LIKE ABOLISHING JIM CROW, WE CAN ABOLISH CLASS INEQUALITY
June 26, 2021
IN 1930 BLACK AMERICANS THOUGHT IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO ABOLISH JIM CROW, BUT BY 1960 THEY WERE DETERMINED TO DO IT: WHAT CHANGED THEIR MINDS?
TODAY WORKING CLASS AMERICANS THINK IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ABOLISH CLASS INEQUALITY TO HAVE NO RICH AND NO POOR, BUT ONE DAY THEY WILL BE DETERMINED TO DO IT: WHAT WILL CHANGE THEIR MINDS?
In 1930 black Americans felt hopeless about abolishing Jim Crow, and for that reason put their energy into adapting to it. The earliest form of adaptation was advocated by Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) who at one time was the "most influential black man in America" and who "urged blacks to accept discrimination for the time being and elevate themselves through hard work and economic gain to win the respect of whites."*
Later, Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) had a large following among black Americans; he "called for racial separatism and a 'Back-to-Africa' colonization program."**
It was W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) who forcefully challenged the accommodationist strategies (adapting to rather than abolishing Jim Crow) of Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. "In 1903, in his famous book THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK, Du Bois charged that Washington's strategy kept the black man down rather than freed him. This attack crystallized the opposition to Booker T. Washington among many black intellectuals, polarizing the leaders of the black community into two wings -- the 'conservative' supporters of Washington and his 'radical' critics. In 1905, Du Bois took the lead in founding the short-lived Niagara Movement, intended to be an organization advocating civil rights for blacks. Although the Niagara Movement faltered, it was the forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was founded in 1909."*
In subsequent decades the "radical" strategy gained support among blacks and eventually led to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement with leaders such as Martin Luther King,Jr. and Malcolm X who inspired the vast majority of blacks to aim for the abolition of Jim Crow (segregation and explicit racial discrimination by law***) and settle for nothing less.
As a result of changing their minds about the possibility of abolishing Jim Crow, blacks built a movement that did indeed abolish it. What initially seemed impossible came to seem very possible!
WHAT ABOUT CLASS INEQUALITY NOW?
Class inequality (some rich and some poor, with the rich treating the rest like dirt to keep us in our place at the bottom) is like Jim Crow: it is a systemic injustice of huge proportions.
Just as most blacks for a long time thought it was impossible to abolish Jim Crow, most working class Americans today think it is impossible to abolish class inequality. This is why they think in terms of merely adapting to it with band aid reforms, as blacks once tried merely adapting to Jim Crow.
Jim Crow penetrated all aspects of society so thoroughly that many people for a long time simply took it for granted (like fish take the water they swim in for granted) without imagining what it would be like if it were abolished and of course not taking steps to abolish it.
Likewise, class inequality penetrates all aspects of our society today so thoroughly that most people simply take it for granted without imagining what it would be like if it were abolished and of course not taking steps to abolish it.
WHAT BLACKS DID ABOUT JIM CROW, WORKING CLASS AMERICANS CAN DO ABOUT CLASS INEQUALITY
If blacks were able to change from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful about abolishing Jim Crow, then working class Americans ought to be able to change from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful about abolishing class inequality. What will it take to make this change?
It will require that those individuals who see the need and the possibility of abolishing class inequality forcefully call for abolishing it and not adapting to it, like W.E.B. Du Bois did regarding Jim Crow.
The change will no doubt be slow at first. After all, the NAACP was formed to abolish Jim Crow in 1909 but it took decades for that strategy to become the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Keep in mind that many if not most blacks perceived (as the ruling class worked hard to make them perceive) the goal of abolishing Jim Crow as a goal that would be opposed by the white majority of the U.S. population. And yet in spite of this strong reason for remaining hopeless, blacks still eventually decided to abolish Jim Crow! And when they did, they discovered they had the support of huge numbers of working class white people.****
Likewise, most working class Americans perceive (as the ruling class works hard to make them perceive) the goal of abolishing class inequality as a goal that is opposed by the majority of Americans. But the fact is that the vast majority of ordinary Americans would LOVE to see class inequality abolished.*****
The black movement to abolish Jim Crow grew by persuading black organizations to explicitly aim to abolish Jim Crow. The more organizations that did this, the more blacks saw that they were not alone in wanting to take concrete steps to abolish Jim Crow. "During the civil rights movement nearly every African American community had at least one church that provided tangible, moral and spiritual support. Mass meetings and rallies in support of the movement were held at large African American churches. Offerings of money were taken up to provide financial support to those participating in civil rights activities by, for instance, helping jailed demonstrators to make bail and pay various other fines." [7, now a broken link] "African American churches were vital to the success of the civil rights movement. They hosted mass meetings, were meeting points for rallies and marches, and provided much-needed emotional, physical, moral and spiritual support. These churches gave the community strength to endure and ultimately succeed in gaining equal human rights for every American regardless of color or creed." ******
Likewise, the movement to abolish class inequality will grow if we persuade organizations of ordinary Americans to explicitly declare their aim not only to win this or that reform but also to abolish class inequality. The more organizations that do this, the more ordinary Americans will see that they are not alone in wanting to take concrete steps to abolish class inequality.
This is how working class Americans will change from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful about abolishing class inequality. And this is how class inequality will be abolished.
*** Today's New Jim Crow (racist prison incarceration) uses methods other than explicitly racist laws, and it exists because we still have class inequality, which requires divide-and-rule--especially along race lines--to be maintained.
****http://www.uky.edu/AS/PoliSci/Peffley/491RacialTolerHandoutTRENDS%20IN%20WHITES(10-2-01).htm and https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/in-march-on-washington-white-activists-were-largely-overlooked-but-strategically-essential/2013/08/25/f2738c2a-eb27-11e2-8023-b7f07811d98e_story.html