Since its inception, U.S. capitalist society has been
marked by extreme racism. The “start-up capital” that allowed the country to
rise to a world power came from the enslavement of Africans and the theft of
Native land. Ever since, while exploiting all workers regardless of color, the
capitalist class reserved special forms of oppression, violence and
discrimination for Black, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native communities.
But the problem did not end there. Racism has also served as
the key tool of the 1% to keep the exploited 99% divided. They convinced
sectors of white workers that they had more in common with white elites than
poor and working-class people of color.
This reality is nothing new. What’s new is the growing
Occupy movement sweeping the country. This movement has captured the
imagination of millions with its call for unity among the 99% against the 1%,
and has the ability to strike at the heart of the capitalist system that only
exists by keeping us divided.
How do we create unity among the 99%? That requires building
the trust and confidence among communities that have long been told we have
nothing in common. It requires taking a firm stance against racist police
brutality, anti-immigrant scapegoating, and all the institutions that are set
up to keep Black and Latino communities in particular at the bottom of the
economic ladder. In the process, this movement can expand to bring in the most
determined fighters and leaders from these communities that have the most to
gain from ending Wall Street’s dictatorship.
Economic crisis reveals racist system
During an economic recession, the racism inherent in the
system becomes even more pronounced. While the last few years have been
exceptionally hard for the vast majority of people in the United States,
Black and Latino communities remain far behind in access to good-paying jobs,
income, housing and other social benefits.
As of September 2011, the real unemployment rate for African
American people reached 50 percent in some places. Census data shows a gap
between the household income of white families and those of people of color
that’s about 20-1 for African Americans and 18-1 for Latinos—a major increase
in inequality over the last 10 years.
The scapegoating of undocumented workers has also been on
the rise, blaming the poorest sector of society instead of the billionaires who
created the crisis. There are over 11 million undocumented people who
contribute to the vast wealth in this country and are denied basic rights and
services. They are forced to live in the shadows and are subjected to police
harassment, raids and separation of their families.
We need a movement that says: all working people deserve
dignity, a fair wage and equal rights, regardless of citizenship status.
Undocumented workers deserve amnesty.
While fighting against Wall Street, we have the opportunity
to build a movement that confronts racism and builds lasting unity among the
diverse communities that make up the 99%. We have a lot of work ahead of us,
but we can win.