BROOKLYN, NY, Nov. 26 — Anti-racist consciousness and actions are mounting at our high school. The frame-up of six black youth in Jena, Louisiana, struck a chord here. As soon as we raised the issue, students began organizing. Proposals for rallies, buttons, petitions, forums and even walkouts emerged.
We decided to start with an anti-racist assembly to be followed by an anti-racist fair. Meanwhile, we produced stickers that said, “Free the Jena 6, Unite Against Racism.” Everyone wanted one. We produced over 1,000 buttons with the same slogan. Students are still asking for them weeks later.
On the day of the big rally in Jena, we organized a “wear-black” day. Many students and staff participated. We had an especially large meeting to hear a report from someone who had attended the Jena 6 rally in Louisiana. Clearly many students and staff wanted to take a stand against racism.
When the students went to the principal to present the idea of an anti-racist assembly, a roomful of administrators awaited them, but the students were not intimidated. The idea of the assembly was generally well received, but there was objection to the term “anti-racist.” “Tolerance” was proposed. This provoked good discussions about the nature of racism. The students were very clear — their goal was to fight racism. They did not want to “tolerate” it or have others do so.
A lively discussion began on whether racism could ever be ended. Many students thought “no.” Yet many saw that racism is man-made. Starting with the slave trade and plantation slavery, racism had been immensely profitable for the slave-owners. That is still true today as capitalists super-exploit black and Latino workers, and now especially immigrant workers. Additionally, racism divides and weakens the working class. To achieve any improvement, one must confront and fight against racism. As Karl Marx said long ago, “labor in the white skin cannot be free as long as labor in the black skin is enslaved.” Thus, you have to end capitalism to end racism.
Such divisions have been evident at some recent anti-war marches. Students and staff who attended noticed the marchers were mainly white and saw almost no signs mentioning the Jena 6 case.
When racist cops shot and killed a mentally ill, 18-year-old young black man recently (see front page) whose brother attends our school, the administration did not even acknowledge this tragedy until a teacher raised it. Although an announcement was read, grief counseling was never mentioned. The dead youngsters’ brother is devastated. Several students attended a rally and also the wake for the young man. They said at least there should be a moment of silence at the school.
A more recent meeting discussed the anti-racist assembly with the principal and several administrators. What was its goal? “Education about racism” was the answer. It was suggested that some positive activities come out of this assembly. “Good idea” was the reply. When students asked an administrator for suggestions, none were forthcoming — but “don’t get students mad about racism. They will just get riled up and angry. We have a nice school. Don’t get students stirred up. Provide something positive.”
This is a challenge for those of us organizing this anti-racist assembly. However, how can one not get “riled up” when racism still exists everywhere in so many vicious ways? Yet getting upset but doing nothing is useless. So we need to do two things. Firstly, we must organize a series of anti-racist activities in which lots of students and staff can participate. Even more importantly, we must commit ourselves to a lifetime of struggle against racism and against the capitalist system that promotes it.
PLP members are participating in all these activities. We have expanded our membership and developed two study groups. Our goal is to increase CHALLENGE sales and recruit students and teachers to our Party as we intensify the fight against racism in the school.