A Cancer in the Working Class

Jun 28, 2015

Nine people are dead because a man, his brain twisted by racism, decided to kill people simply because they were black.

Joining a bible study meeting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Dylann Roof waited, then stood up, spouted racist filth and began shooting. He fired and reloaded multiple times, saying “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

“Taking over OUR country” – that’s the type of vile racist garbage that has been peddled on websites, pushed on major TV channels, and indirectly hinted at by innumerable white politicians, mostly Republican, but not only.

Whose country? It wasn’t only whites who did the work to build this country. And it wasn’t “whites” as such, that did it, not the whole white population. The labor to build this country was carried out by the working class, the whole working class. And most of the hard, backbreaking productive work has been carried out by black workers and by the most recent immigrant workers.

Roof had been making increasingly violent statements about “starting a new civil war” and “shooting black people.” These ideas weren’t just the products of a sick brain, although sick he may be – racism makes one morally sick.

But Roof was acting on a set of ideas that has been clearly articulated by organized racists at every level of society. These ideas come from the mouths of politicians and the big media, who pretend that the black population is in some way responsible for the greater unemployment, poverty and crime it suffers.

Friends and relatives of Dylann Roof said they had heard Roof making violent threats against black people and they knew he was armed and dangerous. But the friends said that they thought he was just talking. One even said he thought it was just a “joke”!

That reflects the level of racism that pervades our society and exists even in many sectors of the working class. Racist comments are the norm. Racists spew this garbage facing little opposition from other white workers.

Maybe the majority of white workers are not racist. Maybe. But too many do not speak up when confronted by this rot. By letting it pass, they tacitly accept the deep gulf in the working class, dividing people who are part of the same class, people who should be joining together to fight the ruling class that is exploiting all of us.

Racism is not going to be overcome simply because people speak up. Racism, like so many other ills of this society, is the product of a society built on the exploitation of labor for the profit of a tiny capitalist class.

And racism, like so many other ills – unemployment or poverty, for example – will be overcome only when the working class joins its forces together to fight so that every part of the working class enjoys the fruits of the struggle, the fruits of their own labor.

But the obligation lies on white workers to fight against other white workers who have been infected by the racism of their own community. How else will they find the way to fight together side by side with black workers for a common aim that only the whole working class can attain?

For several decades, the working class has remained quiet in the face of attacks coming down on all of us. The U.S. working class has not found a way to respond, to fight back, to force the ruling class to create jobs and decent wages for a start. Its power has been compromised, in part, by the very issue of racism. A class divided cannot stand, and the U.S. working class is divided.

Racism is a cancer in the working class. Like all cancers, it can kill if it is not cut out. Our hope for a better future lies in the possibility of the working class being able, black and white together, to forge a fight against the system that is attacking us. Part of that fight requires white workers to oppose racism where they meet it today, in their own families, neighborhoods and workplaces.