[Marxism] Marable: Empire, Racism and Resistance: Global Apartheid and Prospects for A Democratic Future

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Fri Dec 29 15:40:20 MST 2006


December 21, 2006 - Issue 211

Empire, Racism and Resistance
Global Apartheid and Prospects for A Democratic Future

By Dr. Manning Marable, PhD
BC Editorial Board

The following is a speech given at the Fifth Annual Michael Manley Lecture
sponsored by the Michael Manley Foundation, Sagicor Life of Jamaica
Auditorium, Kingston, Jamaica, Sunday, 10 December 2006.


My lecture this afternoon, “Empire, Racism, and Resistance,” broadly
examines the impact of globalization, and neoliberal economics, on the
evolving politics of race, within the United States as well as
transnationally. More specifically, the lecture addresses four
interrelated themes, or issues of concern:

(1) an analysis of the emergence of what other scholars and writers have
termed “global apartheid,” and what I describe as the “New Racial Domain”
of “color-blind racism” inside the United States, which represents a new
mode of racial oppression;

(2) the central role of “Neoliberalism,” and the conservative politics of
Thatcherism and Reaganism during the 1980s, in the transnational
acceleration of racial and class stratification and wealth inequality,
within nations and throughout the world;

(3) the impact and consequences of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 within
the U.S., in reinforcing the “New Racial Domain,” within the United
States, and a “global apartheid” within the Third World;

(4) and an analysis of the prospects for transnational racial and class
resistance to both global apartheid and America’s “New Racial Domain.”

In 1900, the great African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, predicted that
the “problem of the twentieth century” would be the “problem of the color
line,” the unequal relationship between the lighter versus darker races of
humankind. Although Du Bois was primarily focused on the racial
contradiction of the United States, he was fully aware that the processes
of what we call “racialization” today – the construction of racially
unequal social hierarchies characterized by dominant and subordinate
social relations between groups – was an international and global problem.
Du Bois’s color line included not just the racially segregated, Jim Crow
South and the racial oppression of South Africa; but also included
British, French, Belgian, and Portuguese colonial domination in Asia, the
Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean among indigenous

Building on Du Bois’s insights, we can therefore say that the problem of
the twenty-first century is the problem of global apartheid: the
racialized division and stratification of resources, wealth, and power
that separates Europe, North America, and Japan from the billions of
mostly black, brown, indigenous, undocumented immigrant and poor people
across the planet. The term apartheid, as most of you know, comes from the
former white minority regime of South Africa. It is an Afrikaans word
meaning “apartness” or “separation.” Apartheid was based on the concept of
“herrenvolk,” a “master race,” who was destined to rule non-Europeans.
Under global apartheid today, the racist logic of herrenvolk, the master
race, still exists, embedded in the patterns of unequal economic exchange
that penalizes African, south Asian, Caribbean, and poor nations by
predatory policies of structural adjustment and loan payments to
multinational banks.


Inside the United States, the processes of global apartheid are best
represented by what I call the “New Racial Domain,” or the NRD. This New
Racial Domain is different from other earlier forms of racial domination,
such as slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and ghettoization, or strict
residential segregation, in several critical aspects. These earlier racial
formations or domains were grounded or based primarily, if not
exclusively, in the political economy of U.S. capitalism. Anti-racist or
oppositional movements that blacks, other people of color and white
anti-racists built were largely predicated upon the confines or realities
of domestic markets and the policies of the U.S. nation-state. Meaningful
social reforms such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights
Act of 1965 were debated almost entirely within the context of America’s
expanding, domestic economy, and influenced by Keynesian, welfare state
public policies.

The political economy of America’s “New Racial Domain,” by contrast, is
driven and largely determined by the forces of transnational capitalism,
and the public policies of state neoliberalism. From the vantage point of
the most oppressed U.S. populations, the New Racial Domain rests on an
unholy trinity, or deadly triad, of structural barriers to a decent life.
These oppressive structures are mass unemployment, mass incarceration, and
mass disfranchisement. Each factor directly feeds and accelerates the
others, creating an ever-widening circle of social disadvantage, poverty,
and civil death, touching the lives of tens of millions of U.S. people.

The process begins at the point of production. A recent study by
Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies establishes that
in 2002, one of every four African-American adult males was unemployed
throughout the entire year of 2002. The black male jobless rate was over
twice that for white and Latino males. Even these statistics seriously
underestimate the real problem, because they don’t factor in the huge
number of African-American males in prison or those who are homeless.

For black males without a high school level education, their job prospects
are even worse. The Center’s study notes that among black male high school
dropouts, 44 percent were unemployed for the entire year of 2002. For
black men between the ages of 55 to 64 years, jobless rates for 2002 were
almost 42 percent. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has described
these dire statistics as evidence of “an emerging catastrophe – levels of
male joblessness that mock the very idea of stable, viable communities.
This slow death of the hopes, pride, and well-being of huge numbers of
African Americans is going unnoticed by most other Americans and by
political leaders of both parties.”

So long as African Americans were the chief casualties in the ranks of
those who were permanently unemployed, white elected officials could
afford to ignore the crisis. But now, increasingly, millions of white
workers who have considered themselves “middle class” are being pushed
into the ranks of the jobless. In late July 2004, the Labor Department’s
Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that between 2001 and 2003, 8.7 percent
of all jobholders in the U.S. were permanently dismissed from their jobs.
This figure amounts to 11.4 million men and women age 20 or older. This
was, according to the Bureau, the “second fastest rate” of layoffs “on
record since 1980.” Among laid-off workers who found new jobs, 56.9
percent were earning less money than from their former employment.


Not too far in the distance lies the social consequence of these policies
inside the United States: an unequal, two-tiered, uncivil society,
characterized by a governing hierarchy of middle- to upper-class
“citizens” who own nearly all private property and financial assets, and a
vast subaltern of quasi- or subcitizens encumbered beneath the cruel
weight of permanent unemployment, discriminatory courts and sentencing
procedures, dehumanized prisons, voting disfranchisement, residential
segregation, and the elimination of most public services for the poor. The
latter group is virtually excluded from any influence in a national public
policy. Institutions that once provided space for upward mobility and
resistance for working people such as unions have been largely dismantled.
Integral to all of this is racism, sometimes openly vicious and
unambiguous, but much more frequently presented in race neutral,
color-blind language. This is the NRD of domestic apartheid in America.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and their political aftermath,
have also been pivotal factors in reinforcing global apartheid and the
“New Racial Domain” inside the United States. As in previous times of war
in the U.S., the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political party
affiliation, immediately rallied behind the president after 9/11,
demanding military retribution against the Al Qaeda Islamic terrorists.
President Bush characterized the “evil-doers” as both “pathological” and
“insane,” and for days following the attacks the administration promised
to launch a global “crusade” against Islamic terrorism. To the world’s
over one billion Muslims, and to the six million Muslims living within the
U.S., the term “crusade” instantly evoked disturbing historical images of
the Christian invasions of the Islamic Middle East during the Middle Ages.
The Bush administration soon quietly discarded its “crusader” rhetoric,
but continued to indirectly promote anti-Islamic and anti-Arab sentiment
to mobilize the nation for its “War Against Terrorism.” U.S. military soon
invaded and occupied Afghanistan, the nation in which Al Qaeda had
established its base of operations under the fundamentalist Taliban
regime. Then, in early 2003, U.S. military forces subsequently invaded
Iraq, which was accused of harboring Al Qaeda terrorists and possessing
“weapons of mass destruction” that represented a threat to U.S. national

Like other Americans, African Americans were morally and politically
outraged by Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks. Yet they were deeply troubled by
the immediate groundswell of ultra-patriotic fervor, national chauvinism
and numerous acts of violence and harassment targeting individual Muslims
and Arab Americans. They recognized that behind this mass upsurgence of
American patriotism was xenophobia, ethnic and religious intolerance, that
could potentially reinforce traditional white racism against all people of
color, particularly themselves. They questioned the Bush administration’s
“Patriot Act of 2001” and other legal measures that severely restricted
Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights. For these reasons, many
black leaders sought to uphold civil rights and civic liberties, and
challenged the U.S. rationale for its military incursions in both
Afghanistan, and later Iraq. The pastor of New York City’s Riverside
Church, the Reverend James A. Forbes, Jr., proposed that African Americans
embrace a critical, “prophetic patriotism. . . . You will hold America to
the values of freedom, justice, compassion, equality, respect for all,
patience and care for the needy, a world where everyone counts.” Urban
League President Hugh Price argued that black Americans must “vigorously
support the federal government’s efforts to root out the terrorists
wherever they hide around the globe . . .” However, Price also insisted
that “black America’s mission, as it has always been, is to fight against
the forces of hatred and injustice, to fight for the right of all human
beings to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

As the U.S. Justice Department began to arrest and hold without trial
hundreds of Muslims and Arab Americans, Islamic groups urgently appealed
to the NOI, NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus for assistance.
Approximately 40 percent of the U.S.’s Islamic population is African
American, and hundreds of native-born blacks, because of their religious
affiliations, also found themselves under surveillance or were arrested,
despite having no links to terrorist groups. The Reverend Jesse Jackson
openly condemned the police practice of ethnic/religious “profiling,”
declaring that the U.S. needed to focus its resources toward the “building
of understanding and building a just peace,” instead of resorting to
warfare to “root out terrorism.” In March, 2003, when the U.S. military
invaded Iraq, a Pew Research Center opinion poll found that only 44
percent of African Americans favored the war. By contrast, white Americans
endorsed the invasion by 73 percent, with Latinos favoring military
conflict by 66 percent. African-American clergy, led by Brooklyn activist,
the Reverend Herbert Daughtry, organized daily “vigils for peace” near the
United Nations. The black ministers created a “Martin Luther King, Jr.
Peace Now Movement,” which actively participated in the growing anti-war
mobilization throughout the U.S.

By early April 2003, the U.S. had successfully toppled the regime of
dictator Saddam Hussein, and over one hundred thousand U.S. troops
occupied the country. However, the military invasion of an Islamic country
strengthened the network of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, by creating
a vivid example of imperialist aggression aimed against the entire Islamic
world. In an April 4, 2003, Gallup opinion poll, 78 percent of white
Americans supported the military invasion; African-American support for
the war had plummeted to only 29 percent.

By early 2004, the Bush administration had begun to aggressively pressure
universities to suppress dissent, and to curtail traditional, academic
freedoms. In early March 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of
Foreign Assets Control stopped 70 American scientists and physicians from
traveling to Cuba to attend an international symposium on “coma and
death.” Some of the scholars received warning letters from the Treasury
Department, promising severe criminal or civil penalties if they violated
the embargo against Cuba. In late 2003, the Treasury Department issued a
warning to U.S. publishers that they would have to obtain “special
licenses to edit papers” written by scholars and scientific researchers
currently living in Cuba, Libya, Iran, or Sudan. All violators, even
including the editors and officers of professional associations sponsoring
scholarly journals, potentially may be subjected to fines up to $500,000
and prison sentences up to ten years. After widespread criticism, the
Treasury Department was forced to moderate its policy.

The long-term catastrophe of the terrorist attacks of November 11, 2001,
from the perspective of the Black Freedom Movement, have been two-fold.
The U.S. military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq had greatly eroded
domestic civil liberties and civil rights, creating a mass environment of
ethnic/religious hostility, permitting indiscriminate police surveillance,
racial profiling and arrests. Tens of thousands of young African Americans
in the armed forces were stationed in war zones, for a conflict that most
blacks strongly opposed. Second, in terms of racial policy, the intense
national debate over “black reparations” that had dominated headlines
throughout 2001 was derailed, perhaps for decades to come, beneath the
tidal waves of ultra-patriotism and American xenophobia. The racial
reality was that American state power had partially redefined the
“racialized Other” as Arab American, Muslim and/or undocumented immigrant.
A “New Racial Domain” was being constructed in twenty-first century
America, relegating most blacks, many undocumented immigrants, and other
racialized groups to an increasingly marginalized status behind a
“color-blind,” racially-neutral regime of mass incarceration, mass
unemployment, and political disfranchisement. The national “War On Terror”
only reinforced the authoritarian dynamics of intolerance and exclusion
that preserved white power.

How do we build resistance to the New Racial Domain, in the age of
globalized capitalism? It should surprise no one that the resistance is
already occurring, on the ground, in thousands of venues across the United
States. In local neighborhoods, people fighting against police brutality,
mandatory-minimum sentencing laws, and for prisoners’ rights; in the fight
for a living wage, to expand unionization and workers’ rights; in the
struggles of working women for day care for their children, health care,
public transportation, and decent housing. These practical struggles of
daily life are really the core of what constitutes day-to-day resistance.
Building capacities of hope and resistance on the ground develops our
ability to challenge the system in more fundamental, direct ways.


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