Race shapes the day
America is a country shaped and dominated by race. That history will not disappear, as the arrest of African American Professor Harvey Gates for ’breaking in’ to his own home shows.
Conservatives argue that the election of Barack Obama means that the US is somehow a post-racialist society. Certainly the American electorate rejected the overt racism of the Republicans.
But putting an African-American into the White House when millions of blacks and Latinos are losing their homes and jobs shows that the idea of post-racialism is a sick joke.
Most sub-prime loans went to poor African Americans and Latinos. The racism of the past – their poverty and specifically racist policies like redlining and failing to develop city centres – forced black workers into these loans to achieve ‘the American dream’ of home ownership.
The Great Recession is hitting every worker across America. Yet as unemployment skyrockets it falls disproportionately on African Americans.
Barack Obama has done nothing to save black jobs.
Or take the justice system. Barack Obama is in charge. Young black men are seven times more likely to be jailed than white men.
This means that in a country that still allows the barbarity of executions in many states, black men are murdered at a much greater rate than others.
The justice system is an institutionalised regime to protect the rich and their wealth from the poor and working class. And so it locks up the poor and alienated – African Americans for example – at huge rates. A young black man is more likely to be in jail than in University.
Harvey Gates’ arrest shows that nothing has changed.
Obama’s first reaction – the arrest was stupid – reflects his experience as an African American growing up and working in a racist society. His backtracking – why don’t both of you come and have a beer in the White House? – shows he is now running that racist society.
Barack Obama may have raised expectations about change but the reality of racism will see those expectations dashed on the rocks of reality – poverty, poor education, discrimination, jail, low pay, poor housing.
Barack Obama manages a racist system and can’t change its fundamentals. Only an upsurge of mass struggle akin to the Civil Rights movement of the 60s can bring about real change.
For further analysis you should read Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s article ‘A “post-racial” America?’ in the latest edition of the US magazine Socialist Worker.