The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 952 — November 25 - December 9, 2013

Editorial:
Use the Benefits of Productivity to Create Jobs

Nov 25, 2013

The stock market blasted to a new record high of 16,000 on November 22. The event was celebrated as a sure sign that the U.S. economy is on its way to recovery. Time for champagne and roses!

The billionaires’ financial world is surely recovering, and recovering very handsomely. But for the rest of us and for the working class in particular – no such thing!

Still the one message about the economy that Wall Street wants us to believe is the “trickle down” message. We are supposed to believe that things have to get better for the companies before things can get better for workers.

Well, stocks are soaring, profit margins are expanding, the vaults are overstuffed with excess profits – but where are the jobs? Where is our share of the wealth? In fact, jobs continue to disappear.

The real unemployment level, behind the massaged statistics, is nearly 25%. That is, one out of four workers in the U.S. cannot find full-time work.

The “participation in the labor force,” that is, the percentage of available workers who have work plus those actively seeking work, is 62.8%. Less than two thirds of the adult population is in the work force – this is the lowest figure in 35 years.

Nothing has “trickled down” to the working class. Every family with adult children knows they can’t find work, or only work that pays so little they must live in the parents’ home or rely heavily on the parents’ support. Everyone knows someone who has put in dozens and hundreds of job applications with zero response.

And yet, even while no jobs can be found, production is up. Way up! How can this be? Production of goods and services this year will top 15.6 TRILLION dollars – up from 14.9 trillion last year, up from 13.9 trillion in 2010.

Production is up, but jobs are down because year after year, the capitalist class and their Wall Street bankers have extorted more work out of fewer of us. Productivity is soaring, and the capitalists have stolen all its benefits.

In fact, on Wall Street, the way to boost a stock price is not to announce the creation of jobs, but to announce the thousands of layoffs that come from “restructuring” a firm.

Why should they be allowed to get away with this? We need to stop waiting and stake our claim to the fruits of our labor – and there are plenty of fruits to be picked!

Why should increases in productivity be an excuse to lay off workers? Why can’t the hours worked per week be reduced instead? Why can’t more workers be hired to maintain production? Why can’t wages be raised to a comfortable level?

If using the profits in this way would mean less money for the capitalists to gamble, speculate, and wheel and deal on the market – so what? Do we care?

No company, no employer, should be allowed to lay off one single worker more!

No company, no employer, should be allowed to pay poverty-level wages!

The capitalist class must be made to provide work for everyone who is ready to work.

Everyone could work fewer hours – with no loss of pay for anyone!

It won’t happen if workers continue to wait for “trickle down” to get to us. But it can happen, if workers join forces, using our irreplaceable power over production to impose what we need on Big Capital and Wall Street. Take the benefits of our increased productivity for ourselves and the whole working class!

Pages 2-3

The Typhoon of U.S. Imperialism:
Keeping the Philippines Poor for 100 Years

Nov 25, 2013

Two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, the estimated death count stood at over 5,000 and the number of those left homeless at four million.

Just like after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the media has talked about how unpredictable natural catastrophes are and about the misfortune of the people affected. However, even though a typhoon is a natural phenomenon at the root of the disaster, this is no explanation for how widespread the destruction was in the Philippines. Winds of the same strength did not have the same effect on Japan, a country whose accumulated wealth has for a long time allowed the construction of buildings capable of resisting earthquakes and storms.

It’s not an accident that aid like tents, food and medicine is getting to the refugees so slowly. If some remote villages still haven’t received aid, it’s not simply because the Philippines is made up of 7,000 islands, of which 150 are inhabited. First of all, it’s due to the fact that for any country organized by imperialism, the priority of the budget is never public services; the priority is the maintenance of repressive forces capable of containing social explosions.

People continue to die due to a lack of infrastructure and emergency services. The destruction from the typhoon is vastly magnified by the poverty of these islands. And this poverty is a direct result of U.S. imperialism.

Today, the average Filipino worker makes under $300 a month; many make much less. Many of these workers produce sugar, ships or electronics, or work in call centers – mostly for U.S.-owned companies. A small layer of rich Filipinos benefits, but most people on the islands barely scrape by. The poverty is so great that about 10 percent of the total population, or almost 10 million Filipinos, work outside the country on ships, as nurses, or even in the U.S. military. The country relies heavily on the money these workers send home. So U.S. corporations exploit Filipino workers in their own country, and exploit them further when poverty forces them to look for jobs elsewhere.

This exploitation of the Philippines by the United States has been going on for more than 100 years. In 1898, the U.S. took the Philippine Islands from Spain and turned them into a colony. The U.S. then fought a brutal four-year war to crush the Filipino independence movement. Two hundred thousand Filipinos lost their lives in the fight against the U.S.

After winning the war, U.S. companies set up plantations to grow sugar and other crops for export, in the process destroying much of the Filipinos’ subsistence economy. In 1935, the U.S. agreed it would grant the islands independence 12 years later. But first, the U.S. built up a Filipino military that was entirely beholden to the U.S., one that would protect the interests of U.S. corporations even after the Philippines became an independent country.

The U.S. established military bases throughout the country. It also played on divisions in the country, supporting the Catholic North against the Muslim South, even granting Catholics land in the South if they would move there as “settlers” and help fight the insurgency against U.S. rule.

After World War II, during which the Philippines were occupied by Japan, the U.S. granted the country formal independence, but retained military bases throughout the islands. It also kept the Filipino economy entirely dependent on the U.S. The Philippines remained an under-developed country, dominated by the same corporations that dominate the U.S. economy.

The U.S. also made sure the Philippines stayed dependent politically. Communists had led the Filipino resistance to Japanese occupation during World War II, and those who fought the Japanese didn’t want to submit to the return of U.S. domination. In the early 1950s, the U.S. built up a new Philippine Army as an anti-communist force, helping it defeat the new insurgency, using napalm attacks, among other things.

From that point forward, the Philippines has been ruled by a succession of corrupt presidents and dictators. The real power in the country, the military, has remained deeply linked to the U.S. military, always ready to set a limit to any policy that might challenge U.S. domination of these islands.

For more than 100 years now, U.S. imperialism has kept the Philippines under its thumb, keeping the islands poor, propping up one corrupt government after another, and playing on divisions between Catholics and Muslims. The unbelievable destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan has been made much worse by the destruction the United States continues to inflict on this country.

Los Angeles Schools:
Great iPad Scam

Nov 25, 2013

When the Los Angeles school district agreed to buy 700,000 iPads at $768 apiece, way above retail price, district officials said it was because the iPads came with software containing English and math curriculum.

As it turned out, however, the district was only buying a license to use the software for three years – less than three years, in fact, because thousands of the iPads will not even be delivered until late 2016, about six months before the license expires. After that, the school district will have to renew the license, for $50 to $100 a year per iPad – which could add up to more than 60 million dollars a year.

Normally when you buy a computer, you buy the software that goes with it, and the software is yours. But apparently not if your name is L.A. Unified School District, and you’re buying from Pearson, the major textbook company!

Computer software is even more profitable for Pearson, because they charge the same kind of prices they charge for textbooks, without having to print books anymore. And L.A. Unified is only too happy to hook them up!

No More Thanksgiving Holiday

Nov 25, 2013

As anyone who has ever worked retail can tell you, working the day after Thanksgiving is already miserable because many stores do a huge share of their annual sales on that day. Remember the Walmart worker trampled to death on the day after Thanksgiving in 2008? Now, because their greed is out of control, more and more businesses are opening on Thanksgiving itself, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Toys R Us, Staples, and even the dinner theater chain Medieval Times. And if a store like Best Buy opens at 6p.m., that means workers have to be there all day setting up for the sales. Most of these workers are part-time, meaning they have no sick days and are likely to get fired if they try to call off.

Some companies like Walmart try to pretend workers like coming in on Thanksgiving, since the company is providing a turkey dinner for the one million workers it will have on hand that day. Walmart Executive Vice President Duncan Mac Noughton had the nerve to say: “Walmart associates are really excited to work that day, it’s a pretty high energy day for associates as well.” By “excited” he must mean “angry as hell.”

Since the 1800s, paid holidays have been a basic demand of the workers movement. Not so long ago, almost everyone in the country got them, and almost no one worked Thanksgiving or Christmas. That millions of U.S. retail workers will be on the job over Thanksgiving is a mark of how far back the bosses have pushed the working class.

Detroit Public Schools Finance Scam Continues

Nov 25, 2013

Michigan’s State Superintendent Mike Flanagan made great fanfare in announcing that the Detroit Public Schools was taken off the federal high-risk status by the Michigan Department of Education.

For the people and the students of Detroit, this changes nothing. The DPS will still be run by an Emergency Manager appointed by the governor, running the district like a dictatorship.

But now, the Emergency Dictator will have even greater control over the district’s finances: the DPS will not have to have its school improvement plans approved by the state; and it will no longer have to have any contracts over $25,000 approved or put out for bid.

So all this does is allow the Emergency Dictator to hand out more money to corporate contractors, without any oversight!

The DPS debt has risen every one of the past five years under Emergency Managers, thanks to greater and greater privatization of its services. Contractors now have even bigger dollar signs in their eyes – and they’re blowing kisses to Jack Martin, the current Emergency Manager.

Pages 4-5

Education Deformed, Not Reformed

Nov 25, 2013

The following remarks come from a presentation at a Spark public meeting in Detroit this past October.

The current phase of so-called “education reform” has deep roots in Chicago. The opening shot was a state law passed in 1995 by the Illinois legislature, handing control over the school district to then Mayor Daley. Democrat Daley conspired with Republicans in the state legislature to get the law, which allowed Daley to appoint the school board. It’s been filled with millionaire businesspeople ever since.

The law also allowed him to consolidate different school taxes into one pot of money – allowing him to put his hands on the money dedicated to teacher pensions. And the law cut back on seniority for teachers. Teachers, even veterans, laid off from a school no longer had any right to a job – they were put in the same boat as new applicants. In fact, they were often in a worse position. They knew their rights, and their wages were higher – making them less attractive when principals were hiring. This has meant the teaching force has gotten younger, less experienced, and more white in a city where 90% of the students are black or Hispanic.

The 1995 law also allowed the heads of the district to close schools in the poor neighborhoods. Combined with a 1997 law on charters, this provision was used in order to force children from neighborhood schools into charters – or to close schools attended by poor children in areas that real estate interests planned to gentrify.

This Illinois policy went national in Bush’s No Child Left Behind law in 2001.

Finally, the law allowed Daley to appoint a schools chief with no education background. Daley said he was going to a “business model” for education, so the title for this job became CEO. I’m going to mention the name of the Daley’s CEO, because he became a key figure in education reform nationally: Paul Vallas. Vallas had been Daley’s budget director. He had, and still has, absolutely no background in education. Vallas proceeded to attack struggling schools. He began contracting out many services within schools – computer systems, printing, custodial services and lunchroom management, among others, were given over to private operators for private profit, reducing the money actually spent on services for children. And he laid off teachers, reducing still further the attention children received.

He placed a huge emphasis on test scores, to the exclusion of education. Controversially, students’ promotion from 3rd, 6th and 8th grade was made contingent on test scores. That meant that tens of thousands of students, mostly from poor backgrounds were kept back – without any extra resources put into the schools to help them catch up. It was a way to discard a portion of the children. One of Vallas’ tests inspired a test boycott by a dozen teachers at one high school – a boycott that caused the Board to drop that test.

Vallas’ reign of terror ended when an opposition within the union came to power in an anti-Vallas vote. Parents and community members had also been angry with him. Daley was forced to let him go in 2001.

Taking the “Reform” Show on the Road

Vallas became the traveling salesman of “education reform” – plowing a path of destruction through the school district and students of Philadelphia. There he carried out the same reforms – contracting out services, cutting budgets, and handing forty schools over to charters. This year, Philadelphia closed 24 schools – more than 10% of the system. Students in Philadelphia schools started this year with no counselors, no nurses, no clerks, no support staff, no sports. Thousands of teachers were laid off. One sixth-grade girl died of an asthma attack last month – in a school with no nurse.

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Vallas took over the school system there. “Reformers” saw the destruction wrought on the city as the “opportunity of a lifetime.” Vallas promptly replaced half of the system’s schools with charters, and displaced a huge number of unionized black teachers, in favor of younger white, inexperienced and untrained teachers from “Teach for America.” The move was part of the plan to make sure working people displaced from places like the lower 9th Ward would not return, leaving the whole city free for the wealthy.

Vallas then went to Haiti, to offer his “expert advice” there on how to give public schools over to private operators.

Vallas was appointed to a job running the schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but he encountered resistance. Parents were elected to a majority of the school board and insisted that he be fired. And they challenged his position in court – school superintendents in Connecticut are required to have education and administrator credentials.

Vallas didn’t wait to see if he kept the job. He signed on to run as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s running mate in next year’s election.

Back in Chicago

Arne Duncan followed Vallas. Duncan also was not an educator. He had played basketball professionally – in Australia – then moved on to Ariel Capital Management, one of Chicago’s biggest hedge funds, and one that looked for ways to make money off the schools.

In 2004, the Civic Committee of the Chicago Commercial Club, made up of CEO’s and some of the city’s wealthiest people, worked out a plan with Duncan and Chicago Public Schools to close, consolidate, or “turn-around” 100 mostly neighborhood schools between 2004 and 2010. They called their plan “Renaissance 2010.”

Real estate interests had been pushing for several decades to “gentrify” previously poor and working class areas of the city. School closings served this drive.

Chicago’s Near West Side is close to the city’s downtown Loop district. This part of the city previously included a number of public housing projects, inhabited primarily by poor black Chicagoans. But so-called “developers” moved in. Over the course of the last 15 years, much of that public housing has been removed; the residents were displaced. Under Renaissance 2010, many of the neighborhood elementary schools were closed. And this drove more people out who used to live in the area. Charter schools, which do not take the poorest students, replaced some of the closed schools. Other closing schools were converted to ones with special programs, like Science Technology magnets, programs that attract middle class families, and exclude more working class.

It’s no accident that the head of the school board during much of the change, Michael Scott, was a real estate developer with lots of property in that same area.

About 100 schools were closed during that time period – the great majority of them in working class black neighborhoods already beset with unemployment and poverty.

This process will probably accelerate – Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, closed 50 schools just last year, and 20 the year before, most of them in black neighborhoods. The idea seems to be to clear out large parts of the city where working people live so that so-called “developers” can buy up the land for cheap.

This gentrification program has already taken its toll: the black population of Chicago fell by almost 180,000 between 2000 and 2010 according to the Census; that’s about 16%.

Driving Children Out of the Public Schools

In this attack on neighborhood schools, Duncan and Emanuel used the 1997 Illinois law on charters. It allowed non-profit organizations to get charters to run schools privately with public money. In the beginning some charters may have been run by community organizations or groups of teachers. But today the field is dominated by large concerns that are “non-profit” only on paper.

UNO Schools, for example, runs one of the largest charter chains. A reporter recently revealed that the heads of the supposedly “non-profit” UNO gave out multimillion dollar contracts to construction firms run by relatives – relatives who made political contributions to the politicians who gave UNO the charter to run schools. UNO also used school money to buy up a lot of land, speculating on real estate. And UNO executives all make six-figure salaries. Because of this kind of operation, UNO spends only 50% of its money in the classroom – that is, on students. For comparison, the Chicago Public Schools puts 70% into the classroom.

The district is starving the neighborhood schools to drive students to the charters. Kelly High School, for example, lost over four million dollars from its budget this year, and had to lay off 20 teachers and counselors, pushing students to leave. No accident that Kelly has three UNO charter schools within a few blocks.

Many schools, particularly struggling neighborhood schools, saw their budgets cut by 10 to 20% this year. In all, more than 3,000 teachers and staff lost their jobs. Librarians, counselors, and the arts teachers were the first to be laid off, further diminishing resources for children.

Many so-called “failing” schools have had their entire staff fired, teachers, lunchroom workers, custodians, administrators, coaches. Everyone had to reapply for their job – and no more than half, usually less, were hired back. And management of the school has often been given over to a private operator. It’s meant total chaos. Getting rid of the adults the students knew massively disrupted the students’ learning community.

Derrion Albert was one such student; his south-side high school had been closed and given over to a military high school. He had to attend a new high school further away. Then that school was “turned around” – so the school disruptions stacked one on top of the other. One month into the year, Albert was caught and killed walking through a big fight right in front of his latest school.

A National Scheme to Hijack the Public Schools

As Secretary of Education, Duncan’s Chicago “reforms” have gone national. Instead of ending Bush’s ridiculous “No Child Left Behind” law, Duncan expanded it with “Race to the Top.” Continuing this “market orientation,” Race to the Top was framed as a contest for a few billion dollars – a contest between state boards of education. It was nothing but a pretext to force states to increase testing, introduce charter schools, and tie teacher evaluations to student test scores – which is nothing but a way to reduce teacher salaries.

The children will learn to take tests and follow orders, but not to think or to enjoy art, music and culture, not to learn what history and science and literature have to offer. Rahm Emanuel told the teachers union president that “25% of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything, and I’m never going to throw money at them.” That sums up pretty succinctly the bourgeoisie’s current policy toward the schools – with some rich-man’s contempt thrown in.

Duncan and Vallas are not alone in these attacks; they are part of a national drive to break up and privatize public education. They are officers in an army of administrators without education backgrounds. Their boot-camp is the Broad Academy, where they get their training and then take their “reform” show on the road. Here are some “Broadies” who may be familiar. Barbara Byrd Bennett closed schools in Cleveland and Detroit, before presiding over the latest round of closings in Chicago. John Covington closed half of Kansas City’s public schools, before moving to Detroit. And Robert Bobb worked to close schools in Washington, D.C. before coming to Detroit. This is a conscious, national policy to take apart our public schools, coordinated both by big business and government at the federal, state and city level. They want the money spent on children to go to profit and let the children of the working class be damned.

Teachers Back the “Reformers” Off

Nov 25, 2013

In 2011, the Illinois state legislature passed Senate Bill 7 – written by an “astroturf” organization – a fake organization pretending to be grassroots – funded by Bill Gates and other so-called reformers. The law allowed Mayor Emanuel to radically lengthen the school day without negotiating with teachers – and without providing additional money to schools for necessary salary, staff, playgrounds, computer labs or programs to make a longer day worthwhile.

The law also targeted Chicago’s unionized teachers’ ability to fight back. It forbids teachers to strike unless 75% of them voted to strike. That’s not 75% of those voting – which no politician ever gets – that’s 75% of anyone eligible to vote. One of the “reformers” bragged several months later that a teachers’ strike was now “impossible,” leaving the mayor a free hand to attack teachers. He had to eat his words a year later – Emanuel’s full tilt attack galvanized teachers to respond: 90% of them voted to strike.

The strike, lasting a little over a week, was a slap at the mayor – a mark of the teachers’ determination not to accept his attacks.

Pages 6-7

Health Insurance Cancellations:
Policyholders Screwed

Nov 25, 2013

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are angry after receiving notices from their health insurance companies that say their policies will soon be canceled. And they’re angry for good reason: Not only are they going to have to pay more for new policies, but Obama claimed months ago that this simply wouldn’t happen under his health care reforms.

Of course, these people were screwed to begin with. All the stripped-down insurance policies now scheduled to be cancelled have always been a rip-off for the people who bought them. Even after paying thousands of dollars for one of these policies, every year they have had to pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets for health care before their insurance paid for anything, or they have had big co-pays, or BOTH!

And now they’ll be screwed again – because Obama’s supposed changes still leave it up to each insurance company whether to offer to renew the same old crappy policies – or insist that those with canceled policies buy NEW ones that are even more expensive.

If Obama truly wanted to get people better coverage, he would force companies to replace these policies with polices that meet or exceed the minimum stands set by the ACA. And no one would be forced to pay more for their new policy than they are now paying for their existing one!

But that’s clearly not what this program is designed to do!

GE Says:
Half Pay or Be Fired

Nov 25, 2013

General Electric has told the 200 union workers at its capacitor plant in Fort Edward, New York that if they want to keep their jobs, they have to lower their pay by half. Otherwise, GE says it will move to Tampa, Florida.

GE currently pays $29 an hour in Fort Edward. With that a worker can support a family at a decent standard of living. But in Tampa’s GE plant, regular workers are only paid $12 to $14 an hour, and there are temporary workers paid $8 an hour.

General Electric is hardly a poor company. It is one of the top manufacturers in the United States and has 305,000 workers world- wide. It had 145 billion dollars in sales last year and 15 billion dollars in profits.

The loss of these jobs would be a big blow to the town of Fort Edward, a town of only 6,000 people. But GE doesn’t think twice about blackmailing these workers – simply because it can.

Every attack on one group of workers ends up in an attack on us all. It is time we draw the line and say “No More!”

Page 8

JFK:
A Politician like the Others

Nov 25, 2013

Officials and the news media used the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy to try to reinforce the old story about how Kennedy represented something different than other presidents before him. This Hollywood version of history has nothing to do with reality.

In fact, Kennedy “took up the torch” from the Eisenhower administration to try to smother in blood all challenges to U.S. domination around the world. One focus of the Kennedy administration was Cuba, since the mobilization led by Castro had not only overthrown a U.S.-sponsored puppet, but refused to bow down to U.S. dictates and instead had secured aid and support from the Soviet Union, against the U.S. The Kennedy administration first sponsored an invasion of the country at the Bay of Pigs, which turned out to be a complete fiasco. So, Kennedy followed up with Operation Mongoose, a campaign of terrorist attacks and assassination attempts. Kennedy even took the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Confronting the growing social unrest and movements against U.S.-sponsored regimes throughout Latin America, the Kennedy administration bolstered the military machines in all those countries, and encouraged a rash of military takeovers and harsh repression – for example, 1962 in the Dominican Republic and 1963 in Ecuador – trying to secure the Western Hemisphere for continued U.S. capitalist investment and plunder.

The Kennedy administration also ramped up the U.S.’s Viet Nam War. Eisenhower had already sent a U.S. military force of 900 to Viet Nam. But Kennedy bolstered U.S. combat forces up to 16,732 – trying to cover it up with the lie that U.S. troops were merely “advisors.” Kennedy himself admitted to The New York Times’ Washington Bureau Chief, James Reston, late in 1961 after the failure of the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, “Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Viet Nam is the place.” Of course, what Kennedy meant by “credible” power was bombs, bullets and war.

On the home front, Kennedy was little more than a tool of business against workers and unions. The infamous Senator Joe McCarthy, who had spearheaded the anti-communist witch hunt that purged the unions of some of their best militants during the 1950s, was an old friend of the Kennedy family. As a U.S. Senator in the 1950s, Jack Kennedy himself had helped sponsor the anti-union Landrum-Griffin Act that, among other things, made several kinds of strikes illegal.

In 1962, Kennedy advocated slashing taxes for businesses and the wealthy – supposedly in order to stimulate the “sluggish” economy. In 1964, Johnson followed through on this “Kennedy legacy” by cutting the rate on the top tax bracket from 91 per cent to 70 per cent. For good measure, Johnson also cut the corporate income tax rate. No, the Republicans aren’t the only ones who cut the taxes for the “one per cent!”

Not surprisingly, Kennedy was never popular amongst ordinary working people when he was in office. But with his assassination, the news media and U.S. officials went into overdrive, blanketing the population with the Kennedy myth.

Kennedy was suddenly pictured as a friend of the civil rights movement. Malcolm X took this on immediately. Barely two weeks after Kennedy was killed, Malcolm X’s speech in Harlem dissected the real Kennedy policy. Throughout 1963, an important battleground had been in Birmingham, Alabama. As Malcolm X explained, “During the many long weeks when the police dogs and police clubs and the high pressure water hoses were brutalizing black women and children and babies ..., the late President did nothing but sit on his hands. He said there was nothing he could do. But when Negroes in Birmingham exploded and began to defend themselves, the late President then sent in Federal troops, not to defend the Negroes, but to defend the whites against whom the Negroes had finally retaliated.”

After the speech, Malcolm X explained to reporters that, “President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon ... being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad.

In other words, Kennedy had fallen victim to the very same violence that he had helped to create.

Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in Michigan

Nov 25, 2013

A nineteen-year-old black woman, Renisha McBride, was shot and killed in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The Dearborn Heights police initially refused to charge her killer, a white man named Theodore Wafer, saying they were still investigating.

Certain facts in the case are known. McBride had earlier been involved in a car accident. She apparently had been drinking, and was by herself, late at night, in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Since McBride is now dead, no one can say for sure what happened in the roughly two hours between the accident and when she was killed. What is known for sure is that she came to the front porch of Wafer’s home, he was behind a locked door and a locked screen door, he had a loaded shotgun, and he unloaded the gun in the face of a black teenage woman.

The police initially told McBride’s family she was killed elsewhere and her body dumped in Dearborn Heights. Neighbors say the police told them McBride tried to break into the home, and the homeowner shot her in self-defense.

The Dearborn Heights cops lied. They knew who killed McBride, because Wafer called 911 and told the dispatcher he shot her. Even they now admit there were no signs she tried to break into the home, nothing the homeowner could construe as a threat.

As this information became public, the attitudes of the white homeowner’s defenders and the authorities shifted to the assassination of McBride’s character. They said McBride had been drinking heavily and had marijuana in her system. No one bothered to test the shooter for alcohol, and if McBride was heavily intoxicated, it means she was even less of a threat to Wafer.

If a man inside his own home, who could have moved away from the door and called 911, believed this young black woman was a threat, it absolutely reflects the racist attitudes in this society. In the real material world she was obviously no threat, but in his mind she was. The same racist attitudes are reflected in the attempts of the Dearborn Heights Police Department to cover for McBride’s killer and the attempts of the authorities and the media to demonize every black person killed by someone white. Those racist attitudes have claimed another victim.