Wednesday, March 10, 2010

United by Hard Times: Workers Organize Across Race Lines

Thursday 04 March 2010
by: Carlos Jimenez | YES Magazine


I'm feeling relieved. For a while it seemed like the historic election of our first African American president would give legitimacy to the idea that we live in a "post-racial" America. The idea that race is no longer a part of people's daily experience is not merely false. It's potentially dangerous when a majority of people are struggling to understand what's happening to them economically.

What people are experiencing is exactly what's supposed to happen to them under capitalism and its current variant, neoliberalism. That economic system is grounded on the idea that society must have winners and losers. It has convinced people that those categories are based on race: that people of color are, in the natural course of things, losers; and that white people, regardless of class, are supposed to win.

When hard times hit, as they have recently, people who are losing their grip on their middle-class status—or those who were already poor and are getting poorer—look for someone to blame. They fall back on the official story: White people's troubles are caused by people of color; the troubles of people of color who were born in this country are caused by immigrants. It's a divide-and-conquer strategy that keeps people who are natural allies on a class basis from looking at who's really causing their trouble: the people who run the capitalist system.

This moment presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to get people with shared economic interests working together—to get them past learned racial divides. As long as poor and working-class white people remain convinced that they win by keeping people of color on the margins, all workers will continue to lose economic ground. The opportunity is to use this economic crash as a way to find common ground among those who are the real losers—regardless of race—in the existing system.

Read the rest of the article on Truthout

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