Race issues: the hushed-up heart of US politics

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A century ago, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” Today, that line is still the key problem for U.S. workers, as bitter race divisions remain. Joblessness and lack of economic opportunity consistently trap communities of color into poverty. Increasingly, the same realities are engulfing many whites as well.

A big motivation of my running for vice-president as a Freedom Socialist candidate is because the Democrats and Republicans are failing people of color — and all working people. Neither party seriously addresses either institutionalized racism or economic inequality. But this does not stop them from grasping for our votes.

Candidates, for example, want Latino votes, but where are the moves to stop ICE raids or end deportations? These honchos talk about immigration reform while they pass racial profiling laws and promote private detention centers.

Two party racial opportunism. Republicans use race to appeal to the extreme core of angry whites, though this demographic is dwindling. The GOP calls for deporting Latinos. It crafts bills designed to roll back the gains of the civil rights era and push for stand-your-ground laws that encourage modern-day lynching.

This party bestows tax breaks on corporations and then turns around and blames Blacks, Latinos, and public employees for taking away other people’s money (meaning white Americans’ tax dollars). In response to the prospect of people of color becoming the majority, this overwhelmingly white party restricts voting rights and passes discriminatory redistricting schemes to reduce the Black and Latino vote. So it is easy for people of color to view the Republican agenda as hostile to our interests.

However, Democrats are not our friends either. They give nothing but lip service to people of color. They count on us to vote for them no matter what. Forget about the “party of change” ever opposing the conservative agenda. They actually mirror the same trickle down economic policies that float wealth to the top and spread poverty in the barrios, ghettos, and working class neighborhoods.

Whatever Republicans do, Democrats can do better. While the GOP only dreamed about getting rid of welfare and passing NAFTA, Clinton the Democrat got it done. While Bush spearheaded a full throttle crackdown on undocumented immigrants, the current administration stepped up border militarization and deported a record number of people. Obama is also eager to go along with the Republican drive to cut social services, with Social Security and Medicare topping the list.

The Democrat and Republican agendas are so alike that debates between the two degenerate into who can wage a better war, be tougher on crime, or detain more immigrants. The needs of laboring people, of all races, are totally “off the table.”

Bipartisan politics are no answer. Why does racial injustice continue to infest this country year after year? It began with the genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Blacks to make U.S. capitalists and slaveholders rich. In the West, Asians and Mexicans were viciously exploited for the same purpose. This racist legacy remains because free-market titans continue to benefit from undervaluing the descendants of all these groups.

Democrats and Republicans together run a system that profits from things like the racist prison industrial complex. Both parties enact laws that criminalize immigrants, people of color, and the poor. As the prison population mushrooms with hordes of poor, Black and Latino men and women, profits explode for America’s correctional industry.

Both parties also promote constant wars so that profiteers like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed Martin can get rich destroying the lives of people of color worldwide. The parties also prop up these corporations’ profits by bestowing fat contracts for massive border fences, and allowing the banks to get away with predatory loans like those that led to the housing crisis.

Though people of color bear the brunt of these policies, socially constructed race divisions are becoming weakened as economic hardships fast encroach upon the white working class. But establishment politicians have a plan to restoke the fires of bigotry.

The divisive purpose of racism. The vital role of race prejudice is to divide the ranks of labor. Black and white workers overcame it briefly during the post-civil war era, when they organized side by side in the quest for better wages and conditions in the South. But Jim Crow laws were put in place to divide and conquer them when their unity threatened the Southern elite.

Even though segregation is out the door due to the mighty ’60s civil rights movement, the rich continue to promote educational, hiring and wage discrimination to safeguard their power.

So even while the majority do not support far-right visions of an ideal white supremacist America, officials keep racist policies alive. Bigoted bills are molded by billionaire-powered foundations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which crafted tough-on-crime laws and Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070.

The program you deserve. Some say that voting for an alternative party is throwing away your vote. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are worthy of much better than what the Republican/Democrat agenda has in store. Rather, casting a vote for anti-capitalist candidates is a potent way to protest rigged elections that ensure one of the parties responsible for upholding this bigoted system will stay in office.

The platform Stephen Durham and I are running on meets the needs of the working-class majority, especially those on the bottom. Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, we mean what we say (check out the FSP platform). Our multi-racial campaign bridges the color line in word and deed. That’s why voting for us is the way to make your vote really count.

Of course we need a united mass movement demanding economic justice, queer rights, and race and gender equality in order to change class relations and permanently empower the multi-hued class that creates society’s wealth. And elections are part of how we reach out and build that upsurge.

Join us and help make it happen!

López will be discussing the current state of racial dialogue in American politics on Monday, July 30 in Los Angeles.

Read an excerpt from: Estamos en la lucha: immigrant women light the fires of resistance

Also read: a short biography of Christina López

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