Revolution #146, October 26, 2008
Correspondence from Carl Dix on Special Issue #144:
One of Emmett Till’s relatives said that after Emmett was dragged away by two white men and didn’t return the next day, “We looked where Black folks always looked when things like that happened.” Think about this. Why was there a place “where Black folks always looked” back in Emmett Till’s time?
A few weeks ago, cops in Brooklyn tased a man on a fire escape, causing his death. When that happened, didn’t you know this guy was Black or Latino before you saw the video of the cops killing him? Think about that. Why do we know today that when the cops murder or brutalize someone, that the victim was most likely Black?
Aren’t both of these reflections of the fact that the hell Black people are subjected to is built into the very fabric of U.S. society? That it’s been that way since the first Africans were dragged to these shores in slavery’s chains? The people who run this country couldn’t uproot this oppression without tearing apart the fabric of society, if they wanted to, and they don’t want to.”
This is how I began a conversation with two dozen mostly Black and Latino students at a NY City College class. From there I traced the history of Black people from slavery down to today and argued that it would take revolution, communist revolution, to end this oppression, and the wars for empire, mass starvation, disease and everything else foul imperialism has inflicted on the planet, once and for all.
Two hours of lively discussion and passionate debate erupted as the students dug into all this. Several students felt I was excusing bad choices by laying the responsibility for the conditions Black people faced at the feet of the system. One cited a professor who told her that people in the ’60s faced bad conditions too, but were able to overcome them and succeed, so why couldn’t the youth today do the same? Other students felt this was blaming the people for things being done to them, but they had trouble getting at how these conditions could be changed. You could almost feel the sense of strength it gave this section of the class when I paraphrased Bob Avakian’s point that the youth and others could only really get out of these conditions thru coming to deeply understand the larger forces that are responsible for them and become part of a revolutionary movement aimed at getting rid of the capitalist system and all the misery and degradation it inflicts on people here and around the world.
Several students wanted to talk about whether revolution had been tried and failed. One asked, were there any models today of the kind of revolutionary society I was talking about, and what about the experience of countries that tried revolution in the past, like the Soviet Union? Another asked whether capitalism was self-destructing right now before our very eyes, and could a globalized U.S. economy pull out of its tailspin the way the U.S. did in the 1930s.
The most heated discussion was sparked off when a student asked whether any other group of people in history had suffered the way Black people have. Several students argued that Jewish people had suffered worse, while others argued that it was wrong to try to rate the suffering of different groups—that suffering by anyone to any degree was wrong. I said that it was important to see that the suffering people were talking about was all inflicted by the system of imperialism all over the world and the way to end it once and for all was by getting rid of that system through revolution. And 2nd, that we needed to understand the history of this country to get the role the oppression of Black people played in the building up of the wealth and power of America, and the role struggling to uproot that oppression has to play in developing a revolutionary movement in this country. I drew on Bob Avakian’s point that, “There’s never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn’t make that [unleashing the deeply felt desire to be rid of the oppression of Black people] one key foundation of what it’s all about.”
There was also back and forth about some of the wrong ways to look at and deal with the oppression of Black people that are promoted today. Someone asked whether portraying education as a false path to deal with the oppression of Black people would have the effect of discouraging Black students from seriously pursuing education.
At the end of the class, 19 students got the special issue of Revolution newspaper, “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of this System, and the Revolution We Need.” Students discussed attending upcoming events at Revolution Books, and some made plans to be in the house for the presentation and discussion of “Making Revolution in the U.S.A.” at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on Oct 26 at 1 PM.
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