been a lot of talk in the progressive community, that is, in the
mostly white progressive community, that Black people are not pulling
their weight in opposing Bush's war on Iraq.
hear these thoughts on KPFK radio in Los Angeles. I heard them recently
at the Socialist Scholar's Conference in New York where I "appeared"
to be the only African-American panelist. I hear it from my fellow
Greens. Why aren't Black people marching against war?
look at these allegations and try to determine if Black politicians,
Black people, and the Black media are avoiding the issue of war
on Iraq, or worse, are for the war on Iraq.
year, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a Black woman, was the only House
member who voted against a resolution authorizing President Bush
to use force against anyone associated with the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks. Lee remains
committed against the war. She was one of several members of
the Congressional Black Caucus who took to the House floor to address
the conflict with Iraq on the Tuesday before the U.S. attack.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.,
Chairman of the Black Caucus, tried unsuccessfully to meet with
President Bush to address the war.
Donald Payne, D-N.J. asked that we seek
everything in our power to find a peaceful solution to the situation
Maxine Waters, D-Calif., questioned whether the United States had
set aside the search for Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
"We are worried that the war on terrorism is taking a back
seat to a pre-emptive strike on Saddam Hussein," Waters said.
"Yes, every country should be able to defend itself, but we're
in no danger from Iraq. Striking Saddam is not fighting terrorism."
Washington, DC Congressman Walter Fauntroy, just back from a 10-day
peace mission to Iraq, said many African Americans oppose the prospect
of war because it would divert resources from more important programs
at home. "We know that every bomb that explodes is robbing
our children and their families of five things: Income, education,
health care, housing and justice."
it seems that Black politicians unlike White politicians (except
for the voice of Presidential Hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who
attempted to rescind the authorized use of force given to President
Bush by 81 Democrats and 215 Republicans last October) are speaking
out against the war. Well, then it must be the Black person on the
street who won't speak out against the war. Where are they on the
March 5, 2003 the Southwest Wave in Los Angeles asked this question
of Black people. "Do you favor this war?" The answer was
100% "No". Every Black person I ask on the street, except
for one religious fanatical friend who's waiting for the second
coming of Christ, is against this war.
maybe it's not the people on the street that we're talking about.
It must be the Black newspapers that won't speak out against the
war. Where are they on the war issue?
is now time for us as citizens to get involved to express our views
on this expensive war issue. If you believe we are going to take
care of soldiers after the war, ask any veteran standing on freeways
asking for money for food and standing on street corners waving
you down to get your car washed." - Hardy
Brown, Editor, Black Voices.
of the most important anti-war efforts - the city council resolutions
opposing war - have taken place in cities where whites are a minority.
In fact, of the 25 cities with population of over 100,000 that have
passed anti-war resolutions, 15 have white minorities. Of these
15, six have an African American majority and six an African American
plurality. For the past four decades, Black elected officials and
mass organizations have expressly linked issues of domestic social
justice and peaceful international relations. Polling evidence is
conclusive over two generations: Anti-war politics is mainstream
Black politics." - The
should repeal [the] Iraq Resolution, Bush should come before Congress
if he seeks to go to war." - Exodus
than half of the African American population joins with Fauntroy
in opposition to a war with Iraq. Just 44 percent of African Americans
favor military action in Iraq, compared with 67 percent of Hispanics
and 73 percent of Whites." - The
the National Student Strike and Peace March in Oakland, California
on March 5th, aggressive police attacked the peaceful, singing crowd
of young and elderly people of color with their motorcycles and
weapons. Two reporters from the SF Bay View newspaper were injured
and then also arrested." - San
Francisco Bay View.
it looks like Black politicians unlike most White politicians, Black
people on the street unlike most White people on the street, and
Black newspapers unlike almost every mainstream white newspaper,
are firmly against the war on Iraq. Why then is the white anti-war
movement accusing Black people of not pulling our weight against
answer to this question lies in the specter of racism firmly entrenched
it is true. Black people are not represented in demonstrations in
numbers approaching our proportion of the population. And for good
Black people remain under the prison industrial complex in proportions
far greater than our proportion of the population.
White activists do not share leadership with, and are not willing
to follow the lead of people and organizations of color.
The movement against the war on Iraq fails to recognize the continuing
war on communities of color. White activists continue to ignore
issues that speak to the experiences and struggles of people of
Current demonstrations, disproportionately white and middle class,
are done by those who can most easily take the time and expense
to travel to major anti-war events.
given that the above is true, we should ask the questions posed
by The Black commentator: "Why should it be assumed that African
Americans will come when white people call, for any cause?
Have white people responded to Black-led movements seeking broad
social change in anything approaching whites' proportion of the
historical answer is, No!
is true that older whites participated in the 1963 March on Washington
and in the civil rights movement. Yet whites were only a fraction
of the quarter-million strong crowd, [and the civil rights movement],
while outnumbering African Americans in the general population
eight to one.
more intelligent question needs to be asked, "Why don't African
Americans rally to Black-led causes more often and in greater
where are the whites in these movements?
could have prevented the social harms in this country to people
of color - the prison industrial complex, the death penalty, the
lack of education, housing, and medical care. Yet, these movements
are not led by the millions of anti-war protesters who march for
another "community of color" thousands of miles away.
Don't misunderstand me. The war on Iraq is important, very important
but it is not more important than the war on communities of color
that whites have condoned and promoted for the last 30 years.
if Black men wanted to march against the war, one out of three cannot
because they are under the yoke of the prison industrial complex.
This system ensures we are kept out of the democratic process.
prison industrial complex in California boomed under Governor Jerry
Brown, was expanded by President Bill Clinton, and is maintained
and continues to grow under Governor Gray Davis. Do I need to point
out the obvious? The massa is white.
U.S. Senate had an opportunity last year to return Americans back
to our "Democracy" with Senate Bill 565. Senate Bill 565
would have restored voting rights for ex-felons. One out of every
3 Black men is in prison, on parole, or under some form of prison
supervision. Yet 24 Senate Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein
from California, voted to deny ex-felons the right to vote. In California,
ex-felons already have the right to vote but Feinstein still voted
"no". Most felons in California's prisons are there for
non-violent felonies, largely drug-related. The drugs were allowed
into the inner cities by the CIA and the Department of Justice in
is the white progressive community in this fight?
people who would be marching against the war "live in fear
of becoming too visible to authorities that treat every young Black
as a probationer."
weeks ago in Oakland, large numbers of Black and Latino youth from
the hood came out and voiced their opinion about the War. Police
aggressively retaliated. They ran over the youth with police motorcycles
even though the youth demonstrated peacefully.
demonstrations also took place in San Francisco during rush hour
that day but in San Francisco, a contingent of mostly white youth
who took their antiwar protest to the streets and blocked a main
intersection causing traffic to back up were not rolled over by
live in very different worlds. In much of Black America, police
state conditions have existed for some time and people of color
are disproportionately subjected to poor schools, inadequate jobs,
poor health care, and poor housing. The White anti-war movement
needs to recognize these facts, and work with Black activists to
bring an end to America's war on our communities.
Jo Warren is a native of South Central Los Angeles and a former
Green Party candidate for Lt. Governor of California (www.donnawarren.com).
She may be reached at [email protected].