NEWARK, NJ, February 2 — “You can see Jim Crow alive and well in debate,” said one coach in the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL) after a tournament here.
The head of the Jersey Urban Debate League (JUDL) ejected a Bronx high school from the tournament, accusing three black students of “trying to steal a pack of paper.” This incident has sparked outrage and action amongst the debaters and communities involved. PLP members can explain to fellow workers and youth that the only way to destroy racism is fighting for communist revolution worldwide.
THE REAL STORY
A school safety officer and another woman — a teacher or administrator — accused three black student debaters in the girls’ bathroom of trying to steal a pack of paper (which was in a nearby janitor’s closet). The debaters denied this.
The accusing woman dismissed their claims and got the JUDL head to interrogate them. Frustrated and angry, the students refused to speak to him so he removed them from the tournament.
The entire team of nine made a quick collective decision to leave together to protest this racist attack. The debate coach dispatched an e-mail detailing these events, and many coaches, including PLP members, responded with encouragement, support and most importantly suggestions for action, including writing the JUDL head and the woman and possibly addressing it to the entire JUDL. Other coaches detailed how their students also experienced racism at other mostly-white tournaments, ranging from whispers to dirty looks to openly racist comments and accusations.
Urban Debate was founded as “anti-racist” leagues that would include black and Latino youth in an “advanced,” nearly all-white, academic activity. But just as U.S. bosses use black history month and Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy to mislead workers into believing conditions are improving for black workers, this incident — like the Jena 6 case —-shows how capitalist schools give students repeated lessons in tolerating racism as youth in order to accept racism as adults.
The black CEO of NYUDL, tried to ward off protest letters, saying “removal was not an unreasonable decision,” arguing that the debaters’ silence implies their guilt — not anger at actual racism — and stating that the incident wasn’t racist! Coaches responded to him with more suggestions for action, although a coaches’ letter has not yet been drafted.
PLP members — rather than preparing youth to accept racism — are organizing the working class to build a classless communist world that will abolish the false concept of “race” through struggles against the bosses’ racism.
Inside the Bronx school, staff, students and parents were furious. Parents are drafting a petition asking the JUDL head and the other woman to travel to the Bronx and personally apologize to the students and their families. A student petition will be circulated amongst their classmates, and the school staff is working on a separate petition, all asking for a formal apology and condemning the acts as racist.
Amidst increasing attacks on students through racist budget cuts, this struggle has mobilized dozens of students, parents and teachers to take action and can involve hundreds more. PLP is helping spread the struggle within the schools, explaining that the problem isn’t just one “bad administrator”; it’s capitalism’s racist education system.
Schools spread the lie that “anyone can succeed.” Meanwhile, they help ensure that working-class students — especially black, Latino, and immigrant students — accept “their place” as future docile cheap labor, prisoners or cannon fodder in imperialist wars. PLP aims to teach working-class youth that their future lies in joining the international multi-racial fight for a communist world without bosses and their racist agents.