacre and the birth of May 1 as an international working class holiday. It will no doubt be the site of history- making struggles again, as the African Americans are at last liberated in the process of the liberation of the entire working class.