Friday, March 21, 2008

Some Comments on Racism

I am grateful to Joe Sims, Dee Myles, Jarvis Tyner and others for their thoughtful recent pieces on race and racism (Sims “The Anti-Racist Majority Comes of Age,” Myles “Humbled by Magnificence: The Fruit of the African-American Experience” and Tyner’s Keynote comments to the meeting of the African American Equality Commission of the CPUSA, June 2007). They inspire me to the following reaction:The statistics cited by the above commentators and many others show that racial prejudice among white residents of the United States has in many respects declined markedly in the past 20, 30 or 40 years.

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Harold said...

I read a great novel a few years ago called "The Time of our Singing" by an author named Richard Powers. It was a fantastic work, it should have won awards. It explored race and race relations in the 1950s and since, and when I attended a talk the author gave at the Philadelphia Free Library I asked him if he thought we, as a society, had made progress in overcoming racism and prejudice. He really didn't know what to say, which surprised me because the novel really seemed to address that question in a subtle yet obvious sort of manner.

Anyway, more than a recommendation of that novel, this comment is really to ask that question of the PA editors. Obviously, I think, progress has been made. But as Barack Obama alluded to in his speech on race earlier this week, race is still an endemic problem in this country. Slavery and subjugation has left its mark and will not be forgotten or forgiven overnight (nor should it be), so African-American and other minority communities are understandably still angry about their historical condition and circumstances. Do you think it will ever be possible to make prejudice, racism, sexism, etc. things of the past, or are they ignorances that we will constantly and necessarily have to struggle against?

Anonymous said...

Emile's article is enormously valuable in understanding this moment in U.S. history.

Racism is not "universal" and in fact there are many reactionary ruling classes in the world, including some who use military dictatorships, that don't employ ideological and institutional racism. But in the U.S., ruling groups have made institutional and ideological racism central to their domination since colonial times, "giving" land to rebellious white "endentured servants," and"importing" slaves from Africa to create the impression that poor whites had more in common with the rich who continued to exploit them than with the slaves and recycling and updating that mindset over the last three and a half centuries.

But we should remember that the forces of anti-racism won great victories over the centuries and these victories have been essential to all advances that the working class and the whole American people have made. We should remember that the Communist Party, USA, from its inception in the years after WWI, made anti-racist work within the working class a central area of concentration, and broke with the Socialist party and other left and progressive groups who had largely ignored the special oppression of the African-American people as something that was important to the class struggle and would be resolved only with the establishment of socialism.
Our press, theoretical journal and whole party continues this concentration and commitment, which, like the abolitionists before the Civil War as against other progressive movements and organizations which they also supported and participated in, continues to underline the importance of both the anti-racist concentration and our own work to both the empowerment of the working class and the eventual victory of socialism, which in the U.S. is "indivisible" from the dismantling of ideological and institutional racism.
Norman Markowitz

wilfrido said...

Hi Harold,
You said:
Do you think it will ever be possible to make prejudice, racism, sexism, etc. things of the past, or are they ignorances that we will constantly and necessarily have to struggle against?
I think:
Unfortunately there was the need to struggle against racism in the former USSR...This makes me think we have to educate about racism from K-12, and to keep fighting police-brutality in our groups, etc. I think this sort of class-related race hatred will only end with the growth into communism. And
I am probably a revisionist on this byt I think reaching communism is a possibility not our human destiny.