The Struggle Continues… and I Am Not Okay
Jessica Crowe

Looking through the comments on your post, I see that they are mostly written by folks who, like you, participated in the Sanders campaign. So let me offer a slightly different perspective.

I was and am tremendously heartened by the millions of people in the U.S. who rallied to support Sanders. It reflects a significant shift in our society, rejecting narratives about U.S. democracy and the beneficence of capitalism that have had a hold on millions of working class people since Roosevelt and the New Deal. What you have done in being part of that shift is very important.

But . . . the revolution you see yourself as a part of didn’t start with Sanders, and there is a heck of a lot more unlearning for people to do before they come to grips with that fact.

The establishment of the United States as a nation was not a victory for freedom and democracy, as we have been taught. It was a victory for slavery and colonialism, for genocide and land theft and the pillaging of resources that belonged to others.

The real revolution by which we ought to be inspired — the real revolution that continues today — is not the War for Independence, but began with the rebellions of African slaves and continued as it grew into the Abolitionist movement and eventually enveloped the nation in a Civil War and followed that war with Reconstruction. Like all revolutions it has surged forward and been pushed back. Though it is by no means a solely African-American revolution, the status of Black people in the U.S., and the degree of resistance to white supremacy among both people of color and whites has always been the surest bellwether of advances in that revolution. And that is because the working class in the U.S. — the class that produces everything, that starves when times are bad and barely survives when they get better — includes a significant segment that has always suffered a deeper exploitation and exclusion.

At the turn of the 20th century, just as at the turn of the 21st century, that segment included not only African-Americans but also millions of immigrant working class families from all over the world. The places of origin of the immigrants have changed, but they ways in which white supremacy justifies their mistreatment has not. But the reality of racism for African American people in the U.S. has fundamentally not changed. The worst jobs, the lowest wages, the highest levels of poverty, the fewest opportunities, the least access to education and health care, the highest representation in jails and prisons, the most likely to be victims of violence by the police: this has been the reality of Black people in the U.S. since the end of the Civil War and the federal government’s abandonment of its promise of Reconstruction and Forty Acres and a Mule.

So consider: the reality of the 2016 Democratic National Convention is helping you to shake off many illusions about being a working person in the U.S. And that’s an incredibly painful process. But both a caution and a word of encouragement should be found in discovering that there are already millions of people who did not share these illusions, who have always seen that the system is violent and operates against our interests. The caution is that as white people we must not presume that no one has had these insights before us, or that the pain of shedding illusions is equal to the pain of living under state terror for several centuries — a terror either participated in, or reinforced or ignored by whites. The word of encouragement is simply this: we do not have to re-invent the wheel. When we are asking ourselves how best to struggle against a seemingly all-powerful and rotten system, we can listen carefully to those who have been in this struggle all along, and learn from them.

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