Friday April 18th, 2014, 4:05 am (EDT)

Race

Race & Racism

Freedom’s Struggle and Freedom Schools

Throughout U.S. history, the “truths” [Thomas] Jefferson declared as axiomatic [in the Declaration of Independence] have hardly been evident in the lives of many “Americans,” certainly not in the lives of the two hundred or so slaves Jefferson held on his plantation.… [The recurring] contradiction between ideal and reality is the root of a continuing struggle over what the United States is to be as a nation.… For black people especially, this contradiction has been most persistent and destructive in “education.”… | more |

June 2011, Volume 63, Number 2

June 2011, Volume 63, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors

Manning Marable, who died last April 1, aged sixty, was the quintessential radical academic/activist. A friend of Monthly Review for many years, he wrote numerous articles for the magazine and chapters for Monthly Review Press books. Manning was a committed Marxist and socialist. He unflinchingly engaged with issues of race and class, most recently working with younger artists of color organizing for social change as a founder of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network.… In MR‘s July-August 1995 issue Marable posed this challenge: “Americans continue to perceive social reality in a manner which grossly underestimates the role of social class, and legitimates the categories of race as central to the ways in which privilege and authority are organized. We must provide the basis for a progressive alternative to an interpretation of race relations, moving the political culture of black United States from a racialized discourse and analysis to a critique of inequality which has the capacity and potential to speak to the majority of American people. This leap for theory and social analysis must be made if black United States is to have any hope for transcending its current impasse of powerlessness and systemic inequality.”… | more |

Three Poems by Marilyn Buck

Marilyn Buck (1947-2010) spent over twenty-five years in prison for politically motivated actions against U.S. government policies and in support of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. She wrote these poems behind bars, as a way to comprehend the reality of prison and continue her fight as a white woman against injustice, particularly U.S.-generated white supremacy. Paroled in July 2010, she died of cancer twenty days after her release.… | more |

What Race Has to Do With It

Who could have imagined the 2008 presidential campaign?… | more |

Commentators, media people, and especially politicians fell all over themselves proclaiming that the 2008 election had, “nothing at all to do with race.” And yet every event, every speech and comment, every debate and appearance had race written all over it. Stephen Colbert, the brilliant satirist, hit it on the head when he asked a Republican operative, “How many euphemisms have you come up with so far so that you won’t have to use the word ‘Black?’” Everyone laughed good-naturedly.… | more |

A Nation Built on the Hierarchy of Race A Practical Guide to Beating White Supremacy

Chip Smith, The Cost of Privilege: Taking On the System of White Supremacy and Racism (Fayetteville, NC: Camino Press, 2007), 466 pages, paper $19.95.

In The Cost of Privilege: Taking On the System of White Supremacy and Racism, Chip Smith has written a historical treatise on white racism in the United States. He provides a well researched, detailed account of the cause and effect of white privilege in the United States. The book effectively examines the influence of racial privilege on a broad range of social relations from an international to a personal level. It targets progressive white people who are consciously anti-racist and provides insights for individual self-reflection and organizational change… | more |

Jeremiah Wright in the Propaganda System

Beginning in March 2008 and extending through the last Democratic primaries of early June, the United States witnessed the most brazen demonization in its history of a person based on his race, his creed, and his ties to a presidential candidate. One major purpose behind these attacks was to use the demonized figure to discredit the politician. But participation in the attacks also fed the voracious, twenty-four-hour-aday media appetite, and quickly took on a life of its own. When we look back at the ugly spectacle then taking place, the evidence suggests that, despite much optimism about narrowing racial divides and an emerging “post-racial” consciousness, something much closer to the opposite had gripped America.… | more |

The Danish Disease: A Political Culture of Islamophobia

In trying to comprehend the virus of Islamophobia now infecting Europe, the small country of Denmark offers powerful insights. Shakespeare’s phrase that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” seems appropriate to describe the transformation taking place in this former bastion of tolerance and conviviality.… | more |

Reclaim the Neighborhood, Change the World

Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 448 pages, hardcover $27.95.

In 1988, the National Urban League reported, “More blacks have lost jobs through industrial decline than through job discrimination.” For a civil rights organization, this was a remarkable observation. Born in the era of Jim Crow racism, the Urban League championed the aspirations for upward mobility among urban African Americans. When banks refused to lend money to black entrepreneurs or when municipalities failed to service the black community, the Urban League intervened. One of the demands of the Urban League was for public goods to be shared across racial lines. While the organization was not on the frontlines of the civil rights struggle, it would have been a major beneficiary of the movement’s gains. But the tragedy of the civil rights struggle was that its victory came too late, at least thirty years late. Just when the state agreed to remove the discriminatory barriers that restricted nonwhites’ access to public goods, the state form changed. Privatization and an assault on the state’s provision of social welfare meant that it was not capable of providing public goods to the newly enfranchised citizens. At the same time as the state retreated from its social welfare obligations, the industrial sector in the U.S. crumbled in the face of globalization. Industrial jobs, once the backbone of the segregated black communities, vanished… | more |

Harry Chang: A Seminal Theorist of Racial Justice

It is little known that a shy Korean immigrant named Harry Chang made vital contributions to the theory and practice of racial justice in the United States. In his most fruitful period, the 1970s, his work shaped the thinking and political work of numerous movement organizations, mostly led by people of color. Although he died prematurely in 1979, his work helped lay the foundations of two of the most progressive and influential theories of racism: the theory of racial formation and critical race theory… | more |

The Retreat from Race and Class

As the twentieth century started, indeed at almost exactly the same moment that W. E. B. Du Bois predicted that the “color line” would be its great divide, Eugene Victor Debs announced that the socialist movement that he led in the United States could and should offer “nothing special” to African Americans. “The class struggle,” Debs added, “is colorless.” As the century unfolded, the white Marxist left, schooled by struggles for colonial freedom and by the self-activity of people of color in the centers of empire, increasingly saw the wisdom of Du Bois’s insight and tried hard to consider how knowledge of the color line could illuminate, energize, and express class struggles. We would increasingly turn to other passages from Debs, including one expressing a historical insight that he could already articulate in the early twentieth century but that his colorblindness kept him from acting upon: “That the white heel is still on the black neck is simply proof that the world is not yet civilized. The history of the Negro in the United States is a history of crime without a parallel.”… | more |

Race and Nationality: The Racial Formation of Asian Americans, 1852–1965

The U.S. immigration reform of 1965 produced a tremendous influx of immigrants and refugees from Asia and Latin America that has dramatically altered U.S. race relations. Latinos now outnumber African Americans. It is clearer than ever that race relations in the United States are not limited to the central black/white axis. In fact this has always been true: Indian wars were central to the history of this country since its origins and race relations in the West have always centered on the interactions between whites and natives, Mexicans, and Asians. The “new thinking” about race relations as multipolar is overdue… | more |

Black Radical Enigma

Amiri Baraka, The Essence of Reparations (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers, 2003), 44 pages, paper $15.00.
Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew Up America and Other Poems (Philipsburg, St. Martin: House of Nehesi Publishers, 2003), 57 pages, paper $15.00.
Jerry Gafio Watts, Amiri Baraka: The Politics and Art of a Black Intellectual (New York: New York University, 2001), 604 pages, cloth $50.00.
Harry T. Elam, Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2001), 208 pages, cloth $55.00, paper $20.95.
Komozi Woodard, A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1999), 352 pages, $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paper.

At seventy years of age, Amiri Baraka is no stranger to controversy. From his pioneering stage plays to his legendary journalistic assaults on mainstream black politicians and former allies alike, Baraka has often inhabited the space between trenchant critique, radical honesty, and venomous rhetoric. His 2002 appointment as poet laureate of New Jersey and the subsequent demands for his resignation by everyone from then-Governor James McGreevy to Elie Wiesel again placed Baraka in the limelight. This latest firestorm stemmed from his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” which reminds us of America’s history of domestic anti-black terrorism but also alludes to the cyberspace conspiracy theory alleging Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon possessed prior knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks and forewarned Jewish employees at the World Trade Center… | more |

Preface to the Jubilee Edition of The Souls of Black Folk (1953)

The Blue Heron Press Jubilee edition of The Souls of Black Folk appeared in 1953. In 1949 Du Bois had purchased the plates to the book, which was then out of print. At that time, during the anticommunist hysteria, it was extremely difficult to keep in print or to publish works that raised fundamental questions about U.S. society. In 1952, best-selling novelist Howard Fast had his latest novel Spartacus turned down by his usual publisher and by every other he turned to-presumably, because of his association with the Communist Party as well as the incendiary nature of his novel, which was about a revolt against slavery, albeit in antiquity. Fast’s only choice was to publish the book himself. Devising his own imprint, Blue Heron Press, he solicited orders by direct mail and finally had enough so that he could print 50,000 copies. This self-published book became a best-seller, and with the proceeds Fast reissued a number of his earlier historical novels… | more |

Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States

How “free” was the black freedman in 1863? He had no clothes, no home, tools, or land. Thaddeus Stevens begged the government to give him a bit of the land which his blood had fertilized for 244 years. The nation refused. Frederick Douglass and Charles Sumner asked for the Negro the right to vote. The nation yielded because only Negro votes could force the white South to conform to the demands of Big Business in tariff legislation and debt control. This accomplished, the nation took away the Negro’s vote, and the vote of most poor whites went with it… | more |

African Leaders Hide Political Woes Behind Homophobia

In late March, Sam Nujoma, President of Namibia, ordered apurge of homosexuals, stating that “The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality or lesbianism here. Police are ordered to arrest you, deport you and imprison you.” The Namibian Society for Human Rights countered that the “attempt to turn a personal dislike into ad hoc national policy is entirely unconstitutional and misguided.” … | more |

Nelson Mandela on Israel

I know that you and I long for peace in the Middle East, but before you continue to talk about necessary conditions from an Israeli perspective, you need to know what’s on my mind.… Where to begin? How about 1964. Let me quote my own words during my trial. They are true today as they were then: “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”… | more |

Subverting A Model

Vijay Prashad,The Karma of Brown Folk(University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 248 pages, $25 hardcover.

The Karma of Brown Folk is essentially addressed to two audiences and is surprisingly successful in being readable by both. Its primary audience is the “desi”—men and women of South Asian descent living in the United States. This widely dispersed group of some fifteen million first and second generation immigrants is often referred to as a model minority—untroublesome, hardworking, entrepreneurial, conservative, clannish, and family oriented. In approaching these countrymen the author’s freely avowed purpose is a subversive one. He wants to destroy the image by re-forming the fact behind it… | more |

Race and Class in the Work of Oliver Cromwell Cox

Oliver Cromwell Cox’s Caste, Class, and Race was first published in 1948 by Doubleday, which, in line with the anti-leftist imperatives of the time, almost immediately let the book go out of print. Fortunately, it was reissued in 1959 by Monthly Review Press, which has enabled subsequent generations to read Cox’s extraordinary text. Indeed, I discovered Cox through Monthly Review’s Modern Reader paperback edition in 1970; coincidentally, that was also the year of the only occasion on which I heard him speak, at the annual meeting of the Association of Social and Behavioral Scientists, the black social scientists’ group… | more |

SNCC: What We Did

2000 marks the fortieth anniversary of the southern sit-in movement, the emergence of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and the founding of its most dynamic component, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). We believe it is important to look back at the achievements of those courageous men and women, both to celebrate their struggle and to learn from their experience. The following article is adapted from a talk originally given last summer at a seminar far college and university teachers, on the history of the civil rights movement at Harvard’s W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Studies.—Eds.… | more |

Overcoming Racism

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about the racism of white workers. Unfortunately, little has been said or written about how white working-class racism can be overcome. In this essay, I examine a prison uprising in which black and white convicts struggled with racism and overcame it to a surprising degree … | more |