Revolution Online, October 30, 2008

Hospital Feedback on the Special Issue on the Oppression of Black People

We received the following from a reader:

I work in a hospital with all kinds of people from up and down the ladder of social position, a mix of races and nationalities and as you would expect every range of viewpoints from fundamentalist Christian to ’60s revolutionary. It’s been a while since I got the newspaper around but after I read the article on the oppression of Black people I knew I had to get this into the hands of some of the people who would definitely appreciate what it was saying.

So far I’ve distributed a dozen copies to Black, white, Indian and Ethiopian workers, some professional but most in the lower levels of the hierarchy. This included a number of young women—Black, white and Puerto Rican. The Puerto Rican woman had been in Iraq and then returning home her unit was sent south to manage the fallout from Katrina. The day I got her the paper she spent every free moment sitting in the middle of the workplace reading it from cover to cover.

The feedback reflected a mood of tension concerning the elections and heavy possibilities that many people, including those who ordinarily don’t follow politics, see unfolding. These scenarios see Obama being brought down in a variety of ways, from manipulating the ballot boxes to a Kennedy situation. People feel that there are so many people who simply will not tolerate a Black person in leadership of this country and with the economic situation creating greater instability there is fear that extremes can definitely take place.

A Black worker who by most measures is very mainsteam—hard worker, home owner, religious, very polite, liked by those white workers who are not comfortable around Black people with attitude, commented on the masthead of the paper after reading the article. He had not seen the paper in quite a while and said that he picked up on the name being changed [editors’ note: from Revolutionary Worker to Revolution]—“I think the Party is telling folks the time might be coming soon.”

Not all who got the paper have read it, some people who might be drawn into political conversation during intense times do not read as a means to educate themselves. But even those who ended up just tucking the paper away had a lot to say in conversations that the paper helped influence through those who did read it.

My impression is that people do not so much believe that Obama can end racism as they feel his election will be a blow to racists. The further down the ladder you go in the hospital the less illusions, the further up the greater the hope placed on Obama. Except for a very political/radical Black worker in his 40s most felt at least Obama will infuriate white racists and that will be satisfaction.

The radical Black worker felt that not only was Obama a dead end but that the economic crisis he is stumping to resolve was brought on intentionally by U.S. capitalism (for reasons I don’t remember—something about currency competition).

The young Puerto Rican woman is very in tune to what the paper has to say. After a discussion that included a number of others about the elections and the alternative path laid out by the Party, she continued to feel that voting Obama is the best she can do right now just to put it to the white racists, not because she believed he would bring any real change. She really likes the paper (she’s read other issues and Avakian’s book on religion) but feels she can only take so much communist politics because it makes her so angry at the system and without seeing a way to really make revolutionary change, it just leaves her angry and empty handed.

A few of the people who got the paper expressed interest in getting together to talk about it. This included even those who are not so radical like an Ethiopian professional who is always urging me to get people together to talk because he thirsts for intelligent conversation with enlightened people about what is happening in the world.

There is a growing sense of connection between those who recognize the degree of racism imbedded in this system. The election environment has brought racism to the surface in all kinds of ways—subtle (“I just think Obama’s wife is scary”) to obvious (“I’m leaving the country if he gets elected”). And these comments from white workers who were thought of as decent friendly people.

There is an us and them polarization growing with attitudes about race being a central issue. Those who have the most faith that the system can work are enthused by a possible Obama presidency but scared about extreme scenarios. Those with less illusions are also tense about election fallout, but refusing to get on the Obama train (or doing so with no real enthusiasm) feel lost.

One Indian professional who got the paper confided in me that he spends time watching Fox news and screaming at his TV because of all the ugliness and insanity spewed forth. He gets frustrated at his friends that support Obama because he understands the depth of the problems with the system and is dismayed by the illusions.

Things are polarizing and people are talking. I have been encouraging people to go to Revolution Books and check out the programs. My sense is things can start to unravel and unfold very quickly.

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