Socialist Worker

Only mass struggle can beat U.S. racism

Issue No. 2417

The US president and attorney general are black - but very much part of the establishment

The US president and attorney general are black - but very much part of the establishment (Pic: The White House)


Despite having a black president and a black attorney general the US state remains profoundly racist.

Unarmed black people such as Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin are still gunned down. 

Black people are still targeted by racist police.

They are more likely to be imprisoned and more likely to live in poverty than white people.

The Civil Rights movement left the US with a large black middle class with some power. 

But in many ways ordinary black workers are worse off today than they were a few decades ago.

In the 1970s right wing republican president Richard Nixon said he supported “Black power”.

He moved federal money to help black people better access a series of jobs, including police chiefs and the military. 

Nixon did it because he and the class he represents were terrified of a mass movement. 

US rulers sought to buy off the movement’s leadership.

This explains why president Barack Obama has been so ineffectual in the current crisis. He started out as a lawyer who wanted to challenge injustice.

Many people voted for him in 2008 because they thought he could make a difference.

They will have agreed when he said after Michael’s shooting, “In too many communities around this country, young men of colour are left behind and seen as objects of fear.”

But unlike Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, Obama did not come from a mass radical movement. Instead he climbed up into the establishment—and is not prepared to challenge it.

So in the end he gave an establishment response, saying, “There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.” 

The ruling class in the US are experts at divide and rule. 

The more it can set black people against Hispanic people or Korean immigrants, the less it has to worry about unified workers’ struggle.

Black people in the US have suffered most over the past 40 years, but all workers are relatively worse off. 

In the 1950s and early 1960s the red scares of McCarthyism marginalised the left. 

Presidents Dwight D Eisenhower and John F Kennedy were embarrassed into passing laws to end Jim Crow apartheid segregation in the US South.

They claimed they were the leaders of the “free world”—yet news footage showed campaigners battered for demanding education or equality.

Once again the US government is pushing its superiority over “failed states” and “backward” ideologies. Once again it is being embarrassed by its own hypocrisy. 

What is needed is a movement that can force it to change.


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.