Noam Chomsky is a well-known linguistics professor at MIT. His statements regarding racism in America are by no means revolutionary. What they are is an honest look at the life of black America throughout our nation’s history. He points to the fact that the beginnings of our country proliferated two crimes; slavery, and eliminating the indigenous people living on land the colonists wanted for their own. The assumption of white America is that the civil rights movement began positive change for the black community. The truth is that shortly after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, a new persecution and a less overt racism began to grow. The United States must address a problem which continues to flourish; ignoring racism will not make it go away.
When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, a new era for slaves, mostly in the south, began. After the end of the Civil War, and for nearly 10 years, the quality of life for black America improved. As concessions to the southern states, which had relied on slavery to run its plantations and assist in other forms of commerce, the federal government signed legislation giving the south complete autonomy regulating the treatment of black men and women.
Professor Chomsky pointed to the facts that state laws ‘criminalized’ blacks. Thousands of black men were thrown into jail, and the situation for former slave owners actually improved. This new group of slaves were under the control of governments, and were less problematic for former slave owners. Incarcerated men were the backbone of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and 20th century; these practices continued until WWII. Once again, no mention of this situation in our history books ignores reality and glorifies the culprits.
After WWII, the lives of black families did improve for nearly 20 years. Men were able to obtain good jobs in the post war revitalization of our nation’s economy. But the 70’s and 80’s witnessed a return to criminalization of blacks.
Chomsky portrays Ronald Reagan as a devout racist; and he made no effort to hide it. His ‘war on drugs’ was an obvious effort to prevent blacks and Hispanics from finding a productive role in our society. History ignores the fact that not only was Reagan a racist, he was also anti-working class.
Complaints by Republicans regarding social programs are pure hypocrisy. Minorities living in the poverty level is a direct result of legislation in Washington.
Today, ignoring the fact that education has lost its priority in our nation, the hopes of minorities to find equality in their lives with their white brothers and sisters is fading. Voter ID laws are a perfect example of an effort by several ‘red’ states to suppress the number of minorities at the polls, insuring that Republican candidates have an advantage in elections. Because big business owns the GOP, and now have the majority in both houses of Congress, it is guaranteed that no new social programs will become law, and many of the existing ones will become diminished in their effectiveness. Washington will continue its practice of ignoring the majority of Americans in favor of the few.
The Professor warns that the events in Ferguson and New York could be the beginning of a widespread social uprising across the nation. Local, state and federal governments have treated the poorest in our country with disrespect and even hatred. Ethnic communities receive less consideration by authorities and are ‘kept in their place’ by law enforcement’s harsh treatment and overreaction.
If a type of revolution occurs, poor and lower middle class whites will likely stand by their side. The division between the wealthiest Americans and those who live day to day has widened, and continues to be a growing disparity.
Although our politicians continue to talk about freedom, they do not mean it. Ignoring racism insures that equality will not exist for millions of Americans. The United States has lost its status as a ‘great country;’ and it will continue to lack that status as long as our federal government supports the wealthy class and ignores the plight of the working class and poor.
By James Turnage