I grew up in the projects in Phoenix. It is a misconception that housing projects are crime-ridden slums. Instead it provided a nice and stable roof over our heads. My family also relied on food stamps and welfare while my mother got her nursing degree. Public housing and safety-net programs were a lifesaver. Without these programs, we would have been in extreme poverty and living in crowded living conditions or homeless.
My first political steps. As soon as I was old enough to vote, I became a Democrat. I perceived them to be the party for working people. As a Democrat, I got involved in politics canvassing to defeat a racist English-Only bill in 1988. I also volunteered to gather signatures to reinstate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in Arizona.
During the 1992 presidential election, my union hall had the slogan — Stop NAFTA Vote Clinton — on the wall. I passed out buttons, placards, and bumper stickers for the Bill Clinton campaign. I cheered when he won the presidency.
Soon, I became disillusioned. The Clinton administration slashed welfare and dismantled public housing — both of which my family relied on to survive. The destruction of public housing is also one of the reasons homelessness skyrocketed. How could this be my president?
Additionally, Clinton passed a series of get-tough-on-crime laws which continue to plague Black and brown communities with police violence, prison lockups, and detention centers. And contrary to the promised election slogan, his administration also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Enough! I was done. Clinton was the last Democrat I voted for.
For several years I stayed away from politics. I figured all politicians cared about were business interests and not the working poor. That all changed when I moved to Seattle and met members of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Radical Women (RW) in 1998.
At that time, FSP and RW were part of a state-wide battle to save affirmative action and defeat Initiative I-200. I liked their position of strengthening affirmative action with quotas, and addressing the issue of racism head on.
The FSP’s stance that the Democrats and Republicans are the twin-parties of big business also made sense to me. Finally, I understood why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Explaining inequality and racism. You could say I am an organic socialist as it was not hard to convince me capitalism generates wealth and prosperity for a few at the expense of the working class. I lived it. I saw how most people struggled to pay rent, other bills, or buy groceries. Through the party, I learned the division in society is between the working and capitalist classes.
As a working-class Chicana, I was drawn to the party’s multi-issue and intersectional approach to building a united movement against our common oppressor, the capitalist system. Racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia are used to divide and conquer the working class for the sake of profits. There is no way to fix a racist system that is built on slavery and genocide. Finally, a party that spoke to all of me.
From FSP I also learned about the importance of Black leaders and liberation to all progressive struggles in the United States. The FSP’s theoretical analysis is called revolutionary integration. It talks of the need to get rid of capitalism to end racism. And the integral role of the revolutionary leadership of Black workers, especially Black women, to that struggle.
History bears this out. There is a long list of Black women leaders that we owe for changing things for the better: Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Fanny Lou Hamer, Ella Baker. That gutsy leadership continues in the Black Lives Matter movement — a movement begun by three Black women.
There is an uplifting political rebellion that is happening right now — a fight that is digging deep into the systemic nature of racism. I am part of this multiracial political fight based on our common interest as working-class people. It’s not about electing another Republican or Democrat.
I hope you join me in the party, and in the streets!
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