It's time for the world to unite as a human race
The title comes from Bob Marley, the gifted Jamaican musician and anti-racist activist. The interracial protests led by Black Lives Matter (BLM) are built upon the long-time efforts of other African-American groups. Protests have focused on police murders, but must address the economic violence of capitalism that leaves an estimated 4 million African Americans without health insurance, resulting in 5,000 poor and working-class black deaths each year. Their lives matter.
This powerful national movement is beginning to condemn the far greater U.S. military violence against blacks and people of color abroad. As Filipino scholar Walden Bellow writes, “the deadly interplay of racism, genocide and radical denial at the heart of American white society” has found its most lethal violence in Washington’s Asian wars in the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam (ZNET, July 5).
Facing the upheaval and fear of COVID-19 and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the powerful interracial protests can move us forward to end of racial injustice. Or, as black scholar-activist Cornel West argues, things will essentially stay the same but with more “black faces in high places,” such as Colin Powell, Reagan’s national security adviser and G.W. Bush’s secretary of state, who was among those who got us into the unconstitutional and illegal Iraq invasion; Clarence Thomas, G.H.W. Bush’s Supreme Court appointment; Condoleezza Rice, G.W. Bush’s national security adviser during the Iraq invasion; and Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser during illegal U.S. wars in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
The current protests are responding to a long train of abuses suffered by African Americans: enslavement, exploited labor, imprisonment, segregation, police and civilian murders, poverty, poor housing and schooling, and high unemployment. The mass outrage we now witness has forced many of us to pay attention to bitter injustices we have long denied and failed to confront.
While the BLM-led protests have challenged systemic racism, we have also witnessed symbolic and essentially empty gestures of support. For example, “Hundreds of corporations, nearly all in the hands of white executives and white board members, enthusiastically pumped out messages on social media condemning racism and demanding justice after George Floyd was choked to death by police ...” (Chris Hedges, Sheerpost.com, July 14). These cosmetic comments cost American corporations nothing, and were prompted by the massive protests; if they had not arisen, we would not have seen a single gesture of solidarity. Without continued pressure, therefore, it’s a delusion to believe that fundamental change will be supported by institutions that have been silent about and profited from racism in the past.
Vietnam veteran and historian Andrew Bacevich wants the BLM protests to connect the key issue of violence against people of color at home to a larger crisis facing this nation: U.S. militarism abroad. Domestic racism is a massive problem, “but hardly our only one.” We need to confront and bring down what Dr. King identified as “the giant triplets” of racism, materialism, and militarism. Protesters clearly target racism but have mostly ignored the other two. Fundamental change will not occur unless all three are tied together and confront what King called “the madness of militarism,” as anti-racist efforts become global (“Martin Luther King’s Giant Triplets: Racism, Yes, But What About Militarism and Materialism?” Counterpunch, June 25, 2020).
Demands to redirect police funds (now $100 billion per year) to build a just, equal, and ecologically sustainable society should be linked to defunding the U.S. military, that has its knee on the throat of blacks and people of color internationally. The original BLM platform called for a 50% cut in the Pentagon budget, but it has not been embraced by the protests, nor by leading intellectuals, pundits, and politicians — despite the fact that, as King declared, the U.S remains “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”
Millions of blacks and other people of color have been killed in U.S. wars and regime changes led by the CIA since the end of the Second World War in Afghanistan, Angola, Congo, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Iraq, Korea, Libya, Nicaragua, Panama, Somalia, Syria, and Vietnam — and Yemen, where millions of children now face starvation from Saudi bombing. U.S. aid to the Saudis began under Obama and continues under Trump — including refueling jets, military intelligence, missiles, and bombs. Whether the president is Democrat or Republican, black or white, it is clear that Yemeni and black lives globally do not matter. If we oppose state violence against blacks here, we should similarly oppose U.S. state violence against blacks and other people of color abroad.
John Marciano lives in Talent.