Stand up for the victims of racist hate

June 2, 2017

In the face of renewed and spreading harassment and violence, the International Socialist Organization appeals for a large and united resistance against the far right.

WHEN RIGHT-WING thugs feel free to harass and murder, and a leading voice of the U.S. left faces racist death threats, the need for solidarity and activism against the far right could not be more urgent.

Amid the surge of violent hate crimes since Donald Trump took office came the May 20 murder of an African American student, Richard Collins III in Maryland, on the eve of his graduation. Collins was killed on the University of Maryland campus by Sean Urbanski, a known racist who was identified as a participant in the "Alt-Reich" Facebook group.

The horror over that killing was still fresh when another Nazi, Jeremy Joseph Christian, stabbed to death two men, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and badly wounded a third, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, in Portland, Oregon. Christian attacked them for defending two women, one of them wearing a hijab, who Christian had harassed and abused on a commuter train.

Politicians and the mainstream media typically try to dismiss such killings as the acts of mentally ill individuals acting alone, rather than evidence of the rising level of racist violence in society.

Students marching against racist hate crimes at University of California, San Diego last spring
Students marching against racist hate crimes at University of California at San Diego

But even the pro-Trump New York Post had to report earlier this year that the murder by stabbing of Timothy Caughman, an African American man, came at the hands of an avowed white supremacist, James Harris Jackson--who told police that he traveled to New York City specifically to kill Black people.

Meanwhile, college campuses like the University of California at Berkeley have become a focal point for the extreme right, which seeks physical confrontation with anti-racists and the left under the guise of demonstrating for "free speech." Conservative commentators like Fox News and not a few more liberal media outlets have taken the far right's claims at face value, criticizing the left instead.

That is the frightening context for scores of death threats directed at author, activist and Princeton University professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor this week after Fox News and other right-wing media targeted her following her commencement address at Hampshire College, in which she denounced Trump as a racist and sexist.

As Taylor wrote in an announcement on social media that she would withdraw from several speaking engagements:

Fox did not run this story because it was "news," but to incite and unleash the mob-like mentality of its fringe audience, anticipating that they would respond with a deluge of hate-filled e-mails--or worse. The threat of violence, whether it is implied or acted on, is intended to intimidate and to silence...

The cancelation of my speaking events is a concession to the violent intimidation that was, in my opinion, provoked by Fox News. But I am releasing this statement to say that I will not be silent. Their side uses the threat of violence and intimidation because they cannot compete in the field of politics, ideas and organizing. The true strength of our side has not yet been expressed in its size and breadth, and so they believe they are winning. We have to change this dynamic and begin to build a massive movement against racism, sexism, and bigotry in this country. I remain undaunted in my commitment to that project.

THE MURDERS in Maryland and Oregon and the harassment Taylor has faced are not random events. They are political acts. This is terrorism, committed by those who feel confident to act on their racist and reactionary views at a time when the Trump White House includes figures like Steve Bannon, whose Breitbart News gave a "platform" to the "alt-right"--which includes Klan, Nazi and other far-right elements attempting to rebrand themselves as "white nationalists."

In a country founded on the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans and the oppression of nonwhite immigrants, racist violence has deep roots. It expresses itself in many ways, including the wildly disproportionate numbers of killings and arrests of African Americans by police, as even the U.S. Department of Justice has been forced to acknowledge in its review of policing in numerous cities such as Chicago.

Central to this history of racist violence is the long tradition of white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, as well as Nazi groups. These elements have often tried to give themselves a mainstream cover--as with Klansman David Duke's 1991 campaign for governor of Louisiana, or, more recently, Richard Spencer's National Policy Institute, whose supporters celebrated Trump's election with a Nazi salute.

But the Nazis inevitably reveal their true agenda through violence --for example, Dylan Roof's 2015 massacre of nine people in a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Now, other racists are following Roof's example by threatening people of color, Muslims and anyone else who challenges their agenda. At a time when the president of the United States calls for banning Muslims from entering the U.S., while gutting civil rights protections and deporting immigrants en masse, it's little wonder that the far right feels emboldened--and that some white supremacists act on their threats, such as the racist who shot two Indian engineers, killing Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding Alok Madasani, in a Kansas bar.

VIOLENCE AND intimidation must be met with solidarity and a systematic defense of those under attack, whether it is well-known activists like Taylor or the random Muslims, African Americans and immigrants that the Nazis target in the streets.

In taking on this challenge, we can draw on the U.S. left's long tradition of resisting right-wing violence. It ranges from the anti-fascist workers' defense guards of the 1930s to the Deacons of Defense and other Black self-defense groups that provided protection for the civil rights movement of the 1960s against the Klan.

Recent decades have seen more modest but extremely important organizing against the far right, such as the effort in the 1990s by the Midwest Network to Stop the Klan to keep organized white supremacists from getting a foothold in Iowa and other Midwestern states.

Now the violent far right is back--and bigger and more lethal than at any time in decades. Fascists are attempting to use the rightward lurch in U.S. politics to market themselves as mainstream. While they portray themselves as champions of the "white working class," they are the avowed enemy of all genuine working-class organizations as opponents of the totalitarian order they seek.

The ISO appeals to left-wing, labor and anti-racist organizations of all currents to unite and take mass action against this surge of right-wing violence and fascist organization.

Only by confronting these elements can we expose their real agenda of oppressing the vulnerable and destroying democracy. They will not go away if we ignore them. On the contrary, they will use every opportunity to advance--which means more racism, more murder, more terror.

We can't let them get away with it. Defenders of social justice in Portland, Oregon, are organizing a demonstration on June 4 as a counterprotest against the far right to show that the bigots are a tiny, hateful minority. Two days later, on June 6, anti-racists will gather at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ to hear for a town hall meeting to reflect on the murder of Richard Collins III, with featured speakers to include Rev. Graylan Hagler, anti-death penalty activist Shujaa Graham, and author and activist Brian Jones.

These should be the first of many such mobilizations. Join us in taking a stand in solidarity with the oppressed--and organizing a fight for justice and equality for working people.

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