The United States is a Racist Monument, Tear it Down!
“Prisons in the US are monuments that enforce terror against oppressed people.”
Much attention has been given to the Confederate monuments that have been taken down by activists across the United States, beginning in Charlottesville, VA. Confederate monuments harken back to a period when the future of Black bondage was a key question in the struggle between rival factions of the rich to institute their preferred capitalist development strategies. Slave rebellions played a significant role in pressuring the capitalist class to wage a bloody conflict known as the Civil War. The age of Trump has intensified the debate around the inherently racist character of the US. Many have begun to march in the streets to condemn bigotry and racism. However, for those who have been in the struggle against US imperialism prior to Trump's arrival, the structure of the system has not changed. The structure of the United States is a racist monument, and it must be torn down.
History proves this again and again. There is not one official political party or structure in the US that can claim the mantle of "anti-racism." Stolen land and stolen labor built the foundations of the US nation-state. The ruling class has historically reached consensus on the race question even in times of deep division and crisis. George Washington was both a slave owner and a slave catcher, while Abraham Lincoln massacred indigenous peoples even as his image as the "Great Emancipator" of Black Americans was being developed during his Presidency.
“The age of Trump has intensified the debate around the inherently racist character of the US.”
It remains difficult for many in the US to acknowledge the racist history of the country due to the deeply embedded ideology of US exceptionalism. The notion of US exceptionalism legitimizes the US as a "country" rather than the leading capitalist empire in the world. US exceptionalism is racist in and of itself because it presumes the US system of capitalism and imperialism to be superior to all other forms of social organization. US superiority is coded political language for white superiority. The idea of white superiority gives the US imperial apparatus the bulk of the world to expand at the expense of the lives of millions of "non-whites" who have been thoroughly dehumanized.
The historic monuments scattered throughout the US celebrating racist Confederates are a reflection of the bi-partisan structures that enforce the US imperialist system's racist policies. Prisons in the US are monuments that enforce terror against oppressed people. The world's largest prison state is justified by a bi-partisan "tough on crime" War on Drugs regime erected to both destroy the Black liberation movement and cage surplus Black labor in a controlled setting. Police departments around the country are the shock troops that enforce the regime of occupation in poor Black communities. The heavy police presence in poor Black communities provides the material strength behind the racist ideology that criminalizes the existence of an entire people.
“US superiority is coded political language for white superiority.”
Donald Trump is a firm believer in US exceptionalism. His recent relaxation of Pentagon weapon transfers to local police departments and immigration protections is case and point. These maneuvers strengthen the racist militarized police state in two important areas. Trump's policies come after former President Barack Obama deported more undocumented migrants and sent more military weapons to the police than any President prior. The racist superstructure of the US is often dismissed by the corporate media and political class in favor of a narrow focus on Trump's individual racism.
To acknowledge the structural machinations behind racism would be to condemn the very system of exploitation that benefits the elites of both parties. Military contractors, bankers, and corporate executives line the pockets of the political class in Washington in exchange for favorable policy. The state's wholly antagonistic relationship with poor and working class people has reached a point of crisis. Washington's servitude to the elites has produced low wage employment, joblessness, and police state terror, all of which have lost favor among the majority of the people. And nothing strikes more fear into the ruling class than the prospect of the system being torn down and replaced with another.
“Washington's servitude to the elites has produced low wage employment, joblessness, and police state terror.”
The primary task on the order of the day for the oppressed communities all over the world is to actualize the fears of the ruling class. White supremacy has historically cushioned the profits of the imperialist system by imposing super exploitation on the majority of humanity while endowing "white" workers with a package of privileges that often run contrary to their class interests. White Americans remain in possession of inherited wealth that places them far ahead of Black Americans in terms of economic security. However, this has depressed wages for workers as a whole, including a large number of white workers who are now feeling the effects of US imperialism's economic crisis.
US imperialism's monument to white supremacy lives on through the dispossession and violence experienced by Black people, Native people, and migrants from imperialism's war-torn nations across the globe. US wars have inflicted chaos on the world's darker nations while inducing the majority of the US with war fatigue and resentment. Poverty wages, unemployment, and soaring healthcare costs are but a few maladies that have made both political parties in the US wildly unpopular. Donald Trump now sits atop a crumbling empire and the ruling class does not see him fit for the job.
“Malcolm X’s chickens are coming home to roost.”
White supremacy isn't cashing in anymore. Poor whites are committing suicide at record rates due to an enormous decline in living standards. Malcolm X's chickens are coming home to roost. The time has come to tear down the racist, capitalist system in the US, brick by brick. To paraphrase Assata Shakur, a wall is just a wall. It can be taken down.
Every US flag that waves and every institution built in the name of that flag fortifies the walls of the racist US power structure. Taking down these walls will require a revolutionary movement that doesn't hesitate to position the entire structure of the US as a racist monument. This movement must be armed with the understanding that the US imperialist system must be replaced with a new form of social organization to truly be rid of all symbolic celebrations of racist brutality. The people must be organized on a class basis and have as its goal the usurpation of power with defined objectives. US society must be planned with the peoples' interests in mind, which means that the movement to create such a society will have to plan for a future beyond the eradication of racist symbolism to meet the needs of the people.
Danny Haiphong is a Vietnamese-American activist and political analyst in the Boston area. [email protected]