Revolution #265, April 8, 2012
Why Fighting the Power—and Standing Up Right Now Against the Murder of Trayvon Martin—Is the ONLY Way That People Can Begin to Get Up Out of the Muck and Mire
The killing of Trayvon Martin struck a vein in a way that nothing has for a long time in this country. That vein is the centuries-old oppression of Black people in this country—the fact that from the 1600s down to today the law and custom of this country have been, in one form or another, that a Black person has no rights that a white person is bound to respect, that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, and that Black youth in particular walk around with a death sentence on their heads all the time for the sole “crime” of walking while Black. The Trayvon Martin case—from the original suspicion, down to the way the authorities handled it. (See “The Killing Lies About the Murder of Trayvon Martin” on page 7 about how, for example, they tested Trayvon’s corpse for drugs, but did not test Zimmerman.) And now the counter-offensive of slander against this murdered teenager in the press has concentrated that for millions. What is new is that thousands of people have begun to say, “Enough! No More!” and have taken action to protest; and this must go on and get stronger and spread and, as it does so, get deeper into the causes of all this.
At the same time, some people are telling us, “The shooting of Trayvon Martin is horrible—but ‘Black on Black’ crime is an even worse problem.” Now some of the people saying that are open apologists for the system and some are backward fools—but more than a few are people who really do hate what was done to Trayvon Martin, but are agonized by the way that too many Black youth lash out at each other. People feel deep pain at the tragic loss of young lives to what is really senseless violence, and they feel outraged, but hopeless, about a whole culture of expecting—accepting—that young Black men will either die young or spend their lives in and out of jail.
Without Fighting Back, Nothing Can Change
First off, this has to be said: Without people fighting back against outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, without people standing up like they are now, and in fact standing up even taller and fiercer... then nothing will ever change. Nothing will change in how the system, and all its various enforcers (whether official or not), relentlessly comes down on the people... and nothing will change about the bad ways that people sometimes do each other.
When people do stand up, as they are now around Trayvon Martin, it actually becomes possible to change a lot of things: both the outrage that people are protesting, but something else as well—the way that they are thinking about things. As Bob Avakian has recently said, when this begins to happen, “the conditions become much more favorable for [those who are standing up] to begin to see the world in a different way—to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings—in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people.”
So that is one big thing to keep foremost in mind—that right now, what must happen to change anything at all, is to step forward and act around this outrage. At the same time, if you want to understand how to change the way that people treat each other, you have to get to the root of the problem.
This System Has Always Treated Black People As Less Than Human—and It Has Tried to Drum That Thinking Into Everyone
First, a key fact, never to forget: this system—U.S. capitalism-imperialism, with white supremacy as a key pillar—has always treated Black people, as a people and in countless individual encounters, as less than human. There was and is a whole way of life built on top of that—of education, of culture, of politics—that openly drums this ugly message into every last person who lives in this horror of a country, and that also insinuates it into them... a system that in a million ways both yells it at people and whispers it in their ears. Do we think this is over? That this is just a relic of the old days and now there is equality?
Let’s put aside the fairy tales and bullshit about “post-racial America” and look at the real story here. After hundreds of years of the most horrendous and openly legalized oppression, after the U.S. was shamed before the world every time it tried to portray itself as the “land of the free,” and most of all after the great struggles and powerful rebellions of the 1960s, the masses of Black people were promised that there would finally be equality. And some of the most outrageous and horrible laws were changed. Some concessions to a relatively small section of Black people were made. But what happened with the situation of the masses?
- Higher unemployment—some people never getting any kind of decent job their whole lives, and whole areas of the inner-city ghetto being left to rot.
- Massive incarceration—today there are ten times as many people in prison as there were 40 years ago—and more than one out of four Black men will spend time in prison at some point in their lives!
- Worse schooling—with massive cutbacks and the schools increasingly being run like prisons. Black students being tracked into the worst classes and suspended and expelled—and nowadays even dragged out of school in handcuffs and carted off to jail for cutting up in class! Schools that are little better than warehouses to keep kids until they’re put into prison.
- Drugs—pumped into the ghettos, first to subvert the great rebellions of the 1960s, and then to provide an outlet and economy and social structure to channel the jobless Black youth into... and to feed the pipeline to prison. And a whole culture and mentality of gangsterism built up on this basis.
- More demonization in the culture and the media—where for decades, from the newscasts to the endless cop shows, every Black woman was slandered as a “welfare queen” or “crack whore,” and every Black male as a “drug dealer” or “killer” or “player”—except those who were portrayed as cops.
- Racial profiling—every Black person a suspect, every Black person liable to be stopped on the highway or walking down the street, shaken down, humiliated, molested, or even murdered by a trigger-happy cop. Jonny Gammage, Amadou Diallo, Eleanor Bumpurs, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant... the list never stops.
- Discrimination at every turn—in going for jobs, going for loans, going to court, going to rent or buy a house or stave off eviction... you name it!
In short: legal equality masking deeper inequality and deeper oppression.
Who Is to Blame?
This is not some mystery why this happened. And it’s not some mystery who did it. Hint: it was not the masses of Black people who made the decisions that led to what we’ve listed above. No, it was the same handful of people who control the major means of producing wealth—the capitalist-imperialist class—and, on that basis, who control everything else. They decide things from the vantage point of how best to keep their system intact and expanding. And this is how they decided to deal with that revolutionary upsurge—a few concessions and legal equality... hiding deeper inequality and oppression for the masses. Structures of oppression, open and hidden, that get internalized in people’s minds. A few changes to these structures—all the better to reinforce them. Meanwhile, on the basis of these changes, the constant lie from every corner of society: “Black people have equality now, so the slate is clean; if there are problems it is their own fault.” (For more on this, see “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need,” Revolution #144, October 5, 2008.)
Think about the youth coming of age in what have been turned into the massive open-air holding pens of the inner city. What do they face? The Message and Call of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA puts it like this:
For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here…or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!
—“The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have,”
Revolution #170, July 19, 2009
At the same time, this Message and Call also makes the point that “despite the creative impulses and efforts of many, the dominant culture too is corrupted and molded to lower, not raise, people’s sights, to extol and promote the ways of thinking, and of acting, that keep this system going and keep people believing that nothing better is possible.” In the inner city, where gangsta culture was pushed in a million ways, the choices are posed as “get rich or die trying”—and mostly it’s the latter.
If You Really Want to Change This—There Needs to Be a Revolution
If you want to change this—if you want to change both the ways that the system and its tools and willing accomplices crush people like Trayvon Martin, and the ways that it also gets people to mess over each other—you have to get rid of the system itself, through revolution. And you have to dig out the thinking this system gives rise to, beginning now and then taking a leap once people have actually won power. You can’t do that by trying to reform this system that’s based on exploitation. Exploitation—making profit off of other people’s labor—has been at the root of the problem since the first African was kidnapped to be exploited as a slave in the “new world.” The state power we now live under—the government, with its organs of force and violence at the core of it—is a product of exploitation, and was built to maintain and extend it.
No, we need a whole new state power. A state power based on getting rid of exploitation, getting rid of one people oppressing another, getting rid of everything that reinforces all that... including those ideas in people’s thinking that reflect the ways of exploitation. That’s what this revolution is all about—a new state power that backs the masses up in making these transformations from head to toe, as part of getting to a world where humanity has put all that behind it.
You have to make revolution to do that. You have to get with the movement for revolution today—fighting back and, as we do, struggling with people to break with these ideas. In other words: “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” We have to rally the youth—a lot of whom in fact are caught up in some of the mentality this system has put on them—to fight back, and welcome it when (as is beginning to happen today) many of them are fighting back, and struggle with them to transform their thinking in the process... to get with the real revolution. There is no other solution to this problem—all the preaching in the world only makes it worse, and even the efforts to bring real truth to the youth cannot take root without this. And there is no other way to the whole new world that is needed, and is possible, where all exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonisms between people—and all the mentalities and ways of thinking that reflect and reinforce that oppression—are things of the past, and where all people can truly flourish and rise to their full heights.
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