By Chris Crass (December 11, 2015)
One of my closest friends was a white supremacist skinhead when we first met as teenagers in high school. He would have cheered at Donald Trump rallies with each call to deport Mexicans and ban Muslims from entering the country. He would have agreed with Trump that the African American Black Lives Matter activist in Alabama deserved getting roughed up. He would have heard and understood Trump for what he is, a right wing leader mainstreaming racist hate, and he would have felt validated, rather then repulsed by it. We weren’t friends at this point. I was scared of him and looked away when he looked at me.
My other close friend, was a charismatic anti-racist social justice activist rooted in the working class anarchist vision of a commonwealth of socialism and democracy. Rather then avoid the racist skinhead when they ended up sitting next to each other in science class, my friend, the anarchist, engaged the skinhead with questions about his beliefs, and eventually said, “Look, we’re both working class, and racism is screwing you over, leading you to blame the wrong people for the problems you’ve named, and I want to argue with you, because our ideas are better.”
They argued for weeks, and in a few months, my formerly racist skinhead new friend had traded in his white power music for Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States. Two years later, we were all marching, along with dozens of other white kids from our high school, against racist police brutality after the Rodney King verdict in 1992, in Los Angeles, where we grew up in the suburbs.
I am not surprised by the popularity and support of the Trump/Cruz/Ryan-led GOP. I grew up surrounded by rabid racist right wing Republicans who blamed every problem on immigrants and Black women on welfare, all the while bemoaning me for talking about corporate power and structural inequality screwing over white working class families like my extended family, for hundreds of years. But I also grew up with my parents laying seeds about the courage of Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, and I had friends who refused to let white supremacy have other white people without a fight.
My friend the anarchist, believed that racism goes after white working class people, like our families, and tries to turn their economic insecurity and humiliation under capitalism, into a raging inferno of racist, homophobic, and sexist hate that fuels ruling class ambitions of money and power, and our job, as revolutionaries who know another way is possible, our job is to fight for our families, to fight for the future of other white kids, to fight racism and join in liberation movements that unite people under the banners of equality and justice.
As teenagers, in California, we stood on street corners in the 90s protesting attacks on immigrants, LGBTQ people and abortion clinics. We were spit on, had bottles throw at us, grown white men in suits driving by sieg heiling us. We were scared, but we were also defiant, and we stuck together. We imagined ourselves standing up against the nightmare of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and saying, “you cannot have us, and we will fight with everything we have, to save as many people as possible from the hell you create in our lives.”
With the rise of Donald Trump, coinciding as backlash to the growing Black Lives Matter movement on-the-move, as backlash to the continued march for gender equality, as backlash to the continued march for LGBTQ rights, I keep thinking of my friends from high school.
The former skinhead is today the father of two beautiful multiracial children, who he raises to be proud of their ancestry as people of color, as well as the white anti-racist tradition from the abolitionists to today. I think of his beautiful family and know that they exist in part because a working class anarchist 16 year old kid who had seen racism and the humiliation of capitalism devastate people in his own family, picked a fight pitting white supremacy against collective liberation, and collective liberation won.
To be clear, there were other racists my anarchist friend tried to engage who weren’t open to conversation, and he moved on. He didn’t waste his time arguing with trolls, be knew this was about building a multiracial liberation movement and shifting power, policy, and culture. And he wanted to bring along as many other white working class kids, moms, families, and communities as possible, to both end the racist violence (structural and individual) white communities support, and eradicate the poison of racism that turns white people’s capacity to love into an engine of hate.
We will fight the Trump-led GOP, in every community, in every state, and we will win. We will build a majority for racial, economic, and gender justice, and we will be courageous even when we are scared, because our values put into practice open up the possibility for a healthy, democratic society that values the inherent worth and dignity of all people, the interconnection of life, and the sacredness of the planet.
To white supremacist capitalist patriarchy and it’s supporters, we say: you cannot have us, we will fight you, and we will win.
Chris Crass’ latest book Towards the “Other America”: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter is available as a free ebook or for purchase paperback at www.chalicepress.net/OtherAmerica
With the Black Lives Matter movement and racial justice student movement growing around the country, and the voices of hate and fear from racists in the Donald Trump-led GOP, there is tremendous need for vision, guidance, courage, and inspiration for white anti-racists to step up. Towards the “Other America”by Chris Crass is the handbook to meet this need. Crass writes, the goal of the book is to help equip white people to be courageous against the death culture of racism and structural inequality and bring our hearts and souls into the work of collective liberation with Black Lives Matter at the center.
Get the book here: www.chalicepress.net/OtherAmerica