Friday, September 18, 2015

Exploring beyond the pages of our nation's textbooks

GUEST: Paul Bermanzohn, local activist and survivor of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, talks about the drug war as a crusade of repression against the African American people, incarcerating millions to prevent a renewal of the struggle for freedom.

Paul came to the studio, always a pleasure to have our guest behind the mic. 

We didn't talk about the Greensboro Massacre, although we probably should have. The idea of keeping the races apart was certainly behind the KKK's deadly attack on this labor rights march some 35 years ago. Here is Democracy Now's coverage of the event at its 25 year anniversary.

The question that keeps coming back to me is how racism becomes so powerful in a society. Does it spring from an innate distrust of people who look and act differently than ourselves? Are we born with the instinct to protect those whose DNA most closely matches our own? Ants sacrifice themselves, as do most birds and mammals when predators appear. Are we similarly oriented to define ourselves by groups, and to act violently towards anything threatening from the outside?

Or are we taught racism to keep working people from organizing against the Capitalist predators who use our labor for their own profit? There is no doubt that US politicians have frequently used racism to gain votes. Encouraging fear of the "other" is an age old tactic of those seeking power within a particular group, tribe or nation. But do appeals to racism always have a class component?

Nixon's call for a War on Drugs may have been a coded appeal to white voters fearful of black uprisings. But at the time, I took his target to be people like myself. I was part of the antiwar movement when I got out of the Army in 1968 and I smoked weed like most people in my generation. I wanted to get rid of all our political leaders, the corporate controlled, warmongering Democrats as well as Republicans. To me, Nixon's appeal to Law and Order was more an assurance to the middle and upper classes that dirty hippies weren't going to intrude upon their sterile world.

Maybe those working in the nation's police forces saw things differently, especially if they were employed in the larger cities. To them, Nixon's call may have meant the arrest and incarceration of Black men. It is amazing how slow we are as a multiracial society to understand the poison of racism in our history. That may be closer to a class analysis that I could agree with. All but the very rich have robbed our society for generations through corporate corruption and endless wars. Yet our mainstream media never really talks about this, as it never gets to the bottom of racist oppression. To be aware, we must explore beyond the pages of our nation's textbooks or The New York Times. People like Paul Bermanzohn are eager to help us expand our vision.

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