Cold Truth, Liberating Truth: How This System Has Always Oppressed Black People, and How All Oppression Can Finally Be Ended

More Lies and Alibis

One of the biggest lies around these days--another lie that is promoted from the highest levels of government--is the idea of so-called "reverse discrimination" or "reverse racism." This is the notion that Blacks are getting too many advantages--or too much is being done to make up for past discrimination--at the expense of white people. From everything we have shown so far, it should be clear that this idea is ridiculous. But let's cut into it even further.

It is true that perhaps the main area where some Black people have made real gains in getting jobs and earning more money is in government employment, especially at the city level but also on up to the federal level. And this has been connected to affirmative action programs in many cases. But the fact is that these affirmative action programs have never come close to giving Black people a position of equality with whites in job and pay levels. As study after study of this question has shown, Black people have a much harder time getting jobs, they have much less job security, and they are much more likely to be stuck in the lowest-paying jobs with less chance for promotion. Check it out. The way one writer put it in 1975 is still the way it is fifteen years later: the "better paid the job the less likely that Blacks are well represented in it." (From the book Still A Dream: The Changing Status of Blacks Since 1960, by Sar A. Levitan and others.)

Even where Blacks and whites hold the same job and get the same pay, the Blacks are still getting the short end. Because of discrimination and segregation, Blacks will pay more than whites for the same quality--or worse--of everything from housing and insurance to food. And because of the much higher Black unemployment rate, Blacks holding a job will often have to support a much larger "extended family" with the income from that job. As we said at the beginning, equality for Black people is nowhere to be found, and even where it might seem on the surface that there is now equality, a closer, deeper look reveals real inequality.

The truth is that on every level, and in every part of society, discrimination and racism are not working "in reverse." They are working in the same way they have always worked throughout the history of this country. They are working against Black people.

Taking a stand against this actual discrimination and racism--a stand against white supremacy--is not the same thing as being against white people. The answer to the question "why should ordinary white people have to pay for this?" is that the system should have to pay--it should be overthrown and done away with. Fighting against the oppression of Black people is a key part of moving to overthrow and finally end this system. Anyone who feels messed over by this system--who identifies not with the rulers but with the victims of this system--anyone with a sense of justice should feel deeply moved to join wholeheartedly in this fight.

Blacks and Immigrants

Yet another argument that is pushed from on high--another way of blaming Black people for their own suffering--is to say that other "ethnic groups" have come to America and "made it," despite being "disadvantaged," so if Black people are in such a miserable situation it must be their own fault. A more "sophisticated" and "updated" version of this says something like this: "Okay, Black people were mistreated badly in the past--they were kept as slaves and then held on the plantations of the South like serfs, segregated and discriminated against. But finally they were able to get free of that. Maybe they still face some discrimination, but so do other groups and yet those others are working hard and 'working their way up,' while Black people are not doing this." Let's clear away this garbage argument too.

The immigrant groups that are most often singled out as recent examples of "success stories" are immigrants from Asia and from Cuba. The real story is that there have been very different experiences among immigrants from Asia in recent times. Some have prospered in the U.S., but many have not.

A look at a key group among them--immigrants from Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) in the 1970s and 1980s--gives a truer picture of what is actually going on. As a bourgeois news magazine recently admitted, "Indochinese refugees are touted as an American success story--in fact a staggering number are poor, out of work and on relief." What happened was that, right after the U.S. was driven out of Indochina in the mid-1970s, a wave of immigrants came from Vietnam to the U.S. As the same bourgeois news magazine put it, this first wave "was largely an elite group. They were officials of the deposed South Vietnamese government, employees of the American military, dependents of U.S. servicemen and upper-echelon staffers of multinational corporations." In other words, these were the people who sided with, worked for, and prospered under U.S. imperialist domination--until it was defeated. Naturally these people did well when they came to America--they had a lot of advantages and the U.S. government was anxious to see them succeed because they were fleeing from countries where revolutions had taken place that opposed U.S. imperialism.

But the story is very different for the second wave of immigrants from Indochina that came a few years later. These were poorer people, not from the elite in their countries, and in the U.S. they are still in poverty. Again from the same magazine article: "A staggering 64 percent of the Indochinese households headed by refugees who arrived after 1980 are on public assistance--three times the rate of American blacks and four times that of Hispanics."

And these immigrants--as well as others who are "non-white" and whose languages and cultures are judged to be "alien" to Mainstream America--face discrimination and racism, whether or not they "succeed" economically. Sometimes this racism can be "subtle" or even be presented as "praise." For example, these days American businessmen, so-called "educators," and others are often quoted as saying that certain Asian peoples are "mentally superior" (even superior to whites). But this is just more racist garbage--another attempt to cook up a "theory" of "intelligence" depending on "race" and genetics--which in fact has no scientific basis at all. It is not hard to see how this can be used to victimize people--including the people who are said to be "superior"--much as declaring Black people to be "genetically better suited" for such things as playing basketball has been part of a whole racist assault on Black people!

As for Cuban refugees, here again there are different waves of these immigrants and they have received different treatment. The first wave of these immigrants came soon after the Castro-led revolution which took power thirty years ago. These immigrants were mostly well-off middle class, or even more well-to-do Cubans, who saw their fortunes fall as Castro came to power. Once again, they did well when they came to America--and the U.S. government made sure they did well because it would make Castro look bad and the USA look good.

But later waves of Cuban immigrants--and especially the ones who came to the U.S. after the 1970s--have not done nearly so well. Many of them are not well off at all--and in fact a good number of them are in jail, where they have staged major protests and rebellions recently. And look at how people fleeing Haiti are treated by the U.S. government. They are regularly turned back, refused permission to land in places like Miami, even when this means that they die at sea--or they are forced back to the clutches of the murderous government of Haiti. This is the same U.S. government that made Miami a pleasant home for Cubans fleeing Castro's government, especially the early, more upper class Cuban refugees. The basic reason for this difference in treatment is not that Haitians are Black but that they are fleeing a country and a government dominated by U.S. imperialism while the Cubans are fleeing a country and a government dominated by the Soviet Union, the main imperialist rival of the U.S.

If you check out the way immigrants from Mexico are mistreated--both by the immigration officials and by the whole power structure in the U.S.--and compare this with the favored treatment that early anti-Castro Cuban refugees have received, you will find that once again the key thing is that Mexico is a country under U.S. domination while Cuba is a country that once was under the U.S. boot but is now under the Russian boot. Again the "bottom line" is the economics and politics of imperialism, the interests and needs of the imperialists.

And, once again, the interests and needs of the imperialist system have dictated that Black people in the USA have been maintained in an oppressed condition. The reason that the masses of Black people did not "move up through hard work" in the last 20 to 30 years is certainly not that they did not want to work hard. The masses of Black people have always engaged in back-breaking work in the USA--whenever and wherever they have been allowed to--whenever and wherever the interests and needs of the imperialists allowed and demanded it. And when some "openings" and "opportunities" were created out of the struggle of the 1960s, Black people strained to grab hold of them.

Some new jobs, both blue-collar and white-collar, were opened to Black people then. To give one dramatic example: immediately after the 1967 Detroit rebellion--the greatest of the urban rebellions of the 1960s--the Detroit auto plants began hiring Black people right off the streets! But, as we have seen, both in factories and in offices--in every part of the economy--Black people were still discriminated against and concentrated in the lower-paying jobs, and they still faced the same old situation of "last hired and first fired."

With every "downturn" of the economy--and with major shifts in the structure of the economy and patterns of employment--over the last twenty years Black people have been cruelly hit by the crunch. During this time many factories where Black people held jobs were moved out of the cities of the USA--closed down or shifted to rural areas or to other countries. Black people were not the only ones hit hard by this--many white workers lost their jobs as well--but once again Blacks were hit harder than whites. A U.S. Department of Labor study on this (covering the years 1981-85) showed that Black and Latino workers had an even harder time finding a new job than white workers displaced by plant closings and cutbacks: "The percentage of those [Blacks and "Hispanics"] who were reemployed as of January 1986 was about 10 percentage points lower than the comparable level for whites."

There are two basic reasons for this. One, Black people, as always, are subjected to discrimination in seeking a job. Second, programs to re-train Black people for new jobs were cut back from the low level they were already on while at the same time companies consciously moved away from the inner cities. What is involved here is a deadly combination of the "normal workings" of capitalist money-making and deliberate moves to apply and enforce discrimination and segregation victimizing Black people. Both parts of this are main ingredients of "the American way of life"--of how capitalism has developed and operates today in the concrete situation of the U.S. and in terms of U.S. imperialism's role in economics and politics worldwide.

Comparing the situation today with that of earlier times in the U.S.--and contrasting the situation of "racial minorities" today with that of immigrants from Europe in earlier times--John J. Harrigan has written in his book Political Change in the Metropolis, "The urban America of the 1980s is much less conducive to the upward social mobility of the poor classes, particularly the poor classes within the racial minority communities." (page 43) Translated into human terms this means that, while a small section of Black (and other "minority") people have been able to "move up and move out," the masses have been trapped in the rot and slime of inner cities that have been deliberately left to decay. This, once again, is what this system has to offer.

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