Mass Media, UMass-Boston
October 30, 1979
Black, White & Color
Boston’s politicians, preachers and media maintain that blacks and whites are equally “racist” and responsible for the increasing racial violence in this city.
The Boston Globe’s editorial of 10/18/79, for example, states that: “The city’s leadership in offices, In pulpits, in corporate offices, in local neighborhoods must persist in and broaden its efforts to fashion a broad coalition united against racism by blacks and whites in the city.”
Recent white racist demonstrations have gone further to call for “white rights” against the alleged “racism” of blacks.
Both of these positions distort the situation in Boston and confuse the meaning of racism. The reality is that the racial violence of the last few weeks didn’t drop out of nowhere. It is a part of the ongoing white racist attack by sections of the white population against black community of Boston.
White racism is not new in Boston, but the current white racist reaction has escalated sharply since the beginning of court-ordered school busing in 1974. All rhetoric aside, busing is about black access to white schools, schools which, compared to black schools, have traditionally enjoyed at least slightly better funding and facilities. lt’s not an accident, therefore, that many of the most blatant white racist attacks over the last month have taken place in and around schools, and have been carried out by white students.
in mid-September, a gang of masked, white teenagers attacked a school bus carrying black students to South Boston High School. A couple of weeks later, white teenagers shot and paralyzed Darryl Williams during a football game at Charlestown High.
On October 17th, white students at Southie again attacked blacks, and that night their parents were joined by whites from Charlestown for a march at City Hall led by James Kelly demanding “white rights.” On October 19th, hundreds of white high school students chased black people around the Commons while the police looked on.
So, a big part of the white racist offensive is the attempt to end school integration in Boston. But it is also an attempt to return to the “good old days” before the black movement of the 1960’s, when working class whites, themselves the victims of poverty, unemployment and powerlessness, had the “white right” to vent their frustrations and maintain their slightly higher rung on the social ladder by beating on black working class people without any fear that blacks might back.
White racism, however, is more than the power relationship of white workers over black workers. All of Boston, and for that matter, American capitalism in general, is run by and for racist white politicians, political machines, school committees, police and businessmen.
The result of this institutionalized racism is that, after years of black slavery in North America and another hundred years of “free” poverty, segregation, and government repression, black people today are privileged to enjoy the worst conditions that capitalist America has to offer: the least paying and dirtiest jobs: an unemployment rate at least times that for whites; segregated housing and schools; police harassment and violence; a racist “justice” and prison system; the systematic destruction of black activists and militant organizations at the hands of the federal government; and, as we can watch every night on News Center 5, unchallenged white rampages against Boston blacks.
And the system that dishes all this out is the system that stands to benefit from the white racist onslaught which keeps the working class divided along race lines as a means of protecting itself against the power a united working class.
Ted Kennedy has the nerve in the midst of this situation to suggest to black students at Dorchester High that they should “give something back to America for all it has given you,” but most black people can no doubt sympathize more with Malcolm X when he said 15 years ago, “I’m one of the 22 million black victims of Americanism. . . . We don’t see any American dream. We’ve experienced only the American nightmare.”
Despite this reality, defenders of the system are quick to call black people “racist” when they fight with active self-defense and with demands for affirmative action. They refuse to recognize that blacks are responding to their racial oppression, while whites, for various reasons, are perpetrating it.
It doesn’t work both ways; black people don’t have the power to perpetrate racist oppression against whites. Even isolated attacks by blacks on individual whites only represent misdirected anger of the oppressed against those whom they perceive to be participants in their oppression.
So to blame black people for “racism” is to distort the meaning of the word. To call for “white rights” is to call for whites to maintain their domination over blacks.
That’s why whites who want to end racism will take sides. They will support the black community against the racist violence of white mobs, and the economic and political assaults of capitalism. They will join in actions to defend the black community, the gains it has made and the gains it is struggling to make as the only way to build a united working class movement on the basis of anti-racism.
And they will denounce the hypocritically manufactured charge of “black racism” whether it comes from the sophisticated and respectable, like Keven White and the Boston Globe, or the crude white racists who attack black people on the street in the name of “white rights.”