[1.5.18] Racism is a Deadly Disease

/ Filed under Column, Prole Position


Hello, comrade subscribers, and welcome to the New Year! Hope you and yours had a happy and healthy holiday season. A few quick points to begin with:

  • It brings me no pleasure to tell you that in my dear city of Philadelphia, a young man was murdered by the pigs just at the close of 2017. Dennis Plowden, Jr. was on his way to bring a Christmas present to his grandmother in Germantown when he was executed by police, shot in the head at close range. He was unarmed. The cops were in plainclothes and were driving an unmarked car when they accosted and chased Plowden. I can only imagine what this young Black man was thinking when unidentified white men with guns drawn approached him. Try to tell me you wouldn’t run for your life as well if you were in his shoes. You can read the press release about Dennis Plowden’s murder where, in his grandmother’s words, “they shot him like a goddamned dog.”
  • It’s encouraging news that the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal has managed to get him a new court date on January 17th to open the files on his case and I encourage you all to join me in packing the court to show our support for him that Wednesday at 8am at 1301 Filbert Street. But in the meantime, Mumia needs your help. His skin condition is getting worse. The irritation and pain must be unbearable. Please make a few phone calls to convince the authorities to get Mumia the medical treatment he deserves. No human being, incarcerated or not, should be tortured this way. More information here.
  • I’m also introducing a new segment in the newsletter, beyond bourgeois headlines. I hope to offer a little bit more analysis and background regarding some things you might have read in the news. Check it out below.

Okay, let’s get started.

beyond bourgeois headlines

Civil rights activist Erica Garner dead is dead at 27 years old. She leaves behind two children and a noble, if short, legacy. Franz Fanon teaches us that psychic liberation is not something that is earned after legislation is passed or after some symbolic victory. It is achieved through the fight itself. Pride and autonomy is accessed only through struggle, both psychologically and metaphysically, before it is ever actualized by material consequences. In this way, Erica Garner was a liberated woman and no one can take that away from her.

But she should still be alive. We cannot ignore that an activist’s life is a difficult and dangerous one. Aside from the obvious threat of physical violence from Nazis, Klansmen, and cops – a form of violence that is largely the provenance of white men – we need to discuss the physical experience of racism and how it literally poisons human bodies. There is no other way to explain the staggering rate of childbirth-related deaths among Black women, for example. You can read about Black maternal mortality rates in Texas in the New York Times, here. According to a study from the Journal of Perinatal Education, which accumulated an incredible amount of data from 1979 to 1996, six in every 100,000 white women will die in childbirth. For Black women, that number is nearly four times as high. Of course, given that this is an academic study from the 20th century, the researchers blamed this disparity on the Black women themselves.

We know, however, that it is the racist society we live in that is to blame. NPR did a piece that points to white supremacist society as the reason for this disparity; consider that female African immigrants who come to this country have average infant and birth mortality rates. But just one generation later, their daughters who grow up here have the same risk of death as any other Black woman in the U.S. These statistics regarding childbirth deaths are just a single indicator of the physical experience of racism and how it is killing Black women in this country. Please also consider the violence visited upon the women who survive Black men who are killed by police.

“For instance in 2012, Graham’s grandmother, Patricia Hartley, witnessed police officers kill her grandson Ramarley Graham in front of her in their home. When she cried out, Officer Richard Haste pushed her into a vase, telling her to “Get the fuck away before I have to shoot you, too.” Patricia was immediately taken to the police station and interrogated there for seven hours without an attorney present. When Ramarley’s mother, Constance Malcolm, went to the station to demand answers and secure her mother’s release, she was tackled to the floor and assaulted by police officers. She later said, “There’s nobody standing up for us mothers. We standing here, we have to fight for justice.” Andrea Ritchie in the Huffington Post

I recommend reading Andrea Ritchie, who has been bringing attention to the damage being done to Black women as a result of proximate police violence. This interview in Broadly elaborates on her analysis.

“There are many ways—starting from sexual harassment, or refusal to respond to calls for help, or failure to protect from sexual violence—that are definitely forms of police violence experienced by women, that are not documented in the same way, that don’t get the same kinds of media attention, that often take place in the privacy of homes or clinics or social service agencies or other private locations where there aren’t cop-watching cameras. The numbers are not where the story begins and ends. Rather, the real, lived experiences of black and brown women with policing and criminalization are where we should be looking.”

Eric Garner was murdered by the NYPD. It is just as true a statement to say that his daughter, Erica Garner, was too. For that reason we must take to heart the slogan that has been popularized by National Nurses United, a worker’s union: “Racism is a Deadly Disease.” This is not a metaphor. It is a fact.

Photo: Rose Ann Demoro, National Nurses United executive director

recommended reading

Do It Like Durham!

Six months after the heroic freedom fighters in Durham, North Carolina toppled a monument to the Confederacy, dozens are still facing felony charges. Their court dates are set for next week in Durham. Please read comrade Loan Tran’s explanation on what transpired, and why Do It Like Durhamn has become a slogan for the revolutionary movement to smash white supremacy. Find it here at Workers World. There’s also an excellent interview at Workers World with Takiyah Thompson, who was the one who tied the harness to that piece of shit statue moments before it was ripped from its pedestal.

“The Button” and What It’s There For

The narrative about the United States’ nuclear arsenal for over half a century now always includes certain mythical artifacts: the Button; the Launch Codes; the Nuclear Football. All these things are meant, in my opinion, to create the illusion that the Commander-in-Chief has in his possession some legendary weapon, like Excalibur, that he can choose to wield or not. It distracts us, potentially, from the idea that for all the hardware and symbols behind the nuclear arsenal, what we’re actually talking about are submarines steered by men, airplanes flown by men, and missiles and drones heading to targets determined by men. Men and their technology have the power to destroy humanity – not a Button, not a secret code.
This isn’t fairy tale shit. This isn’t Sauron and the One Ring. Our country has established a military infrastructure that is capable of murdering seven billion people instantaneously, with an authoritarian means of organization that one single dictator is capable of making the decision to slay the species. As the decades have worn on since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the worst single atrocity in the history of the human race, this nightmare has faded from the front of our minds. I think it’s the result of normalizing propaganda, a deliberate tactic to get us comfortable with the idea that a single executive, elected or not, gets to decide without accountability whether we live or die.
I’d also like to remind everyone that despite President Trump’s pathetic schoolyard insults, Kim Jong Un has continued to calmly and diplomatically address the threat of US imperialism. In his New Year Address a few days ago, Comrade Kim reiterated that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea does not have a nuclear first strike policy – unlike the United States.”Our republic is a responsible nuclear state that, as we made clear before, will not use nuclear weapons first unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to invade on our sovereignty,” he said in 2016 and reiterated this year. Kim also made public official overtures to South Korea, saying “North and South must work together to alleviate the tensions and work together as a people of the same heritage to find peace and stability.” In response to these comments this week, South Korea has offered to reopen diplomatic talks with the DPRK. Kim Jong Un accepted these conditions yesterday.

Kim Jong Un delivers his New Year Address, January 2018


And while we’re on the subject of nukes…

During the 1950s, the United States killed over half a million of its own citizens because of radioactive fallout from nuclear testing. You read that right. Read the report in Mother Jones.


Israel opens new front in ethnic cleansing, expels all African migrants

Proving once again that Zionism is a white supremacist settler colonist ideology that shares the same vicious extermination policy as the United States and the Third Reich, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu started the new year by announcing the expulsion of thousands of African migrants from the region. They have ninety days to get out of the country under pain of death and imprisonment. Read more here in the BBC.
I’d also like to give you a follow up on the Tamimi family. Occupation forces have continued to assault the Tamimis both physically and through the courts. The first Palestinian person to be murdered by Israeli forces is young Musaab Tamimi. He was shot at close range by soldiers. He was 17 years old.
Meanwhile his cousin, 16 year old Ahed Tamimi, has been charged with 12 counts in that could enable the Israeli forces to keep her imprisoned for decades. The farcical occupation court system has a near 100% conviction rate against Palestinians arrested by their Gestapo soldiers. In court, one of the Zionist thugs reiterated his claim that the little girl assaulted him – shortly after his accomplices shot her 15 year old cousin Muhammad in the head. When asked by an Israeli judge how she could slap an IDF soldier, Ahed Tamimi reportedly replied, “Take off my handcuffs and I’ll show you.”
Photo: Ashraf Amra


“This is a racist country built on the boards of genocide.”

Danny DeVito has a keener understanding of US history than any elected official in the country. This isn’t empty talk from DeVito, who has been an ally of Black and Brown people in the US for decades. See the video with his full comments here. You can also read a great little story about DeVito meeting Olympic athlete John Carlos, famous for his Black Power salute in the ‘68 Olympics, here.

Let us also not forget the greatest Tweet in history, courtesy of Mr. DeVito in 2013:

ask a prole

So – duh – I can just click the links to the sites you use; but there might be things that interest me that I want to stay on top of that don’t make it to my favorite newsletter. What are some websites/news sources you’re using to keep up to date? I think when people are able to talk about Workers.org, for example, it makes it more common place to use it as a source for news/reading. Same with Jacobin. But I’m always looking to expand my sources!

This is an excellent question. Workers.org is the best source for news that cuts through and challenges bourgeois media and imperialist propaganda. I’m not just saying that because I’m a candidate member of the Workers World Party. I actually came to join the party because I started reading the paper, which a comrade who works for FLP was leaving copies of for people like to me to find and peruse. But let me also give you some other recommendations.

  • Liberation News (PSL) – This is the paper of WWP’s sister organization, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, another Marxist-Leninst organization.
  • teleSUR – This is a Venezuela-based publication in both English and Spanish and is a reliably radical, anti-imperialist outlet. They are also home to Abby Martin’s excellent program, Empire Files.
  • Current Affairs – One of today’s recommended readings is from Nathan J. Robinson in Current Affairs, and they also have essays from some other writers I like, including Luke Savage, co-host of the Michael and Us podcast.
  • District Sentinel – This online newspaper has very good coverage of US politics from a Left perspective. Sam Knight and Sam Sacks also host a great daily newscast, reporting, “We’re in DC…so you don’t have to be.” Tune in the to the DC Sentinel Podcast and you’ll occasionally hear yours truly on the air reading poetry and otherwise behaving very silly with the two Sams.
  • Democracy Now! – Amy Goodman has been providing a radical alt-daily news source for twenty years now. They have a daily broadcast which is very good, though I am sometimes disappointed by their tendency to be swayed by imperialist propaganda, particularly regarding Syria, Iran, and the DPRK.

That brings us to Jacobin. Jacobin has some great articles, it’s true, and some of the stuff is worth reading. But I would just caution you that Jacobin is essentially the party organ of the Democratic Socialists of America, a very loosely-structured social democrat affinity group. I don’t want to get too lost in sectarian ephemeral here, but I’ll say this: despite an enormous boom in membership since Trump’s election, the DSA is still managed by an old guard of very annoying reformist Harringtonites, which includes among their leadership a fucking cop organizer. If the DSA and its membership wants to become a Left caucus of the Democratic Party, I wish them the best. But don’t get me wrong. I was a subscriber to Jacobin up until recently and wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now, politically speaking, if I hadn’t been a reader. Maybe I’ll spend some time writing more about my thoughts on Jacobin and the DSA in a future issue of Prole Position. For now I’ll just point you to this primer on Michael Harrington and Jacobin’s editor Bhaskar Sunkara over at Socialist Worker.

It goes without saying, I’m sure, that there’s no more value in the Washingmachine Post or National Privatized Radio than there is in CNN or MSNBC. The bourgeois media is not there to inform you. (That’s what Prole Position is for!)

As the story goes, Noam Chomsky was told by his dentist that he was grinding his teeth. He didn’t think this was the case, so the dentist offered that he was probably doing it in his sleep. Professor Chomsky was instructed to ask his wife to monitor him around the clock to see when he was clenching his jaw and wearing off that old enamel. After some time, she discovered he wasn’t grinding his teeth when he was asleep – he was doing it when reading the New York Times.

2017 is dead, long live 2018!

TK xo

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