December 15, 2018

The history of a very racist country

December 13

GUEST: Paul Bermanzohn, psychiatrist, social activist and survivor of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, talks about the use of racism to block labor organizing and impede the liberation of African Americans.

Survivors of 1979 Greensboro Massacre Testify

Paul and I had an interesting discussion on racism and capitalism. I went to his house and realized quite soon how different a personal interview is. On the phone, I can review my notes as we speak. In person, I can't really take my eyes off the person I am interviewing.

I make extensive notes before each interview, so I knew some of the questions I had planned. But since I couldn't  take the time to read my notes, there were questions that got omitted.

I also hadn't planned to get into the specifics of the Greensboro Massacre itself. Paul is a committed activist who has spent his life thinking and writing about racism in America. He was badly wounded in the KKK attack. My last interview with Paul had skirted the issue of his own injuries and suffering.

His parents were Holocaust survivors, and he told me that he began his interest in racism at the age of three. Greensboro was the first time in US history that the KKK and the Nazi Party had worked together in a terrorist attack. And the event had heralded a new era of armed extremists doing the bidding of corporate America. Paul sees the attack as planned by elements of the police and the factory owners to thwart an integrated union of plant workers.

Paul doesn't like to talk about fascism, and prefers concrete examples of racism directed at various minorities as they attempt to fight discrimination and unionize. I am not sure I agree. I think that fascism defines a deep seated tendency of some people to glorify power and the militarism that is often its source. It is the devotion to authority and the willingness to do what one is told, despite the murder it often entails. Maybe fascism is the opposite of love. Certainly established religions talk about love all the time, while they thrive on a system of worshiping the "divine."