Teach-in at UC Davis adresses economic racism

Maile Hampton (center)

On February 16, student activists at University of California-Davis continued their series of teach-ins addressing various issues affecting youth on and off campus. This article is based on a talk given by activist Maile Hampton at this teach-in.

Economic racism is a key component in keeping capitalism in place and running. Economic racism is gentrification, it is low wages, it is foreclosure of homes, it is mass incarceration, it is lack of health care, it is police terrorism, it is the military, it is many things.

Gentrification is happening around the United states and one well known example is in the Bay Area, more specifically San Francisco. The Mission District, a place known for the deep Latino history and sense of community, has seen its residents, that have lived there since birth, forced out of their homes by the greedy banks. These greedy banks are forcing families out of their homes by raising the rent to such an absurd amount that these working class families have no choice but to leave. Housing costs are being raised by thousands of dollars in these communities, forcing families primarily of color, all into one area of lower income housing, while the upper class white folk move into their homes.

These communities are underserved and overpoliced. Laws are made to prevent the community from feeling welcome in their own neighborhood. The case of Alex Nieto is a great example of newcomers not trusting their neighbors. Alex Nieto was a security guard and long time resident of the Mission.One day when he was eating a burrito on Bernal Heights, before he went to work, someone called the police, for some reason, likely because they saw a Brown man in their neighborhood. The police claim that Alex Nieto grabbed his bright yellow taser [part of his equipment for his job as a security guard] which they mistook for a gun and shot him several times, killing him on the spot.

This was yet another example of police terrorizing the last remaining residents of gentrified neighborhoods. The police made an example out of this innocent
young man. If they were willing to kill a practicing Buddhist who was known to be a peaceful person, what would they be willing do to everyone else? On the other side of the city is the Bayview/Hunters Point district of San Francisco, the home of the last 3 percent of Black residents that used to be 13 percent. A few months ago, 26-year-old Mario Woods was seen on video apparently with a knife, moving away from 10 officers surrounding him with guns. As he moved away, he was fired on dozens of times.

This was not about protection. This was not about safety. This was a firing squad execution. And the first thing on the news after that was that he was a gang member. What does that have to do with him being executed by a group of undercover Klansmen in broad daylight?

Both communities have been mobilizing in response and are not taking these acts of terrorism lightly. They are demanding that the SFPD police chief Greg Suhr be fired, independent investigations be opened, and the officers responsible to be put on trial for murder. Any three of these things would be a great step forward, but by themselves they would not be enough. To truly end police terror, there must be an end to the system they enforce. This can only happen through the mobilization of the people towards revolution based on socialist principles. People of oppressed communities are often told that getting an education is their only chance to succeed. And yet, for too long people, even with college degrees, have either not been able to find work or have been severely underpaid, but what are their alternatives?

We are told from a young age that “If you don’t go to college you’ll be flipping burgers.” When we look at these jobs, why is it that so many of the workers are people of color? From a very young age, children of color are thrown into the oppressive educational institution. They are told they’re stupid, thugs, will amount to nothing, etc. They are not taught, they are funneled into the school to prison pipeline. These experiences forced into their brains makes them reject college. It makes it so that these jobs are the most accessible, even though it forces them into poverty. But why aren’t we asking the question of, if you don’t go to college, why is it automatic that you will live in poverty and receive far less than what you worked for? Could it be that the system dictates that the amount of money you have is based on the capitalistic knowledge you have, and the more valuable you are, the more comfortable you deserve to live? Should the market decide the price of a life? This is a question we must ask.

People have fought back, but they have been crushed by force. So the next question we must ask is: Who has always been there to suppress labor strikes? Who has always been there to make sure the people don’t rise up against this system that runs off of racist capital? The police, and the military. The police and the military serve the same purpose in different places. They serve to protect the system of genocide that this country was founded on. They are the organized force of the state. The state is the rule of one class over another, in this case, the rule of the rich over the poor, the 1 percent over the 99 percent, the bourgeoisie over the proletariat.

This dictatorship of the rich makes sure that any attempts by communities of color to organize for themselves is met with police force and reactionary media that labels them as thugs and criminals to distract from the real issue. The obvious examples of the Black Panthers being hunted down and murdered across the country or the FBI’s involvement in the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are just a few of the many examples of state terror that the Black community has faced in the past.

This very same system sends 3 billion dollars every year to an apartheid state(Israel) actively involved in the daily killing of the Palestinian people. This is the same system that sends our police chiefs and officers to receive training from the police in Israel. The same system that uses the same tear gas and rubber bullets on the people of the United States as a Zionist Apartheid state. The same system that Bernie Sanders and all other candidates in the two party system support. This is the same system that enslaved an entire continent, and brought them to a different country so they could build on a land that didn’t belong to them. This is the same system that ethnically cleansed the Native people who are the real owners of this land we are currently sitting on.

The way this country was founded alone can be defined as an example of economic racism. Capitalism was founded upon colonialism against Native people. It then used the slavery of African people and cheap labor brought here by forced migrations that are the result of American imperialist policies to make itself rich at the cost of everyone else. United States capitalism needs racism to exist. We cannot talk about economic racism without talking about its source, capitalism. Karl Marx stated that “In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.”

Capitalist ideology permeates all structures developed in society. The boss-worker structure of the capitalist workplace is recreated in the classroom in the teacher-student structure of instruction. The top-down method of classroom instruction dictates that the teacher is the holder of knowledge and the student is the recipient. As such, the student does not have the academic credentials necessary to question the authority of the professor’s narrative. The student body supposedly does not have the credentials necessary to question the infinite wisdom of the administration. Administration is the last fortress of the establishment as the faculty union and students have been struggling against the commodification of their education for decades. The attitudes of the respective administrations translate directly into a classroom experience in which working class students and students of oppressed nationalities are regularly marginalized and their stories silenced.

These are all issues confronted once one enters college. But all over the world the right to a quality higher education for all is being attacked. The capitalist system does not want the children of the oppressed to enter college for fear that they will begin to see through the lies fed to them that there is no alternative to exploitation.

Looking at history, university institutions were founded on a deep belief in the superior intelligence and capability of the white race. Over the years, there have been reforms made to erase the outward expressions of higher education’s racist roots. However, it is the same old white men that we see in positions of power. Reforms have come and gone, and students have been able to make significant gains in terms of Ethnic Studies programs and the funding of cultural centers but faculty diversity, rising tuition alongside a declining quality of education, and a top-down classroom structure continue to be issues for students across the nation as well as the entire globe as demonstrated by the student struggles in Chile and South Africa.

One thing many students don’t realize is how much power you have as students united. Some of the biggest movements and revolutions have started at college campuses. Capitalism has created all of these systems of oppression to separate us, to create this attitude of only caring for yourself, thus having no compassion when another identity is oppressed. But we are so powerful when we realize this fact and we unite. You can use these resources, you can use this knowledge you are receiving, you can use this university to really fight for rights not only as students, but as working class people. You must realize the power you truly hold and start organizing, start fighting back, start demanding what is yours on this racist Zionist capitalistic university. YOU have the power, not the institution. YOU have the power when you unite and fight back.

Across the globe, the commodification of education has prompted students to organize resistance to capitalist influence on campus in all its forms. From Eurocentric narratives and all white faculties to tuition hikes that make it impossible for working class students to get an education, the struggle continues to make the classroom a safe place to critically exchange ideas and return those ideas to the communities we come from for the purposes of liberation.

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