been a lot of talk in the progressive community, that is, in
the mostly white progressive community, that Black people are
not pulling their weight in opposing Bush's war on Iraq.
I hear these
thoughts on KPFK radio in Los Angeles. I heard them recently
at the Socialist Scholar's Conference in New York where I "appeared"
to be the only African-American panelist. I hear it from my
fellow Greens. Why aren't Black people marching against war?
at these allegations and try to determine if Black politicians,
Black people, and the Black media are avoiding the issue of
war on Iraq, or worse, are for the war on Iraq.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a Black woman, was the only House
member who voted against a resolution authorizing President
Bush to use force against anyone associated with the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks. Lee remains
committed against the war. She was one of several members
of the Congressional Black Caucus who took to the House floor
to address the conflict with Iraq on the Tuesday before the
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Chairman of the Black Caucus,
tried unsuccessfully to meet with President Bush to address
Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J. asked that we seek everything
in our power to find a peaceful solution to the situation in
Waters, D-Calif., questioned whether the United States had set
aside the search for Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
"We are worried that the war on terrorism is taking a back
seat to a pre-emptive strike on Saddam Hussein," Waters
said. "Yes, every country should be able to defend itself,
but we're in no danger from Iraq. Striking Saddam is not fighting
DC Congressman Walter Fauntroy, just back from a 10-day peace
mission to Iraq, said many African Americans oppose the prospect
of war because it would divert resources from more important
programs at home. "We know that every bomb that explodes
is robbing our children and their families of five things: Income,
education, health care, housing and justice."
OK, it seems
that Black politicians unlike White politicians (except for
the voice of Presidential Hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who
attempted to rescind the authorized use of force given to President
Bush by 81 Democrats and 215 Republicans last October) are speaking
out against the war. Well, then it must be the Black person
on the street who won't speak out against the war. Where are
they on the war issue?
5, 2003 the Southwest Wave in Los Angeles asked this question
of Black people. "Do you favor this war?" The answer
was 100% "No". Every Black person I ask on the street,
except for one religious fanatical friend who's waiting for
the second coming of Christ, is against this war.
it's not the people on the street that we're talking about.
It must be the Black newspapers that won't speak out against
the war. Where are they on the war issue?
is now time for us as citizens to get involved to express our
views on this expensive war issue. If you believe we are going
to take care of soldiers after the war, ask any veteran standing
on freeways asking for money for food and standing on street
corners waving you down to get your car washed." - Hardy
Brown, Editor, Black Voices.
of the most important anti-war efforts - the city council resolutions
opposing war - have taken place in cities where whites are a
minority. In fact, of the 25 cities with population of over
100,000 that have passed anti-war resolutions, 15 have white
minorities. Of these 15, six have an African American majority
and six an African American plurality. For the past four decades,
Black elected officials and mass organizations have expressly
linked issues of domestic social justice and peaceful international
relations. Polling evidence is conclusive over two generations:
Anti-war politics is mainstream Black politics." - The
should repeal [the] Iraq Resolution, Bush should come before
Congress if he seeks to go to war." - Exodus
than half of the African American population joins with Fauntroy
in opposition to a war with Iraq. Just 44 percent of African
Americans favor military action in Iraq, compared with 67 percent
of Hispanics and 73 percent of Whites." - The
the National Student Strike and Peace March in Oakland, California
on March 5th, aggressive police attacked the peaceful, singing
crowd of young and elderly people of color with their motorcycles
and weapons. Two reporters from the SF Bay View newspaper were
injured and then also arrested." - San
Francisco Bay View.
OK, it looks
like Black politicians unlike most White politicians, Black
people on the street unlike most White people on the street,
and Black newspapers unlike almost every mainstream white newspaper,
are firmly against the war on Iraq. Why then is the white anti-war
movement accusing Black people of not pulling our weight against
to this question lies in the specter of racism firmly entrenched
is true. Black people are not represented in demonstrations
in numbers approaching our proportion of the population. And
for good reason!
people remain under the prison industrial complex in proportions
far greater than our proportion of the population.
activists do not share leadership with, and are not willing
to follow the lead of people and organizations of color.
movement against the war on Iraq fails to recognize the continuing
war on communities of color. White activists continue to ignore
issues that speak to the experiences and struggles of people
demonstrations, disproportionately white and middle class,
are done by those who can most easily take the time and expense
to travel to major anti-war events.
that the above is true, we should ask the questions posed by
The Black commentator: "Why should it be assumed that African
Americans will come when white people call, for any cause?
Have white people responded to Black-led movements seeking broad
social change in anything approaching whites' proportion of
answer is, No!
is true that older whites participated in the 1963 March on
Washington and in the civil rights movement. Yet whites were
only a fraction of the quarter-million strong crowd, [and
the civil rights movement], while outnumbering African Americans
in the general population eight to one.
more intelligent question needs to be asked, "Why don't
African Americans rally to Black-led causes more often
and in greater numbers?"
are the whites in these movements?
have prevented the social harms in this country to people of
color - the prison industrial complex, the death penalty, the
lack of education, housing, and medical care. Yet, these movements
are not led by the millions of anti-war protesters who march
for another "community of color" thousands of miles
away. Don't misunderstand me. The war on Iraq is important,
very important but it is not more important than the war on
communities of color that whites have condoned and promoted
for the last 30 years.
Black men wanted to march against the war, one out of three
cannot because they are under the yoke of the prison industrial
complex. This system ensures we are kept out of the democratic
industrial complex in California boomed under Governor Jerry
Brown, was expanded by President Bill Clinton, and is maintained
and continues to grow under Governor Gray Davis. Do I need to
point out the obvious? The massa is white.
Senate had an opportunity last year to return Americans back
to our "Democracy" with Senate Bill 565. Senate Bill
565 would have restored voting rights for ex-felons. One out
of every 3 Black men is in prison, on parole, or under some
form of prison supervision. Yet 24 Senate Democrats, including
Dianne Feinstein from California, voted to deny ex-felons the
right to vote. In California, ex-felons already have the right
to vote but Feinstein still voted "no". Most felons
in California's prisons are there for non-violent felonies,
largely drug-related. The drugs were allowed into the inner
cities by the CIA and the Department of Justice in the 1980's.
the white progressive community in this fight?
who would be marching against the war "live in fear of
becoming too visible to authorities that treat every young Black
as a probationer."
ago in Oakland, large numbers of Black and Latino youth from
the hood came out and voiced their opinion about the War. Police
aggressively retaliated. They ran over the youth with police
motorcycles even though the youth demonstrated peacefully.
demonstrations also took place in San Francisco during rush
hour that day but in San Francisco, a contingent of mostly white
youth who took their antiwar protest to the streets and blocked
a main intersection causing traffic to back up were not rolled
over by police motorcycles.
live in very different worlds. In much of Black America, police
state conditions have existed for some time and people of color
are disproportionately subjected to poor schools, inadequate
jobs, poor health care, and poor housing. The White anti-war
movement needs to recognize these facts, and work with Black
activists to bring an end to America's war on our communities.
Jo Warren is a native of South Central Los Angeles and a former
Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor of California (www.donnawarren.com).
She may be reached at email@example.com.
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