NEW YORK CITY, October 10 — Mimicking the racism in Jena, Louisiana, racists hung a noose symbolizing lynching on the door of a black faculty member, Madonna G. Constantine, at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Today, a couple hundred students, faculty and members of the Harlem community demonstrated on the steps of Teachers College to protest this racist act. After several speeches, the demonstration turned into a march around the campus that culminated in a forum of about 600 inside the college. PLP’ers joined the march, sold CHALLENGES and distributed leaflets. Many of the marchers carried signs linking the racism of this incident to that of the attack on the Jena Six.
Although students and professors were outraged and surprised at this noose hanging, there should be no surprise. This incident followed anti-Arab graffiti found in Columbia’s SIPA building, stating that “AMERICA is for WHITE EUROPEANS!” That was swept under the rug. Since the noose hanging, anti-Semitic graffiti was found in a university bathroom. President Lee Bollinger’s e-mail about it said we should just ignore such racist terror. But the noose incident was too blatant to ignore.
Columbia has a long racist history. Its faculty included W. H. Sheldon, who “theorized” that “Negro intelligence . . . [comes to a] standstill at about the 10th year,” and that “Mexican intelligence” stops at age 12. It also included Henry Garrett, who wrote pro-segregation literature for the White Citizens Councils in the South. During the Vietnam War, Columbia’s racist weapons research helped slaughter Indochinese peasants. It seized part of a park in a black working-class neighborhood to build a gym for Columbia students. Current Columbia child psychiatrist Gail Wasserman carried out a variety of racist “violence-in-the-genes” research on black and Latin youth to “predict anti-social behavior.”
Today, Columbia pushes its racist eminent domain expansion into Harlem. It sponsors anti-Arab speakers, including David Horowitz, Sean Hannity, Phyllis Chesler, and Ibn Warraq as part of their so-called “Islamo-fascism Awareness Week.” It used the invitation to Iran’s president to provoke blatant anti-Muslim racism. The latest string of hate crimes simply flows from this racist history.
Meanwhile, the university tries to diffuse anti-racist action. It hides other racist incidents, requires multicultural “sensitivity” training and pushes “dialogue” to bury united militant action.
“White skin privilege” is pushed on white students while black and Latino students are saturated with divisive identity politics. Racism is portrayed as simply an “aberration” that can be “undone” if people are just “educated” enough. There’s no mention of racism being a means to class exploitation. Racism is a major weapon against the whole working class.
Columbia’s divisive propaganda is reflected in one discussion of the noose hanging when an Arab student complained about a lack of concern regarding anti-Arab racism. A black student countered that “foreigners” just don’t “get it” — “we must address anti-black white racism first and deal with all the rest later.” But this simply hands power to the same racists who hung the noose in Teachers College. The bosses love nothing more than working-class people fighting amongst themselves and focusing on their supposed “differences” instead of uniting to smash their common oppressor. Historically black workers and students have been in the forefront of fighting racism that has won victories for the entire working class.
Racism can’t be ignored, reformed or discussed away. Columbia students need multi-racial unity and mass militant action to answer these racist scum, not more talking and internal division.
The capitalist system that creates a culture like the noose incidents is the same one dropping cluster bombs on Iraqi children and gunning down immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border. Racism is the tool of a system that is an enemy to all workers, students, teachers and soldiers. Uniting to end this blood-drenched profit system and its imperialist wars through workers power — communism — will mean the bosses’ days are numbered.