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Challenging Anti-Black Racism

Here in my city, Chicago (Illinois, USA), protesters, large numbers of them Black people, are marching and demonstrating every day against racism in our criminal justice system. They are demanding that our (very openly Jewish) mayor give up his job. They are demanding that our (Latina) county prosecutor give up her job. The mayor was already forced to fire the (white Gentile working-class) police chief. Many people are working in many ways—in government, in community organizations, as journalists—to make big and lasting changes here. They have many proposals and ideas for transforming many aspects of how our city works. This week the federal government began investigating the historic patterns of discrimination of our police force.

The most recent reason for all this was the release of a video of a young Black man, Laquan McDonald, being shot sixteen times as he walked away from a white police officer. But that was just one of many, many acts of violence here against Black people that have been happening for many years. The Chicago Police Department and the political system in Chicago have had a long history of repression and racism.

Of Chicago’s approximately three million people, about thirty-five percent are Black. Between 2010 and 2014, police shot and killed about seventy people here, and about seventy-five percent of them were Black. Earlier this year, our city agreed to pay five million dollars in reparations to dozens of Black men (and their families) who were tortured by police over a period of decades,.

We have had just one Black person elected mayor here—Harold Washington, who was extremely popular but who died suddenly in 1987 while he was in office. It took a huge movement of Black people to get him elected, so his death was a huge loss for our city that we have never gotten to grieve. It has left many of us feeling hopeless and defeated.

Now there is a new generation of Black youth who weren’t even alive when Harold Washington was elected. And they are ready to transform every system in our entire city. They do not want reform. They want real change, and they are willing to work hard for it. I have lived here for twenty-five years, and I have never before seen this level of activism.

As for the attacks on our political leaders, I hate scapegoating. I know it is wrong and that it goes against RC theory. I know we cannot see individuals as the reason for the problems. But I cannot excuse the anti-Black racism that these leaders and others have fostered under their watch. It has been open and vicious and outrageous. (Before becoming mayor, our mayor worked for President Obama, the nation’s first Black president. This is all so complicated in so many ways.)

It has been both exhausting and amazing for me to be working on things from both inside and outside the system. There will be a lot of work to do for a long time, and I love it. It is exciting to see many, many people coming together to demand change. There are so many opportunities here, now that the entire country, and world, is noticing the abuse and racism that our system has perpetuated.

Here are some of the questions I am wrestling with:

How do we take a stand against hating or scapegoating anyone, even if his or her policies are bad and full of racism against Black people? How can people be removed from certain positions and supported to play other roles, without being hated? Can we find other useful roles for them to play as we transform society?

How can we as Black people begin to look at the effects of anti-Jewish oppression on our own minds and our ability to build lasting movements for change?

How can we build a movement of Gentiles and Jews standing together against the intersection of racism and anti-Jewish oppression? Can “progressive” white Jews or Gentiles help other Jews and Gentiles think better about racism rather than turning away from them? How do we get more white Gentiles to stand with Jews even when things are messy and difficult? How do we help more Jews support Black people to play the most visible, vocal roles, even if that means challenging their own internalized oppression and the white privilege of white Gentiles?

How can we as Black people use this moment to face some of the issues (ageism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and so on) that have divided our community?

How can people with middle-class “comfortable” lives be more fully engaged in all that is happening?

How can other people of the global majority build movements together with Black people and put our issues at the center?

How do we help these mostly young activists make issues related to the planet and climate their own and see them as connected to all the big systems they are working so hard to change? How do we connect the issues in ways that honor the hard work of these young people?

Tim Jackins is right when he reminds us that this is a good time to try things—outside of RC. As Co-Counselors we have a lot to do and a lot of perspective to offer.

Please share how you are working on these issues where you live, including in your RC Communities.

A—

Chicago, Illinois, USA

Reprinted from the e-mail discussion list for RC Community members

(Present Time 183, April 2016)


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00