CNN news anchor Don Lemon & Fox Commentator Bill O’Reilly began a “Can you top this” discussion about Black people, crime and white fears last week. O’Reilly led off saying: “The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African- American family. […] Raised without much structure, young black men often reject education and gravitate towards the street culture, drugs, hustling, gangs. Nobody forces them to do that, again, it is a personal decision.” O’Reilly added that “White people fear Black people because of Black crime.”
Don Lemon upped the ante saying “O’Reilly didn’t go far enough,” and the he “… wasn’t hard enough on Black people.” Lemon added 5 tips for how Black people could improve their conditions: 1) “[J]ust because you can have a baby, it doesn’t mean you should. Especially without planning for one or getting married first.” 2) “[F]inish school.” 3) “Respect where you live. Start small by not dropping trash, littering in your own communities.” 4) “I hosted a special on the n-word, suggesting that black people stop using it and that entertainers stop deluding yourselves or themselves and others that you’re somehow taking the word back.” 5) “Pull up your pants. If you’re sagging, I mean — I think it’s your self-esteem that is sagging and who you are as a person it’s sagging.”
I have a couple questions for Lemon and a reply to both him and O’Reilly. Don, starting with point #5, if Black youth pull up their pants, will the capitalists who moved the factories ½ way around the world in search of people they could play less and work harder bring those factories (and jobs) back to the U.S.? If Black youth stop using the “N” word and stay in school, will the politicians who have slashed school funding and geared the educational system to fail our youth transform that system into one training youth to think critically? If Black people stopped littering, will the powers-that-be devote resources to rehabilitating Black neighborhoods? And finally, if Black people got married before having children, will someone guarantee them jobs with living wages so they could support their families?
Lemon and O’Reilly have joined the blame-the-victim choir. They treat results as if they’re causes. For them, ‘Black people’s lack of personal responsibility is the reason so many Black people live in miserable conditions.’ Let’s pull the lens back on all this and get at what the real causes are.
Since the 1970’s, the capitalists who run this country have moved factories out of the U.S. to far flung parts of the world in search of workers who could paid much less and worked in more dangerous conditions than workers here. That has meant generations have grown up in communities stripped of legitimate ways to survive and raise families. The schools in these communities have been geared to fail the youth. This has left generations of youth facing futures of hopelessness.
The system’s response to this has been to criminalize and demonize these youth. Government records show Blacks and whites use illegal drugs at roughly the same rates. Yet Black people are far more likely to go to jail for drug possession. In NYC, 90% of the people jail for marijuana possession are either Black or Latino! Courts have warehoused Blacks and Latinos in prison, and cops patrol their neighborhoods like occupying armies, inflicting brutality and terror. This is why there are so many children growing up without their fathers in their lives. And why so many of our youth have their choices for the future limited to a minimum wage job if they can find one, getting into gangs and crime or joining the military and becoming killers for this system.
Black people didn’t create the conditions countless millions of them are forced to endure. These conditions must be laid at the feet of the capitalist system — the way it operates and conscious decisions by the politicians who run this system. No matter how many times people like Lemon and O’Reilly, or Barack Obama for that matter, talk this personal responsibility and respectability BS, it won’t do anything to change the conditions Black people face.
Those conditions cannot be ended within the framework of this capitalist set up. It will take Revolution–Nothing Less to end these injustices and all the other horrors this system inflicts on humanity!
Carl Dix is a revolutionary communist, a national leader of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, who co-issued with Cornel West a call for a campaign of civil disobedience to STOP “Stop-and-Frisk.” This campaign changed the discourse in NYC around the racist stop-and-frisk policy. Carl refused to go to Vietnam in 1970 and was sent to Ft. Leavenworth military prison.