Revolution #149, November 30, 2008

No More Lives Must Be Squandered!

Dear Revolution:

I recently had a discussion with a Black youth I know. He is a really cool young man. He thinks, he cares and he knows a few things—like how the government flooded the ghettos with drugs in response to the radical upsurge of the 1960s. But he has also been influenced by backward ideas, as reflected in his recent statement that “immigrants are taking our jobs.” This is what got us started.

I asked him what he meant by “our jobs”—did he or anyone he knew have anything to do with deciding who worked and who didn’t?  He said no. This led to a discussion of who actually decides who works in the U.S. and how it is fundamentally a small handful at the top—the richest 1% of the U.S. who own more wealth than the poorest 90% and dominate every aspect of society. People only work when these people—these capitalists—can make profit off of it. But my young friend cut in: “But we’re Americans, and the immigrants just came here—why should they get the jobs?”

I asked him if he knew why most immigrants come here? He said that he really didn’t. I explained that the same handful who dominate U.S. society have also so plundered the poor countries of the world that millions of people can no longer survive in their homelands. So they come to rich countries like the U.S. in search of work, not just to support themselves, but also to send money home. But he was still stuck on the idea that “we’re Americans—they’re not.”

I asked him why he felt more comfortable putting his arm around people like George Bush, John McCain and Bill Gates than he did with poor people whose only “crime” is wanting to survive and help their families? This didn’t do it either. He just said “but we’re Americans.” So I asked him how had this “we’re all Americans” shit worked out for Black people over the last 400 years when these same handful of rich have never stopped oppressing and exploiting them? He was clearly starting to feel unsure about his position, but still “we’re Americans” kept popping out of his mouth.

So I asked him if he understood why employers in the U.S. hired immigrants rather than black people? Again, he wasn’t sure. I reminded him that for centuries Black people had done the shit work of America for next to nothing while enduring horrible racist brutality. Then in the 60's black people rose up and said “No—we won’t take this abuse any longer. We demand to be treated with respect and equality!” So what did the rulers of this country do in response to this new attitude on the part of Black people? For the majority of Blacks, they said “Ok, you can have your attitude—but Fuck You when it come to getting a job. For those jobs we don’t send overseas, we’ll just hire these desperate immigrants who will work for less and won’t give us so much shit!”

All of a sudden, a light went on in my young friend’s eyes. “Oh... Now I get it. Now I get it” he said. At that point our conversation got interrupted. But clearly he had started to put together a bigger picture of how this system works and was seriously re-thinking his idea of whom he should have his arms around.

I was really looking forward to following up on this the next time I saw him. But that will never happen. A few days later he was shot dead in an alley.

It was very hard for me to write that last sentence. I don’t know who killed him and I don’t know why. But here is what I do know. What was starting to happen with my young friend was a little piece of one of the most precious things the masses have—people coming to understand how it is this monstrous imperialist system that is at the root of all the problems we face.

The rulers of this country are past masters at staying in power by pitting the masses against each other—by country, by race, by gender, by religion, by neighborhood, by set. And this ALWAYS has horrific consequences for the masses. The imperialists just “sit on the mountain and watch the tigers fight.” My young friend was starting to see through this—“Now I get it!” Who can say how much more he would have “gotten” and how he might have then acted on that understanding—especially if hooked up with a rising revolutionary movement? But now that will never happen.

Whoever snuffed out this young man’s life has done great harm to the people—but they probably don’t have a clue of this. In a certain sense, that is what is most intolerable, and what we urgently have to change. We can no longer allow a generation of youth to be kept ignorant of how the very system that so horribly oppresses them is also playing them for fools—baiting them into killing each other over chump change.  The desperation and hopelessness that now fuels so many of these shootings can and must be turned into a searing indictment of the capitalist system that has created the conditions these kids are trapped in. Youth must be challenged to raise their heads and use their minds. Physical fearlessness does no good unless it is guided by mental fearlessness, critical thinking and science. That is what revolution—and only revolution—can bring to today’s youth. It is up to everyone reading this newspaper to spread its revolutionary understanding everywhere and build a revolutionary movement in its wake. We have no time to waste! No more lives must be squandered!

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