Black Lives Matter and Its Potential for Systemic Change in the U.S.
Though Black Lives Matter movement rose up in response to the killing of Michael Brown and other unarmed Black men and women in the hands of the police, I believe, if continued, it will, by necessity and by the logic and laws of motion of such a popular movement, go to the very heart of the current socioeconomic system in the U.S., with the potential to turn into a bona fide revolutionary movement for systemic change. I believe a Black liberation movement which rises up in response to state terror, whether it be this or any other movement, won’t be only about police brutality and murders, but also about the unjust “criminal justice”, as well as the economic system. Such a movement, I believe, has much better chance at “reforming” the economic system than a liberal Democrat like Bernie Sanders can ever deliver. Let’s look at some facts:
Of the 716 people killed by police so far this year, 346 were white, 184 were black, 101 were Hispanic and 85 were of other races. Since whites make up 77%, blacks 13% and Hispanics 17% of the U.S. population (2013 figures), this means there are 6 times as many whites as blacks, but for every black person who’s killed by the police, less than 2 whites are killed. That’s a deviation of 300%. We also know that blacks are in general arrested and jailed for phony and made up charges and often no charges, stemming from illegal and warrant less stop and searches, are given higher bail amount, are convicted at a higher rate and are given longer sentences for the same infractions or violations.
According to Dallas News (August 17, 2015), a new study to be released Monday, shows that in Louisiana’s Caddo Parish, “prosecutors used peremptory challenges three times as often to strike black potential jurors as others during the last decade”.
“Caddo Parish is 48% black, whereas 83% of the defendants were black, according to the study. And although almost half the population are black, they were less than a third of potential jurors, due to a variety of financial, hardship and other reasons. On top of that, “still, prosecutors here used peremptory strikes against 46 percent of the black potential jurors who remained”, further reducing the number of Black jurors, whereas their rate of peremptory strikes against others were only 15%! On average, “in 93 percent of trials, prosecutors struck a higher percentage of blacks” than of other racial groups. This obviously isn’t limited to Louisiana and goes on nationally.
But, all this should be changing with the new generations of Blacks going to college and getting good paying jobs. Right? Wrong! “From 1992 to 2013, the median net worth of blacks who finished college dropped nearly 56 percent (adjusted for inflation). By comparison, the median net worth of whites with college degrees rose about 86 percent over the same period, which included three recessions — including the severe downturn of 2007 through 2009, with its devastating effect on home prices in many parts of the country” (New York Times, December 24, 2014).
“Among recent graduates ages 22 to 27”, continues the report “the jobless rate for blacks last year was 12.4 percent versus 4.9 percent for whites, said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“While there has always been a gap between black and white college grads, this 7.5 percentage point difference was far greater than before the recession burned through the economy. In 2007, for example, there was only a 1.4 percentage point difference, with 4.6 percent of recent black graduates out of work compared with 3.2 percent of similarly educated whites.
“This is very different from the past,” said Mr. Schmitt, a co-author of a study of employment among recent graduates published by the center. “You’d have to go back to the early 1980s recession to see that pattern.”
“Historically, the periods during and immediately after downturns have been harder on blacks than on whites. But in this current cycle, the trend has been even more extreme.
“In fact, the unemployment rate in 2013 was lower among whites who never finished high school (9.7 percent) than it was for blacks with some college education (10.5 percent).
“Black graduates are suffering from a version of last hired, first fired, Mr. Darity said. The effects of discrimination are blunted when the work force is expanding, but in harder times minorities are much more vulnerable, he said.
“Even degrees in science, technology, engineering and math — so-called STEM fields where the demand is high — have not immunized recent black graduates against job search difficulty. From 2010 to 2012, the average unemployment rate among young black engineers was 10 percent, the center reported, while the underemployment rate was 32 percent.
“A new report from the Century Foundation found that regardless of education, age or job, blacks continue to be almost twice as likely as whites to be unemployed.
“William A. Darity Jr., a professor of public policy at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, points out that a family headed by a black college graduate has less wealth on average than a family headed by a white high school dropout.
The report concluded: “Persistent discrimination and the types of training and jobs minorities get have played a role. Another central factor is the heavy debt many blacks and Hispanics accumulate to achieve middle-class status”. Needless to say, the debt stays with them for years, further insuring that they remain in poverty.
Such “persistent discrimination”, which even one of the main papers of the empire and its white supremacist elite admits to is woven into the very fabric of the U.S. socioeconomic system of capitalism, which has its own unique American flavor and characteristics. Racism, is in other words, one of the constituent parts and ingredients and part of the very foundation of the American capitalist system. Challenge that and you’re challenging the very core of the socioeconomic system.
The ruling class, though fully aware of it and the problems it creates for the system, has no solution for it. Try as they may, liberals too can’t smooth over it, ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist, so that they can go on and attend to their regular “reforms” to cover the holes of the system and make it more palatable and last longer. The issue of racism, though built into the system, is also their Achilles heal. The answer of the ruling class is the same as their answer to similar vulnerabilities in foreign nations they exploit: continued and relentless repression. Is there any wonder the police in US cities look like an occupation force?
Black Lives Matter is therefore an opportunity for the left to challenge not only state terror, police brutality and racism, but also the very system of capitalism that exploits and oppresses the poor of any color. That’s where the potential for real change is – not in the promises of another liberal Democrat.