October 23rd, November 5th and Beyond: What’s Next in Oscar Grant StrugglePosted: October 21, 2010
This saturday at noon in Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland there will be a protest for justice for Oscar Grant that has been organized by the ILWU Local 10, and built by workers, activists, revolutionaries, community members, college and high school students. ILWU local 10 represents the longshoremen workers, a majority black worker local that has experienced police brutality on the job, which also fuels their interest in organizing a political rally and possible work stoppage against state violence. The union is known for their militancy, and has shut down the ports before for political issues, such as Mumia, South African Apartheid, and recently stopped shipment of Israeli cargo.
It is nice to see organized labor and community members becoming involved in political issues, such as the police murder of Oscar Grant, especially right before the sentencing comes out on November 5th. But what is especially important is what happens after November 5th, because a movement against police violence must go beyond Oscar Grant. Not that Oscar Grants murder isn’t important, because it is. It sparked a movement here in Oakland, and continues to politicize people. That is important. However, Black and Brown men and women, immigrants, and queer people are regularly harassed, beaten, deported and murdered by the pigs. Gang injunctions in West Oakland, North Oakland, and Fruitvale are targeting Black and Brown youth, and criminalizing them much in the same way that anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 targets immigrants. The other day one of my students, a 13 year old, told me how he was harassed by the pigs when he was attempting to tag a wall. The pig grabbed the collar of his shirt, spit on it and used it to wipe up the paint, nearly choking him in the process. This type of abuse goes down daily in the Town, where working-class Black and Brown youth live or should I say survive, because it is hard to live when you are constantly under attack by the pigs. You go to Piedmont or Berkeley you don’t see this type of harassment and abuse by the cops to affluent white kids.
WHY IS THAT?!
These aren’t isolated cases of bad cops and racism. No, this type of systematized state violence is how the system functions and keeps us in check within this oppressive division of labor, because they know they are fucking us over. This is the nature of the racist and sexist capitalist system we live in. It functions on a small group (the rich) owning everything while we (the working-class) are forced to work till we die just for a few crumbs from their pie. Then they pin us against each other to compete and fight for these crumbs when we need to be fighting the entire system and taking the pie back for ourselves. That’s whats going to give us justice. That’s what revolution is, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say it. Revolution! Malcolm wasn’t afraid; Fred Hampton wasn’t; Assata wasn’t. We wear their images on shirts, but do we know what they stood for? And what some of them have died for?
Now I see people wearing shirts with Obama’s face on it. What is he doing for Black people and poor people in this country? Nothing. Meanwhile he is saying there is no money for schools and healthcare, but there sure is a hell of a lot of money to kill poor Brown people in the Middle East. There are billions of dollars to wage war, bail out banks, and the bourgeoisie so why do Black and Brown children die everyday from curable diseases in this country? Why do schools close down everyday? Why are homes being bulldozed while people and families are forced into the streets? Why is food dumped into the ocean or burned to the ground when people die from hunger? All of this happening in a country that is supposedly founded on freedom and democracy. Freedom and democracy for who?
This brings me back to the true nature of this system and its historical roots in violence and bloodshed. The true nature of this system is built around profit. The rich get richer while we have nothing but our ability to work till we can’t work no more. They brought my ancestors over here on slave ships, forced them to work this land, and build up the wealth of the rich. They used the KKK to keep the division of labor in check, and terrorize our communities, make us afraid of rebelling. This KKK transitioned into the police force, which exists to serve and protect the rich, much in the same way the KKK was used to protect the rich slave holding class.
Slave women had a more severe experience due to the patriarchal nature of their oppression; they were oppressed and exploited as slaves and as women. They were raped and forced to reproduce the slave population; women lost all control over their bodies. The patriarchal nature of capitalism and how it works with racism is not discussed enough when we are analyzing systems of oppression in this country. It’s not just about racism and it’s not just about state violence happening to men. The violent colonization of Black and Brown women’s bodies is key to keeping this oppressive system intact. The massive amounts of rape and sexualized violence that happens to women combined with the massive cuts to healthcare and reproductive services demonstrates the states continual control over our bodies and reproductive capacities today. Women of color also face direct violence from the state and are terrorized and murdered too, but are often not included in the picture or discussion of who is under attack by the pigs. The roots of our oppression today are grounded in the racist and sexist experience of slavery in this country and we will continue to face this oppression until we tear out these roots and plant a new tree.
I am focusing largely on the Black experience, but this isn’t just a Black issue. Although the police and prison system do run deep in our communities, Latinos and Asians have had a similar experience of colonization and exploitative oppression under the global system of capitalism. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo resulted in the United States government taking a huge chunk of Mexico’s land, mainly what is now California and New Mexico, and forcing indigenous Mexicans to work and develop US industry. Today amidst all the anti-immigrant legislation and sentiment that is coming from the bourgeoisie, there is still a huge reliance on cheap, immigrant labor to do all the agricultural work and jobs that most ‘Americans’ would not want to do. Chinese immigrants were brought over to help build the transcontinental railroad, and faced extreme acts of violence and anti-immigrant legislation. The United States government has always relied on colonization and immigrant labor to produce a highly exploitable workforce for maximum profit all the while fueling the masses with anti-immigrant and racist ideology to enforce such a racialized division of labor.
Our sweat is the salt of the earth, our blood is in the soil. This violent oppression has built the wealth of this country for the rich…not for us. Our we going to continue to be exploited, oppressed and murdered too? Are we going to continue to allow them to profit off of this oppression, which they have been doing since they stole this country from the indigenous peoples? Hell no!
We need a revolutionary change and that will only happen through uniting and self-organizing as an oppressed class against our oppressors: the rich ruling class. No matter how many Obama’s we vote in no real change is going to happen until the people decide there is a different way to live; a way of living that is grounded in the collective development and health of the community not just the individual wealth of the rich. We can get there and one of our first steps should be to use the tools of the oppressors against them as we fight back as workers, students, women, queers, and colorful folks. People should come out to the protest on October 23rd in downtown Oakland, and shut down their schools and workplaces on November 5th, much in the same way immigrants did on May 1st 2006, where immigrants self-organized a boycott to protest the anti-immigrant bill HR 4437. Nobody went to school, work or shopped; instead a million people gathered in downtown LA and effectively shut down the city. This heroic and inspiring act by the working-class and immigrant populations in LA stopped profit and business as usual forcing the politicians to listen to their demands and the legislation was defeated. If we are going to get justice for Oscar Grant and ourselves we must engage in such militant actions here. Don’t shop, go to school or work on November 5th; lets send a message to our oppressors that we won’t let them continue business as usual while our people are dying in the streets from police violence and are struggling just to survive while they profit off of it all. And as we move forward beyond November 5th and any other number of activist dates we need to start thinking of the bigger picture, and of bringing political clarity to the Black and Brown working-class of Oakland. This involves exposing the truth and contradictions of the system so that people know that the only change were gonna see comes from the action of the oppressed against the system.
We built this country, but we built it for the oppressors. Now its time to take it back!