Revolution#116, January 20, 2008
KKKluckers with NOOSES
marching on MLK Day
in Jena, unopposed?
A white supremacist group that calls itself the “Nationalist Movement” plans to march in Jena on January 21. They’re telling people to bring signs calling for jailing the Jena 6, abolishing the Martin Luther King holiday, and “down with communism.” They’re openly encouraging people to DISPLAY NOOSES!!
Around the country, when people heard about this, a lot of them said, “it’s time to go back to Jena.” And in Jena, many said, “it’s time for people to come back to Jena.”
The January 21st Committee has issued a Call to people of all nationalities to come to Jena on Monday, January 21 to say: Oppose the Lynch Mob Racists! No to Nooses! Free the Jena Six! We Want a Better World! (see Call in article below))
This Call already has a number of prominent and significant signatories including Black and white residents of Jena, some parents of the Jena 6, 60 people from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago, Cornel West, Herb Boyd, Cindy Sheehan, and Medea Benjamin. Endorsers are still being gathered. And this is shaping up to be very significant.
We encourage people to spread this Call far and wide, sign it, and get others to sign it. The Call puts out an important challenge to people of all nationalities to organize to be in Jena on January 21 to DROWN OUT these KKKluckers, whose message is about actually carrying out terror and murder against Black people.
What Time Is It in America?
Nooses hung on a “whites-only” tree at Jena High School put a huge spotlight on the unequal oppressive social relations and institutions that exist today and are brutally enforced.
This struck a nerve among Black people all over the country. AND it also struck a nerve among despicable and hateful proponents of white supremacy who are striking back in response to the powerful demonstration in Jena on September 20 in support of the Jena 6.
There is a real battle going on in this country over NOOSES and all that they represent. A real struggle over what kind of world we want.
After the September 20 rally in Jena, in just the next two months, there were as many as 50 to 60 noose incidents around the country. There were more than 22 noose incidents in October 2007 alone, including: October 4, a noose is hung on a construction site in O’Hara Township, PA; October 5, nooses are found hanging from a tree in front of a local high school in Columbia, SC; October 9, a Columbia University professor, a Black woman who teaches about racial justice, finds a noose hanging from her office door; October 22, in Brooklyn, NY, a noose is sent to the Black principal at Carnarsie High School; and October 24, in Shreveport, LA, a noose is found in a doctors’ break room at the LSU Health Science Center.
But the forceful imposition of white supremacy and this explosion of ugly, racist threats against Black people is not simply or even fundamentally a case of “good ole boys” going wild. All this is happening at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the land, has overturned Brown vs. Board of Education—officially fortifying segregation and savage inequalities in the schools. This is happening only a couple of hundred miles from New Orleans, where the U.S. government carried out the most horrendous crimes against hundreds of thousands of Black people, abandoning them in the floodwaters of Katrina, treating them like animals, heartlessly evacuating them and then making it all but impossible for them to return and rebuild their homes and lives.
White supremacy, lynchings and KKK terror were shaped, encouraged by and served to keep in effect a whole system that could not have existed without first slavery, and then near slavery, and segregation and terror centered in the South.
The economic system of SLAVERY was an integral and foundational part of the whole way capitalism developed and grew in the United States. The end of slavery did not end the systemic oppression and super-exploitation of Black people. Millions of Black people were subjected to new forms of exploitation as sharecroppers. And a whole “Southern culture” came out of this—of KKK cross burnings, lynchings, and Jim Crow laws that required “white only” and “Black only” public schools, drinking fountains, trains, buses, and all kinds of other public places.
These unequal and oppressive relations have been and continue to be brutally enforced. And while Black people no longer mainly face widespread lynching and cross burnings—though the kluckers planning on marching in Jena would like to bring them back—Black people do face the widespread terror of police brutality and murder.
The U.S. system of capitalism has profited off the exploitation and oppression of Black people from Day One. And white supremacy has been and is built into the very foundations of this system—in the economic relations, social relations, and all the thinking and culture that come from and in turn reinforce these relations of inequality. This is why nothing short of getting rid of this system, of making revolution and building a whole new socialist system based on emancipating all humanity, can lead to actually getting rid of the oppression of Black people and other minority nationalities in this country.
Past and Present Reality of Lynch Terror
The kluckers’ plan to march in Jena is happening in a whole climate and atmosphere in this country where white supremacy is being given a green light and is running amok. Look at what has happened just since September 20, when tens of thousands came to Jena to say: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
November 14, 2007: In Pasadena, Texas, a white racist named Joe Horn saw two Latino men, who he thought were Black, breaking into his neighbor’s house. Horn called 911 to say he was going to shoot them dead. And then he did—giving them a vigilante death sentence for suspicion of burglary. When a group of about ten Black people marched in the street protesting the killing, hundreds of supporters of Joe Horn surrounded them, carrying American flags, hurling racist slurs, and shouting over and over, “USA!, USA!” Horn faces no charges.
December 23, 2007: A Black man in Long Island, who confronted what he says was a “white lynch mob” at his house is found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and faces 5 to 15 years in prison. John White says he remembers childhood trips to the Deep South and how KKK mobs chased his grandfather out of Alabama in the 1920s. He says this is what came to mind when the white mob confronted him, smacking their fists and hurling racial epithets. The angry mob had followed John White’s son home, alleging he had made sexual remarks about a white female. White said: “In my family history, that’s how the Klan comes. They pull up, they blind you with their lights. They burn your house down. They threaten your family. That’s how they come.”
January 4, 2008: While broadcasting a PGA tour event, Kelly Tilghman, the Golf Channel’s main play-by-play anchor, was talking about Tiger Woods’ dominance on the Professional Golf Tour and laughed as she said that his competitors should “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley.” As usual, Tilghman issued a formal apology, asking forgiveness from viewers who “may have been offended by my comments”—as if she herself wasn’t offended or didn’t even have a clue as to why such a remark is so racist!
The whole history of nooses, of lynching, runs long and deep in this country. And it is not just a thing of the past. In 1981, Michael Donald was randomly picked out by members of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan who were angry that a Black man on trial had not been found guilty of killing a policeman. They beat him with a tree limb before cutting his throat and hanging him from a tree.
And remember what happened to James Byrd? A Black man in Jasper, Texas. A rope tied around his neck, dragged behind a truck by white racists until his head separated from his body. What year was that? Not 1870 or 1920 or even 1950. It was 1998.
According to the Tuskegee Institute, 3,437 African-Americans were lynched between 1880 and 1951. This means that for many Black people in this country the NOOSE and LYNCHING are not-so-long-ago family history.
Denzel Washington was recently on the Tavis Smiley Show talking about the movie American Gangster and the character he played, drug kingpin Frank Lucas. Washington said that he injected into the story what he thought was one of the most fascinating “turns” in Frank’s life—that when he was six years old he witnessed his cousin being murdered because of “reckless eyeballing.” Denzel said: “They said this 12-year-old, whatever he was, 12, 13-year-old cousin was looking at a white woman. Klan types or whatever, authority figures came to his house, smashed a shotgun in his cousin’s face, and blew his head off in front of him.”
The “whites-only” tree where nooses were hung in Jena symbolized a whole “way of life” in that town—of blatant segregation, discrimination, and inequality for Black people.
It echoed decades of American history when KKK night-riders lynched Black people and town sheriffs put white sheets on after sundown. Of “southern just-us” where any white person could get away with the murder of someone Black. Where 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered for whistling at a white woman by a gang of racist whites who were quickly acquitted by an all-white jury.
These nooses reflected today’s reality of Black youth shot down by the police or locked away in prison for the rest of their lives. Of 21st-century USA “just-us” where an all white jury can sentence Mychal Bell (one of the Jena 6) to years in prison for standing up against white supremacy—and the U.S. Justice Department then calling this all “regular, not irregular.” Where residents of Jena can recall how a Black man, not that long ago, was stomped to death by a gang of white guys because he bumped into a white woman.
THIS STATUS QUO of white supremacy is what the kluckers want to defend and enforce with their march in Jena.
This year the official parade in Jena is scheduled for Sunday, January 20, the day before the official MLK holiday on Monday. For many people nationwide, MLK Day is associated with the struggle against white supremacy and the oppression of Black people, and it is outrageous that these kkkluckers are marching on this day. (For an evaluation of the actual role of Martin Luther King, Jr. see sidebar: “Martin Luther King... And What We Really Need.)
The Unity We Need
The white supremacists must be politically confronted and opposed and put on the defensive. One resident of Jena said: “If they [the white racists] do this and nobody says anything, they’re going to feel like they can do anything they want.” But the message that emerges on that day must be very different: That it is long past time for this to be tolerated. There must be a powerful political response and a heightened understanding throughout society of the kind of unity we need, of people of all nationalities standing up against white supremacy in any form, wherever it rears its head.
We should remember that it was a very GOOD thing that the hanging of nooses in Jena was NOT ignored, that people didn’t just dismiss it, hoping it would just go away. NO! People all over the country and the world heard about it and in response people felt it had to be widely, boldly, and massively exposed and opposed. People felt compelled to find the ways to make it known that: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
It was shameful that hardly any white people—from Jena or anywhere else—were at the “Free the Jena 6” protest on September 20. And now it is especially important that white people be out there among those who respond to the call to protest white supremacy on January 21.
Those white people in Jena who say they’re not racists, who are perhaps sorry they didn’t come out on September 20, now have a second chance! The kluckers are declaring that white people in Jena will be marching with them. And the system will come down on anyone, Black or white, who goes up against the racist status quo. As one young white woman in Jena said, “If you’re white and you go to visit your Black friends in their neighborhood, you’re gonna get stopped, because you ‘don’t belong there.’” People who step out to join the struggle against white supremacy, Black or white, should be supported and if they face official or unofficial threats, people should have their backs.
There is no “being neutral” when white supremacists plan on marching on MLK Day with NOOSES! The question is what message will emerge on January 21 from Jena. That Kluckers with nooses marched unopposed? Or that there was a powerful political response that DROWNED OUT their hateful message?
The masses of people of all nationalities have a common interest in opposing white supremacy. But it will take real struggle to forge this unity. And it is important to bring about real concrete and visible manifestations of people’s determination to NOT TOLERATE white supremacy in any form.
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