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Protests challenge the racist system

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Issue 2711
Black Lives Matter protests will continue to shake the establishment- they must be taken to the most radical conclusions
Black Lives Matter protests will continue to shake the establishment- they must be taken to the most radical conclusions (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The scale and radicalism of the month of Black Lives Matter protests continues to shake those in power.

A poll last week showed that the majority of the American public, including more than half of white people, say they agree with the ideas of the movement.

What is more, eight out of ten questioned think the protests will have at least some influence on the way the police treat black people.

In Britain, home secretary Priti Patel—not known for her commitment to anti-racism—was last week forced to concede all the recommendations of a panel looking into the Windrush Scandal.

That “hostile environment” she now condemns is the same one she once enthusiastically backed.

What the movement has already achieved—forcing the prosecution of some cops accused of racist attacks and murder, for example—it did by sticking to the radicalism that first gave it life. But some of the greatest gains are in a much wider understanding of how racism operates.

For many people who took to the streets, racism is something they now understand as “structural”.

The problem of racist policing, for example, is not a problem simply of individual racist officers but an entire force built on racism. 

The way in which our schools fail to teach the truth about the British Empire is not the result of failed history teachers but is symbolic of the racism embedded in the education system.  


But as the first phase of semi-spontaneous mass demonstrations appears to have closed there are great dangers that their radicalism can be usurped by those whose agenda is to tame the revolt.

Already soft-peddling reformists are circling, seeking to divert the anger and initiative of the streets into avenues the system can easily accommodate.

Governments and companies will now readily commit to training staff on “unconscious bias”. After all, they say, the problem lies not with them as an institution but with people’s individual prejudices.

Thousands more join fresh round of Black Lives Matter protests
Thousands more join fresh round of Black Lives Matter protests
  Read More

And they will let a sprinkling of black faces in their boardrooms in the hope of diverting our attention from the way their policies continue to destroy the lives of ordinary black and Asian people.

There are others who are part of the movement who also who want solutions within the system.

Those pushing for an enhanced form of black capitalism talk of the empowerment this will bring, but fail to acknowledge that it can only enrich a minority at the expense of the majority.

Those who argue that having black bosses exploit black workers is progressive readily forget the vital phrase of Malcolm X, “You can’t have capitalism without racism”.

There’s a reason why every racist Tory and Republican enthusiastically backs the “black business” approach— it’s precisely because it poses no challenge to the system.

Given the political dangers the movement now faces, it is important that Stand Up To Racism and other groups are formulating demands that continue to pile pressure on the state.

Demanding the end of “Section 60” stop and search zones, which allow the police to harass people without any pretext, and removal of the cop’s life-threatening Taser weapons are ways to put the issue of state racism firmly back at the centre of the agenda.


Insisting upon “illegal migrants” being given full citizen rights is the best defence against the growing threat of a second Windrush Scandal.

And, putting the focus back on to the state is also vital because it reminds us who the biggest actors in the way racism plays out are.

Millions of people across the world are enraged by racism and readily see the connection between it and the capitalist system that is destroying both people and planet.

The radicalism that got us this far can take us a whole lot further.

It must continue to fight over individual issues but also against the system as a whole.

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