White Privilages Matter
This day had to come. The only thing I’m surprised of is that it didn’t come sooner. White “progressives’” open disparaging and castigating of black activist women who disrupted a couple of Bernie Sanders rallies to bring attention to the realities of being black in America, laid bare the truth about the separate worlds in which oppressed minorities on the one hand and their “supporters” among white liberals on the other, have been living and how shallow, empty and meaningless that “support” and empathy has been, all along.
This should surprise no one, since American white liberals are completely detached from the problems, issues and lives of their black countrymen and women. To them, police brutality, racial profiling and police beatings and shootings are things they would agree are wrong and should not be, but those are not at the top of their list of concerns and certainly not a matter of life and death, as they are for African Americans.
What’s understandably lost on white liberals, which makes them bewildered, indignant and enraged about black activists who disrupt rallies for Sanders, is the fact that what seems urgently in need of reform to them pales in comparison to what’s urgent for blacks. The latter issue, at best, seems academic and abstract for white liberals since it’s not part of their lives and they can’t relate to it. In fact, they even admit that it’s not their problem when they lecture Black Lives Matter activists that their methods aren’t helping “THEIR” cause. By separating themselves from the most urgent issue that affects the lives of African Americans, they do exactly the opposite of what they chant when faced with BLM activists who try to bring their life and death issue to white liberals. They chant “We stand together”, but that only means on THEIR terms and around THEIR issues, thus completely dismissing the movement and giving it lip service.
The attempt by Black activists to put the focus on state terror and racial injustice, is in fact an invitation to unite. What the white liberals, including Mr. Sanders, don’t understand is that you can only unite around the lowest common denominator, meaning the most oppressed, who also understandably are the state’s and system’s weakest link and who pose the biggest danger to the system and its power structure, something that the state understands full well and understandably brings down its hammer the hardest.
The refusal of white liberals to embrace blacks’ cause, which is more pressing than theirs, is tantamount to refusing to unite with them for meaningful and real change – change which can only come by addressing the issues of the most oppressed, which would then open the space and create the atmosphere and opportunity for the struggle for economic justice. The fight for economic justice can only be effective if it targets the power structure, which can only start by challenging the state and state terror from the bottom. And here is the rub: white liberals, as represented by the Democratic Party and whoever runs as a Democrat with the values and objectives of the Party aren’t interested in real fundamental change. They are beneficiaries of the white supremacist system, who sure enough are being pushed economically, but not murdered on the streets. Not yet anyways. They haven’t come for them, yet.
The Black Lives Matter movement which finally and belatedly erupted a year ago after the murder of unarmed Michael Brown and many others after that was right and justified in pushing the issue into the face of oblivious and clueless or rather unsympathetic white “progressives”, who have become excited by the candidacy of another Democrat. Their intervention kept the issue of black lives alive and in focus and was an invitation to them to join the struggle and make that struggle their own.
Mr. Sanders is a liberal and like most other liberals thought that the struggle against institutional racism was over 50 years ago when blacks achieved total equality and there is no need to continue the struggle. That’s why he has to go back 50 years to prove his sensitivity to blacks’ issues and struggles. Like most other liberals, he probably – I’m guessing – even considers Obama’s presidency as the proof for the end of state sponsored racism. What he sees as the urgent and pressing issue to fight against is the unprecedented income and wealth gap, the excessive influence of Wall Street banks and other large corporations on the politics and policies of the nation, shipping of jobs overseas and squeezing the middle class and the poor and making the rich richer. These are important issues to focus on and try to change, but that’s not where the most oppressed are right now. The most oppressed are getting beat and shot and taken to jail. You can’t detach yourself from the most oppressed and their issues and expect them to join you. Their issue isn’t Wall Street banks right now. Their issue is staying alive and not be harassed and terrorized by the state. And, no, economic justice is not going to bring racial justice. Actually, the suggestion that police attacks and mass incarceration is a result of economic neglect is itself a racist proposition. Institutional racism and state terror must be addressed and struggled against before we can ever reach any kind of social justice.
It’s therefore incumbent upon all progressives to unite around the cause of Black Lives Matter, instead of booing their activists who ask for 4.5 minutes of silence for Michael Brown and calling for their arrest, by the same racist police that’s the most immediate agent of their oppression. What Mr. Sanders should have done – and would have done if he were a socialist – when faced with BLM activists is to welcome them on the stage, share the stage with them and join them in bringing attention to the cause and make their cause his own, rather than refusing to speak and leaving.
I often get asked who I’m going to vote for. My answer: for Black Lives Matter.