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Fighting racism

The United States was built on land stolen from Native Americans and built up by the enslavement of African Americans. Racism has loomed large in discriminatory immigration policies designed to keep immigrant workers ranked as second-class, be they from Latin America or Asia. And to make matters worse, the U.S. continually launches military invasions and occupations of sovereign nations, using the most vile Islamophobia to justify their military violence. And while millions cheered the election of the first Black president, Barack Obama’s exceptional climb to the top hasn’t changed the reality for the millions on the bottom. As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor explained at the annual Socialism Conference, “Racism is the sugar in the American cake. And after three hundred years, they can’t just randomly declare that the cake is now sugar free."

Protesting for justice for Freddie Gray outside Camden Yards

But we also know that racism creates resistance. In 2006, millions of Latin American and Asian immigrants took to the streets in the “Day Without An Immigrant” mass mobilizations. Idle No More has helped re-ignite centuries of indigenous struggle. And the Black Lives Matter movement is moving police brutality and mass incarceration, what author Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow, to the very heart of U.S. politics.

As socialists, we are committed to fighting all manifestations of racism, oppression, and discrimination. We put our money where our mouths are and have a proud history of fighting back. We agree with the Black abolitionist leader Fredrick Douglass when he said the “power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.” Building unity between different struggles is critical if we hope to create a movement which can not only “demand” change from the current system, but become powerful enough to change the structure of American capitalism itself. For as Malcolm X argued, “you can’t have capitalism without racism.”

Idle No More activists march through Victoria in British Columbia

People of color, be they students or workers or community members, have always led the fight against racism, and we see that truth being proven once again with the rise of Black Lives Matter. But, white workers and students must also be convinced to join in the struggle. Not simply out of a sense of moral righteousness, but as part of the struggle for their own liberation from the system of capitalist exploitation.

And if we want to get rid of capitalism, if that is the precondition for successfully dismantling institutional racism, then we need a multi-racial, mass movement involving tens of millions of ordinary working-class people. Far from postponing our struggle until we have the masses on our side, we believe that fighting in the here and now for real change in our communities and campuses, in our workplaces and on the streets, is the path to that future revolutionary transformation.

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Protesting for-profit prisons and detention centers (Paul Jeffrey)