The Organic Intellectual

If our greatest task is to liberate humanity, as Paulo Freire asserts, then it is absolutely essential that we create a culture of resistance from below that is able not only to counter, but transcend the limitations of the ruling culture imposed by above. Hopefully, The Organic Intellectual will help serve this purpose.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

UT's Noose, Jena 6, and the Right-Wing's Racist Rants

For those of you who do not know a noose was hung at the UT law center recently. No one is sure who did it, to my knowledge, but we can be assured that the noxious racism that has plagued America's past is not simply a part of history, but a living thing that continues to poison our society and the University of Toledo. Here is an excerpt from the Dean's e-mail:
This morning, a noose was found hanging from a tree on the edge of our patio and outside Room 1008. It has now been removed. We have no idea who put it there or why. Because of the disgraceful history of lynching in this country and the use of the noose as a symbol of intimidation, we take this very seriously. I don't believe that this was done by a member of the law school community but we would very much like to find out who put it there. If you saw anyone do this, please contact Associate Dean Pizzimenti so that we can pursue the matter... This gesture, whether intended as one or not, is an insult to our entire law school community and something we cannot tolerate.
I am glad, at the very least, that it was denounced as an act of racism and not some "simple joke," but this is not the end of such vile hatred and prejudice. We can expect more given the heated political atmosphere, the election of Obama and the right-wing backlash, including the racist rantings of conservatives like Glenn Beck who are already revitalizing McCartyite witch-hunts and disgusting race-baiting. Even as Beck lead a full charge forward to remove one of the sole progressive voices in the Obama administration, Van Jones, for his association in the past with more radical elements of the left (something we ought to be applauding him for, not chastising him) and his "racism against Whites" (a laughable assertion), we saw the Obama administration literally capitulate to the fringe right-wing. We find this resurgence of McCarthyism here at UT as well with the new "list of liberal professors" that the UT Republicans, buttressed by the percussive ideological machinations of Joe the Plumber, attempted to formulate this semester.

In this context, I find the case of the Jena 6 rather instructive. We need to be pushing back with a popular movement against such extreme conservative elements, the Obama administration will not do it. Obama has bent over backwards to incorporate the right-wing and harped on his "bipartisanship" that has left us with large-scale bank bailouts, no serious economic stimulus to benefit working people, and a ghastly shadow of healthcare reform that may not even include a public option, let alone single-payer, universal health coverage for everyone.

This is an unedited transcript of the first public speech I ever gave. It was in front of a crowd of close to 250 people gathered in the Centennial Mall on the University of Toledo's campus to express their solidarity with the Jena 6 and their outrage at the institutional racism so obvious in Louisiana's courtrooms. Dated September 20th, 2007.

It definitely galvanized my involvement in political discourse and augmented my desire to participate in political action. For anyone who was not there that day, the solidarity expressed between all sorts of people outraged at such virulent racism was astounding. The energy level and participation by such a broad group of people was tremendous, with the BSU leading the march around campus hoisting the "Gay, Straight, Black, White" banner front and center. It was powerful. I have not seen anything on UT's campus since then, but I hope that it can serve as a reminder to us at UT that it is our duty to stand up and challenge every injustice, both here and abroad.

What we need is a movement to combat this sort of ideological assault by the right-wing. We need to start building this movement now, it cannot wait. We can no longer place our hope in an administration that has capitulated at every turn, at every chance, to the people who want to continue the trend of power consolidation in the hands of a select few. We face a dire political and economic situation, and we, as working class people who have the power to control our own destiny, must take up our historical vocation to liberate ourselves from a system that engulfs the population of our world in a sea of oppression.

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We are all out here for one reason today, and that’s to protest racism. Racism; what to say about it? It is a disgusting and horrible thing that any good society should try and stomp out wherever and whenever it appears. Unfortunately, as the Jena 6 case and various other incidents have proven, those who run our society actually condone these acts of racism. The Jena 6 are being prosecuted for one reason; the color of their skin. Had a group of white kids beat a black student we wouldn’t be here today, we wouldn’t be having this protest because those white kids wouldn’t be facing 22 years in prison. That’s the simple truth of this system.

Why are these kids facing such heavy consequences for a common schoolyard fight? Since when do we consider tennis shoes a deadly weapon? How can those in charge of the school system in Jena allow white students to threaten black students with lynching, to only be written off as a “prank”? Why are those who commit these hate crimes not reprimanded for them? And why are those who are simply defending themselves from racism becoming the victim’s of this system of injustice?

These are questions we all share and we are all here today because we see the wrong in this situation. We see the injustice and the prejudice which exudes itself from every inch of this case. The question then becomes, what can we do about it? There are petitions you can sign, you can contribute to the Jena 6’s defense fund, and you can write a letter to the governor of Louisiana. More importantly though, you can get out and protest these wrongs that are being committed. We have all taken the first step today by coming out here. It is a step in the right direction to show our support here in Toledo as thousands across the country are standing up and doing the same thing.

It is inevitable that we will run across people who will tell us to "settle down" and to “chill out” and not get so “angry” about things. People are going to question if our protests will make a difference. But I say it has already made a difference, they dropped Mychael Bell’s court conviction simply because they knew how many people were planning on protesting today. More importantly I ask when in history has anyone EVER changed ANTHING by not getting up and fighting for it? I say we ignore those who would rather sit idly by and watch as racism continues to plague our communities.

For the past thirty years we have simply settled with the conditions in this country. We have settled for inequality. We have settled for the ridiculous number of people in poverty. We have settled for police brutality; from Amadou Diallo to Sean Bell, and to Jeffery Turner who right here in Toledo was tasered to death by police officers for loitering. How can you taser someone nine times for loitering? We settled for that. We settled for segregated schools, maybe not by law, but by economics. We have been settling with this racism for too long.

It is time to stand up and fight. It is time to come together and fight alongside one another to stop this injustice and this inequality. Regardless of your race or religion, whether you’re a male or female, gay or straight, it doesn’t matter. Whether there is a blatant case of racism as we see with the Jena 6 or an incident of racism against Mexican immigrants, or prejudices against Muslims, or attacks on gays; an attack on one is an attack on all. We need to fight racism and oppression on every front. Those who rule society fear our coming together and standing next to one another. The people up top don’t want that. They want us to have these artificial boundaries like race to wedge us apart and break us down. Divide and conquer, that is their mentality, and it’s been working for to long.

It is no coincidence that only a few days before this planned demonstration they threw away Michael Bell’s conviction. They wanted to deter us from coming together, from standing up and protesting the wrongs that are happening. They knew how big of an event this was and how many people around the country were so strongly against what was happening in Jena. They want us to be happy and “settle” with Michael Bell to be tried in juvenile court. They want us to give up and stand down.

Now is not the time to do that. Now is the time to stand up and fight. We need to stand up and push forward with this case, it’s NOT time to give in, it’s NOT time to settle. It’s time to pick up where the black power movement left off in the 70’s. It’s time to push forward and keep pushing forward. Those who run things here fear the power of the people when we unify. The political climate in America is changing, right now we are winning. We stood up and fought for Kenneth Foster, an innocent man on death row, and we won, we saved his life. We got the courts to throw out Mychael Bell’s conviction. But if we stop now, if we give in now, that little bit that we have won will be stripped away from us quicker then you could imagine.

People are going to try and convince you to “be good” and just “write your senators” and “write your congressmen.” We have been writing our congressmen for the past 30 years, and where has that gotten us? It’s gotten us 13% of our population stuck in poverty, it’s got the working class people struggling to support themselves and their family, and it’s got towns that allow white children to threaten to hang black students from trees without punishment. It’s got district attorneys who can threaten to “end the life” of black students with a “stroke of their pen.” We’re not saying that you should stop writing your senators, keep doing that, that’s fine, but some times you need to step back and realize that just writing your senator may not get the job done. Go ahead and write, but remember that sometimes it takes more then that. Sometimes you need to get out into the street and protest. Sometimes you need to put your pens down, and put your fists up. Now is one of those times.

The people are the only ones who ever changed anything in society; nothing was ever handed to us. Everyone wants to talk about how Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, the millions of people, white and black; who got up and fought in the civil war freed the slaves. Abraham Lincoln just signed a piece of paper. Everyone talks about how Lyndon Johnson GAVE black people the right to vote. Johnson didn’t GIVE anyone the right to vote, the people who stood up and protested, and fought with police on the streets, they are the ones who WON the right to vote. Lyndon Johnson just signed a piece of paper. The power to change society is in OUR hands, not the hands of these politicians and lawmakers. History has proven that we are the ONLY ones who can change society, and now is the time to do it. Let’s keep pushing forward so the events that are occurring in Jena can never happen again. It’s time to stand up and fight. Power to the people.

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