The roots of American racism 4: state racism and the new black resistance

In the last of four articles, Bill Crane looks at “colourblind” racism and mass incarceration since the Civil Rights movement – and how they have contributed to the police racism and violence that has sparked the current protest movement.

Photo: Dread Scott, flickr

So far this series has described how racism has existed as part of the United States from its foundation. The peculiar form of racial ideology that exists today in the US was born in the English colonies of the seventeenth century as part of a system of plantation slavery in the south that was integrated into the growth of capitalism on a world scale. Racism, in the form of enslavement of Africans and their descendants and expropriation of American Indians has been encoded in the DNA of America since before independence, much as sugar is baked into a cake.

Systems that racism supported have been twice challenged and overthrown in the history of the United States. The first time was in the American Civil War of the 1860s, when a coalition of black slaves, white farmers and industrial capital defeated the slaveholders in revolt against the republic and smashed slavery along with their economic and political power. This conflict was the necessary and inevitable resolution of the social tension that characterized the US in its first century after independence. However, the leading partner of the Civil War coalition, Northern business, abandoned it after its dominance in the US was assured, leaving the old Southern ruling class to re-establish racism in the form of Jim Crow in the 1890s as part of a backward and dependent province of America.

The economic changes that brought the South into modernity had the effect of producing the men and women who could dig the grave of planter rule. Black workers and intellectuals organised in the 1950s and 1960s into grassroots civil rights groups that achieved equal rights, forcing the federal government to sign the death warrant of planter rule through civil rights legislation. Like emancipation from slavery, the achievement of equal rights was a giant step forward for blacks and all people of the US. But also like emancipation, the new era it ushered in would contain its own contradictions.

We now live in the post-Civil Rights era in America. It is the one in which Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, Rodney King, and so many other black people have been the victims of obscene violence by the police, the courts and racists on the street. This era is the subject of the final instalment in my series on the origins of American racism.

It is also the hardest to write about in any kind of coherent or intelligible way. The history books of this era mostly have not been written yet, and it is hard for us to see our own time and our own actions as history. Nevertheless it is for our purposes the most important one, for it orients us on our immediate challenge of confronting racism as well as the long-term one of forming a revolutionary perspective that can tear up the system by its roots.

The Two Fates of Black Power

We can pick up the story here pretty easily from where we left off. In about the mid-sixties with urban insurrections from New York to Los Angeles to Detroit, the main arena of black struggles shifted from the South to the North. This came at a time when achievement of civil rights in the South had essentially been accomplished with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act the following year. No more was racial discrimination a fact of life, nor would overt racial prejudice be an acceptable part of the public discourse.

What shifted black struggle to the North was that black people there had already lived for decades under a system that, while it didn’t write the overt oppression of blacks into its laws, could be every bit as racist in its fundamental structures as was the South. With civil rights achieved across the country, black people in the North and South were coming to see that equality before the law between blacks and whites was not enough to end the vast economic and political discrimination that continued to exist, and black leaders and thinkers increasingly had to look beyond civil rights.

More than anything else, at the end of the sixties black leaders looked to socialism as the solution to racism. Like black nationalism, black socialism came in many different forms. At the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. was earnestly seeking a program that could unite the black and white working class for the achievement of significant wealth redistribution. While only infrequently labelled as such, this was a radical reformism that marked a significant departure from his earlier pacifism and Democratic Party politics. His death, however, cut short the potential of this particular solution.

The militants of the Black Power movement in the Northern ghettoes were turning left at the same time as King. The Black Panthers led by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale originated as a militant group of defenders of the black community against police violence, so insidious in the North, and broadened out to a federation of many thousands of activists demanding full employment, reparations for slavery, community-controlled free education, an end to police brutality, among other social and economic rights.

Most of black activism in the period followed the Panthers in their unabashed admiration of the national liberation movements and Stalinist states, especially Maoist China, which then challenged US domination on the world scale. While the Panthers were revolutionary black nationalists, however, many black activists became revolutionary internationalists. The growth of liberation struggles of other oppressed groups along with that of the predominantly white student left created a revolutionary ferment, out of which emerged a dedicated and militant American revolutionary left, resurgent for the first time since the 1930s.

Black activists were in the forefront. The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) of the United Auto Workers in Detroit inspired militant black union caucuses across the country starting in 1972. Along with white activists of a student background, black militants led the many organisations of the New Communist Movement in the 1970s. These groups were all Stalinist or Maoist in inspiration, yet they found in this ideology a way to understand the concrete conditions of black oppression as part of American capitalism and sought to rip up this system at its roots.

The shift from civil rights to black power, and black power to the revolutionary left, did not go unheeded by the federal government. Better than even the left in those days, the state understood the potentially explosive social power of black revolt. It responded with both the sticks of coercion and the carrots of consent, yet these were always part of the same process of attempting to resolve the pre-revolutionary crisis of American society.

The “stick” element of this equation is well known. Black revolt frightened the state at federal, state, and local levels like nothing else had. The FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had suspected Martin Luther King and Malcolm X of links to Communism, and the self-proclaimed socialism of the new black leaders was all it needed to convince the Nixon administration to sign on for a full-scale counterattack. The FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO, officially in operation until 1971, put the full resources of the federal government into play against the black radical movement by surveying, infiltrating and wherever possible disrupting their activities. At the local level, leaders like Fred Hampton, the head of the Black Panthers in Chicago, were murdered. This was part of a shift in state tactics that redefined black subversion of any form as criminality.

The “carrots” meanwhile were employed in more subtle ways during this period. On the one hand federal agencies became more responsive to the long-held demands of black people. The Nixon administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development finally took steps toward ameliorating the housing crisis in the inner city, funding massive projects of subsidised housing that eased the economic strain on black communities. The other part of this strategy was aimed at co-opting the black elite. The administration sought to appropriate the rhetoric of black power along a line that would better suit it – that of “black capitalism.” In a campaign speech in 1968, Nixon expressed this when he said, “Much of the black militant talk these days is actually in terms far closer to the doctrines of free enterprise than to those of the welfarist thirties… [we need] more black ownership, for from this can flow the rest – black pride, black jobs, black opportunity, and yes, black power.”

The rhetoric of black capitalism as part of a generally rightwing project set against a revolutionary solution to the black question was one that had more going for it than it might have at first appeared. The breaking up of Jim Crow had led to many black leaders being incorporated into the Democratic Party as city councillors, mayors, state representatives and congressmen. They represented a small black middle class and tiny black capitalist class that were the main beneficiaries of civil rights. They were increasingly comfortable with the current state of affairs.

As the nascent revolutionary solution to the black question in America foundered under the impact of state repression, more conservative black voices were put at the disposal of the system in maintaining order. But the divergence between this caste of privileged blacks and the masses of the black workers, poor and unemployed could burst out in sharp ways as the civil rights era drew to a close. In Atlanta in 1977, black sanitation workers went out on strike against the administration of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor – those same sanitation workers had campaigned fiercely for him. Jackson’s response was to fire them all, supported by black figures such as Martin Luther King Sr. who advised him to “fire the hell” out of the sanitation workers. King Sr.’s son had met his death supporting the strike of a very similar group of workers in Memphis a decade previously.

The collapse of the radical black movement under state repression and the incorporation of the conservative one into the American state can be understood as a double movement of what Antonio Gramsci described as “passive revolution”, in which the existing order accommodates itself to the demands of the oppressed and exploited for reform by implementing parts of their demands and incorporating piecemeal parts of their leadership into itself. In the case of this “revolution”, however, the counterrevolution of neoliberalism, with deep implications for race relations, came almost immediately after its completion. This must be dealt with at two different, though integrally linked, levels: the economic impact of neoliberalism on all parts of the black community, and the political impact of state terror on the vast majority of the black working and underclasses of American cities.

Neoliberalism, Austerity and “Colourblind” Racism

The election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency is generally recognised as the signal of the neoliberal shift in American politics. In a society in which one of the central fulcrums of capitalism is the oppression of one racial group, as it is in America, such a profound shift could not take place without profound implications for race relations.

Reagan’s election was the product of an intense period of restructuring within the two-party political system that had its origins in the victory of civil rights. The Democratic Party, once the party of slavery, completed its transformation into the party of Keynesian state managers and the more progressively minded elements of the business establishment. It would no longer tolerate or solicit the presence of open racists within its ranks. Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 also signed the death warrant of the old Democratic Party of the planters. The white Democratic “Solid South” was shattered.

The transformation of the Democratic Party had been underway since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs of the 1930s rallied blacks across the country. The advocates of Jim Crow had been uneasy with this shift in party politics. Now they were without a political home. Kevin Philips, an advisor to Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, proposed that the Republican Party could give them one. With implementation of the “Southern strategy”, the GOP aimed to scoop up the votes of Southern whites by addressing their concerns about crime and social unrest with the rise of the black power movement. Reagan’s election twelve years later cemented this achievement.

Reagan’s neoliberal intentions were already known before he came into office. Most of all, he targeted the social welfare system that was the legacy of the New Deal. In phrases that were to become the classic exemplars of popular neoliberal ideology, Reagan proposed that the welfare state was fundamentally corrupt and broken. This could be told, according to him, by the fact that the beneficiaries of welfare simply did not deserve aid from the government.

His classic example of this was the image of the “welfare queen”. Reagan first told this story while running for the Republican nomination for president in 1976. A grossly exaggerated story of one Chicago woman who was tried for welfare fraud became in the public mind a woman who had “eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”

Reagan and everyone who heard him knew what kind of person he was talking about when he invoked the welfare queen, or more precisely, what colour her skin was. The accomplishment of the black movement was that he could not use the n-word or another racial epithet to describe her. Its failure was that racism could continue in a different, less open, forms. This is “colourblind” racism, the current form of racism in the US. The story of the welfare queen took its place alongside the “gang-banger” as one of the stereotypes of contemporary racism in America. Instead of talking about black people openly today, politicians talk about the poor, the criminals, the welfare recipients, the single mothers, the undeserving. All of this language is profoundly, though implicitly, racialised.

Neoliberal racism in America is mediated through language and policies that, on their face, are not obviously racist. Appropriately, the term “colourblindness” is most used in reactionary calls to remove affirmative action in education and employment, which is the strongest legacy of the civil rights movement. It is claimed that places in state schools, for example, should go to the most qualified applicants regardless of race. This of course ignores the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow racism that have systematically disadvantaged black people, as well as their current oppression. Rather than eliminating discrimination, advocates of eliminating affirmative action seek to preserve the privileges of the already advantaged. This is merely the most obvious case in which being “blind to race” actually means being blind to racism.

Of course, the impact of neoliberalism on black people is not limited to racist language. The social structure of black communities has been shredded by neoliberal policies. The central accomplishment was Democratic President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, signed into law in 1994. With a stroke of the pen, Clinton, who liked to think of himself as “the first black president” due to his rapport with black voters, threw thousands and thousands of blacks off the welfare rolls. By “ending welfare as we know it”, Clinton ended government support to the chronically poor and disabled, forcing them by their millions into low-wage employment through “welfare-to-work” schemes.

Another effect of neoliberalism has been on the employment that many in the black working class won through the achievement of civil rights. As noted in the last article, this employment was overwhelmingly within public service and heavy industry. Particularly since Clinton’s signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), heavy industries such as auto began decamping to the lower-wage climes of Latin America and East Asia. Black workers who briefly achieved wages comparable to those of their white colleagues were thrown out into the street along with them as factories shut their doors.

The civil rights movement had also achieved for blacks the right to employment in the public sector, which along with college recruitment was subjected to guidelines of affirmative action for blacks and other disadvantaged groups. Often heard in black America in the sixties and seventies when someone found herself out of work was the phrase “there’s always work at the post office”. Beginning with Reagan, the post office and other realms of public employment which had absorbed thousands of job-seeking disadvantaged black people came under sustained attack. This protracted process, accelerated by congressional Republicans who have repeatedly resorted to shutting down the federal government, has cut the post office budget to the bone.

As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor points out, by the mid-1970s a majority of public-sector employment went to blacks and other minority groups. Prominent among these occupations are teaching in public schools, the postal service, and the innumerable offices that run the daily business of the federal, state and local governments. In the past well over half of black male college graduates went into public service, and presently 45% of black women are still employed there. The ruling class’s war against organised labour in the public sector, particularly against teachers, is a war that the black working class bears the brunt of.

Jim Crow Redux: Racist Police, the Prison System and State Terror

The effects of austerity on the employment and safety net of black people, combined with renewed patters of segregation in education and the foreclosure crisis in housing, which have been similarly enforced by neoliberalism, have precipitated a profound social crisis in black America. More and more, the state seeks to resolve this crisis with terror.

Black legal scholar Michelle Alexander has done the most to explain and demystify the state system of terror against black people in her book The New Jim Crow. Her account is focused on the policing and incarceration systems of America. Working from the point under the Nixon administration when openly racist language and policies transitioned to the colourblind policies that supposedly targeted “criminals” regardless of colour, Alexander shows how policing and mass incarceration have systematically devastated America’s black neighbourhoods.

The beginning of the “war on drugs” in the eighties was the primary means by which the American state launched its war against black communities of the inner cities. As Alexander points out, there is absolutely no evidence that blacks on average traffic, sell, or use illegal drugs such as crack cocaine or heroin (much less harmless intoxicants such as marijuana) more than whites or any other racial group in America. But blacks are disproportionately the ones targeted for the enforcement of anti-drug laws in the inner cities.

An often quoted statistic, which I cited at the beginning of this series, is that in America on average a black person is killed by the police every twenty-eight hours, or almost one a day. The ferocious effects of state repression are particularly obvious to the world today since the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, but their deaths are in fact merely the most recent and atrocious outcomes of systematic police violence against black communities, which are automatically assumed to be the centres of drug use, gang violence and the worst forms of criminality. Manning Marable described the function of state terror in 1983:

Terror is not the product of violence alone, but is created only by the random, senseless, and even bestial use of coercion against an entire population. The coercion that takes place within a “normal” capitalist society, the exploitation of Blacks in the workplace, is insufficient to modify and control their collective behavior… Terror becomes real in one’s mind only when a person recognizes that, at any moment and for any reason, he/she can be brutally tortured or killed… It is the random, limited and spontaneous use of coercion that tends to afflict the mind and spirit of the oppressed.

Police repression can be overwhelmingly directed against black communities because it is almost impossible to prove in court that police intend to arrest someone based on the colour of their skin, or that district attorneys intend to prosecute drug and violent felonies primarily against black people. This piece of legal logic flies in the face of the undisputed reality of America’s criminal justice system. Blacks, who are one-tenth of the total population of the US, are about one-third of the prison population.

The system of mass incarceration has been, in Alexander’s framework, the primary method by which blacks are systematically oppressed in today’s US. Having even one arrest, much less a prison record, can deny a black person employment or the right to federal student aid through mechanisms that are perfectly legal – if imprisoned, a person becomes ineligible for student loans, and employment applications feature a box in which applicants are required to disclose any criminal history. This has the effect of trapping people who have been pre-judged as criminals in environments where there is often no other way to survive than through a life of crime. Though mass incarceration of course affects whites as well, it is in black communities where the severest effects are felt. In the inner cities, there is hardly one black person without a father, a brother, a cousin or a son who has been to or is currently in jail.

Some who attempt to understand the rationale of mass incarceration have taken to an idea of the “prison-industrial complex.” In this framework, it is proposed that the immense growth in incarceration since the beginning of the war on drugs has been fuelled by private interests founding non-state prisons for profit that benefit from state contracts through the introduction of mass convict labour. But it is not necessary to extend this into an understanding that the American ruling class profits economically through mass incarceration. By and large, the evidence does not show prisons to be profitable and what profits have been made are extracted at the margins of the system of mass incarceration.

What mass incarceration has done is to reproduce and amplify the systemic racism at work in American society since its foundation. In one respect it functions as a way for the state to manage the crisis in black communities that the ruling class detonated through the housing bubble and the state itself contributed to through drastic cuts in the safety net and public employment that blacks were the primary beneficiaries of. Targeting black communities has a self-reproducing logic as police and correctional department budgets increasingly come under the compulsion of achieving the highest numbers of arrests and incarcerations.

Why is America So Racist?

It is perhaps appropriate before concluding to return to the above question, which was the one that motivated me to write this series of articles. Police violence, colourblind state policies and neoliberal rhetoric go a long way towards explaining why American society is so racist, but not all the way. Aside from state racism, it is necessary to understand the extreme racism that persists in white America, including in the working class. After all, it was the civilian grand juries that absolved the officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner of any criminal responsibility.

Socialists have often attempted to explain racism within the working class through one of the variations on Frederick Douglass’ insight into the hatred of black slaves by poor whites in the antebellum South: “they divided both to conquer each.” In other words, it is useful for the ruling class to have racial divisions so that workers discriminate, undermine and compete with each other. Indeed, bosses in America have always recognised that a workforce divided by racism is also one with low wages and benefits, and one which is likely to look to other workers rather than their common enemy as the source of their problems. But this explanation for racism is at best incomplete and at worst vulgar and functionalist.

It would perhaps be best when seeking to understand popular racism to return to the definition of ideology provided by Barbara Fields I quoted in my first article. Ideology is “the descriptive vocabulary” through which “people make rough sense of the social reality… the interpretation in thought of the social relations through which they constantly create and re-create their collective being.” At its very base, racism as an ideology appeals as to American whites as the most convenient explanation for racial oppression. It inverts the reality of race relations by explaining oppression with the (socially constructed) inferiority of blacks, when in fact black people are defined as an inferior social group because they are already oppressed.

Americans, most of all white Americans, are fundamentally predisposed toward racism in a way that majority or dominant groups in other countries simply are not. In one respect this is because of the very real material advantages that come with a white skin. Everywhere in America whites are more likely to be hired for a job, and when at work are likely to enjoy significantly higher pay. Whether one understands this as a “privilege”, a “benefit” or some other way is beside the point, which is to understand the material reality of racism.

In another respect this is through what W.E.B. Du Bois called the “psychological wage” of being part of the apparent ruling order. Regardless of the oppression that affects the whole working class, white people do not consistently run the risk of being beaten or arrested in their own neighbourhood. They do not live with the reality of daily police terror, and it is probably inevitable that many white workers will accept the most readily available explanation for this – the police target blacks because they are criminals.

The fact that whites in America are overwhelmingly likely to trust the police in cases of violence against black people speaks to another underlying part of popular racism. As Todd Chretien writes, there are sections of the white working class in America that are tied by a thousand threads to the police and correctional departments that have benefited from engorged budgets since the launch of the war on drugs. The police force and the prison system have been a reliable source of employment for much of the white working class: “If a large majority Black and Brown people have a brother, father, uncle, cousin or close friend in prison or on probation or parole, we can safely assume that perhaps one in ten white workers is either a cop or a prison guard themselves, or has a brother, father, uncle, cousin or close friend who is.”

White workers in America are not uniquely or mystically racist, nor are they incapable of overcoming their own prejudice. The legacy of struggles from the Populist movement of the 1890s to the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, to the cross-racial civil rights struggles of the sixties and seventies puts the lie to this. But in a period of defeat for their class and without an existing cross-racial class alliance to challenge racism and capitalism, it is highly likely that many if not most of them will continue to accept the explanations for racial oppression provided by the ruling class, its state and its media which permeate society. So while the project of eliminating racism will have to include white workers, it has to begin with the most militant black challenge to it.

Racism at the popular level has always been rooted in the material processes that produce and reproduce American capitalism. It has adjusted and changed itself several times in accordance with the changes in American political economy. Many working-class whites in the South today fly the Confederate battle flag, have a bumper sticker of it on their truck or a tattoo of it on their arm. Many would indignantly reply when challenged that the flag is simply a symbol of Southern pride – which is something like calling the swastika a symbol of German pride.

By this gesture they do not (and cannot) mean by this the same thing that rebel armies did who marched into battle against the federal army to defend slavery when they flew it. But the legacy of slavery which produced the flag is racism, and racism has been socially transformed in American history but never eliminated. As racism is “baked” into the foundations of American society, eliminating it will require a revolutionary restructuring of that society.

Ferguson, the New Anti-Racism and the Future of America

It is safe to say that in America, racism is part of how capitalism works and reproduces itself. This is seen in no better way than in how racism was able to survive and reconstitute itself when overthrown on two different occasions in American history. To defeat racism once and for all, the system of American capitalism must be eliminated.

One of these conditions is an enduring anti-racist movement, led by blacks, which can both challenge the daily oppression that their communities face from the police and seek to develop a long-range understanding of the roots of racism as part of a project to overthrow it. We may be seeing the beginnings of such a movement in the recent demonstrations in every major American city against the acquittals of Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, which have linked up with activists who have long struggled against police brutality in each locality.

A new black movement has been a long time coming. One might say it was due at the time of the 1992 Los Angeles riots over the beating of Rodney King, and after several similar social explosions in American cities over the two decades since then. But the time for a new black movement is fortunate now in ways that it could not have been before.

Firstly, it comes at the point in which the deep social crisis of black communities created by the ruling class and maintained by through state terror will no longer be accepted as a necessary or inevitable state of affairs by most blacks. To people who have endured the foreclosure crisis of 2007 and lost their homes, who have disproportionately lost their jobs and savings because of austerity, who have endured systematic terror by the police and popular discrimination that kills a small part of them every day, even one more black death on top of thousands of others can ignite the powder keg.

Secondly, there has been a profound alienation of the masses of working-class and poor black people from the “black Brahmins” and politicians who seek to manage their grievances and channel them into safe channels. Through the civil rights movement, a layer of the black middle class had gained access to the corridors of government. The greatest echo of this was when a black man was elected to the White House that had been built by slave labour. Yet six years since Obama’s election, neither he nor any other black Democratic politician has any substantial reform to offer assuage the grievances of the black masses. They are only able to offer the most tepid pronouncements about review of laws and police methods. The contempt that many blacks have for these people was shown when Ferguson activists turned their backs on Al Sharpton, long the voice of black cooperation with the Democratic Party, and demanded the stage in a demonstration in Washington, D.C.

To quote Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor once again, the divide within black communities today is not the ‘generational’ one between an old guard of civil rights leaders and impatient young activists, but rather the class divide between “the Black political and economic elite, with their ultimate belief that the U.S. is capable of producing a fair and equitable society – and working class Blacks, whose cynicism about American democracy deepens as the overall condition of African Americans worsens.”

All this is not to say that the voices of black cooperation with the current system are finished. If the current upheavals do not give birth to a new project that seeks substantive political and economic rights for blacks by challenging racism at its material roots, it is likely they will regain the floor at some point in the future. But at the current conjuncture, they have lost their credibility, and this represents a unique opportunity to propose systemic – that is, radical, revolutionary and socialist – solutions to the problem of racism in the US. It is this time when American socialists have an opportunity to extend and deepen the work that they have already been doing in building links to black communities with the aim of reopening the struggles left off at the end of the civil rights era.

Just as the black struggle for civil rights formed the vanguard of numerous struggles for civil rights of other oppressed communities in America as well as the radicalism of the student movement and the renewal of class-struggle unionism, a new period of black revolt could give the signal for a generalised revolutionary struggle in American society. But we must not race ahead of present events too much. What is clear is that the current period will be a period full of challenges, but also of opportunities. Now more than ever socialists must see the truth of what black socialist C.L.R. James wrote in “The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem”:

Let us not forget that in the Negro people, there sleep and are now awakening, passions of a violence exceeding perhaps, as far as these things can be compared, anything among the tremendous forces that capitalism has created. Anyone who knows them, who knows their history, is able to talk to them intimately, watches them at their own theatres, watches them at their dances, watches them in their churches, reads their press with a discerning eye, must recognize that… the hatred of bourgeois society and the readiness to destroy it when the opportunity should present itself, rests among them to a degree greater than in any other section of the population in the United States.

Just as clearly with the rise of police violence against black communities in the UK, it is time for British socialists to embark on a similar project of understanding racism so that they can play a part in writing its end. I hope what I have written about racism in America can serve as a reference point for that discussion.


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