Reprinted from Truthdig
The almost daily murders of young black men and women by police in the United States -- a crisis undiminished by the protests of groups such as Black Lives Matter and by the empty rhetoric of black political elites -- have given birth to a new young black militant.
This militant, rising off the bloody streets of cities such as Ferguson, Mo., understands that the beast is not simply white supremacy, chronic poverty and the many faces of racism but the destructive energy of corporate capitalism. This militant has given up on electoral politics, the courts and legislative reform, loathes the corporate press and rejects established black leaders such as Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Michael Eric Dyson. This militant believes it is only in the streets and in acts of civil disobedience that change is possible. And given the refusal of the corporate state to address the mounting suffering of the poor and working poor, draconian state repression and indiscriminate use of lethal state violence against unarmed people of color, I think the new black radical is right. It will be a long, hot and violent summer.
The world's hundreds of millions of disenfranchised youths -- in America this group is dominated by the black and brown underclass -- come out of the surplus labor created by our system of corporate neofeudalism. These young men and women have been discarded as human refuse and are preyed upon by a legal system that criminalizes poverty. In the United States they constitute the bulk of the 2.3 million human beings locked in jails and prisons. The discontent in Ferguson, Athens, Cairo, Madrid and Ayotzinapa is one discontent. And the emerging revolt, although it comes in many colors, speaks many languages and has many belief systems, is united around a common enemy. Bonds of solidarity and consciousness are swiftly uniting the wretched of the earth against our corporate masters.
Corporate power, which knows what is coming, has put in place sophisticated systems of control that include militarized police, elaborate propaganda campaigns that seek to make us fearful and therefore passive, wholesale surveillance of every citizen and a court system that has stripped legal protection from the poor and any who dissent. The masses are to be kept in bondage. But the masses, especially the young, understand the game. There is a word for what is bubbling up from below -- revolution. It can't begin soon enough.
The global leadership for this revolt comes not from the institutions of privilege, elite universities where ambitious and self-centered young men and women jockey to become part of the ruling 1 percent, but from the squalid internal colonies that house the poor and usually people of color. The next great revolutionary in America won't look like Thomas Jefferson. He or she will look like Lupe Fiasco.
T-Dubb-O is a hip-hop artist from St. Louis. He is one of the founders, along with Tef Poe, Tory Russell, Tara Thompson and Rika Tyler, of Hands Up United. The organization was formed in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. It has built close alliances with radical organizations in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin American, in Europe and in Palestine.
"I honestly think it's going to be worse than last year, this summer," T-Dubb-O said when I met with him and Tyler at Princeton University, where they had gone to speak to students. "People have become more radical," he said. "They've realized the power that they have. They're no longer afraid of the police, the state, but also you have a police and a military force that's been training for a year to deal with this type of circumstance. So I honestly think this summer is gonna be worse. More violence from the police, and this time you won't have a group of people who is just gonna sit there and let it happen to 'em -- you're gonna have people that are actually gonna fight back instead of just continue to be peaceful protesters. Right now everybody is just on edge. I mean, it's the same situation we was in before Mike Brown. People that don't have jobs, there's crime everywhere, there's drugs everywhere, there's predator policing. It's the same circumstances, it's just no cameras."
"In my city every day, police is pulling somebody over, harassing them, extorting them," he said. "Because that's what it is -- it's legal extortion. When a government is making 30 to 40 percent of their yearly budget off of tickets, fines and imprisonment, it's extortion. It's the same thing the mob did in the '20s. So we fight. We can't go back to normal lives. We get followed, harassed, death threats, phones tapped, social media watched, they hack into our emails, hack into our social media account, we all got FBI files. They know we here right now. So I mean it's not a game, but it's either continue to deal with not being able to just live like a regular person, and dream, and have an opportunity, or get up and do something about it. And we decided to do something."
Tyler said she was propelled into the movement by seeing the body of Michael Brown, which the Ferguson police left lying in the street for more than four hours.
"I went to Canfield [Drive, where Brown was killed]," she said when we spoke. "I saw the body. I saw the blood. I just broke down. And ever since then I've just been out there [as an activist] every day."
"They left [Brown] in the street for four and a half hours in the hot sun on concrete, just for display," she said. "That reminded me of a modern-day lynching. Because you know, they used to lynch slaves and then have it displayed. And that's basically showing us that this system is not built for us. It made me wake up a little bit more."
"Just envision a debtor's prison being run by a collusion between city officials, police and court judges, who treated our community like an ATM machine," Tyler said. "Because that's all they did. Ferguson is in St. Louis County. It's 21,000 people living in 8,100 households. So it's a small town. Sixty-seven percent of the residents are African-American. Twenty-two percent live below poverty level. A total of $2.6 million [were paid in fines to city officials, the courts and the police] in 2013. The Ferguson Municipal Court disposed of 24,532 warrants and 12,018 cases. That's about three warrants per household. One-and-a-half cases for each household. You don't get $321 in fines and fees and three warrants per household from an average crime rate. You get numbers like this from racist bullshit, arrests from jaywalking, and constant low-level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines and the threat of jail for failure to pay."
"For an example," she went on, "I got pulled over. I turned a left [illegally] and my car was searched. I was met with three different officers, two detectives. I got a traffic ticket. I had a ticket because I didn't have my license on me. So I had a ticket for not having my license, and then I got a ticket from turning the wrong way. I did not go to court because I was out of town. However, I called them and told them I will not appear to court and my lawyer would handle it from there. I got a letter in the mail that said failure to appear to court, and they have a warrant out for my arrest. They're threatening to take my license and suspend it because I didn't appear to court. So these are just the things that had happened in St. Louis right now. You can get a ticket from walking across the street, or a ticket from not cutting your grass, and then you're stuck in this system that they put us in, that is oppressed, and keeps us oppressed."
"I was arrested when I was pregnant, I was 37 weeks and I was arrested in St. Charles County by four white officers," she said. "They took me into custody when I had this big-ass stomach. And I'm like, I'm pregnant. I had a traffic ticket for parking in the wrong meter. And they wrote me a ticket and I never paid it, so they took me. I had a warrant out for my arrest. I sat in jail, pregnant, had my baby a week early because I was stressed out and crying my eyes out in jail."
"No person should have to go through this," T-Dubb-O said, "whether it's in America, Palestine, Mexico, Brazil, Canada. Nobody should have to go through this. You look at a bunch of young people [in Ferguson], their age ranges anywhere from 12 to 28 or 29, that went against the most powerful military force in this world. That's pretty much what happened. ... That's not what's explained, but that's what it was. It was tanks on every corner, our phones tapped, they follow us. Every day we was out there we thought we were gonna die. At one point in time they said they were gonna kill us. 'We're not shooting rubber bullets tonight, we're shooting live ammunition.' And these are the things that you don't see on the news. It was just because we was tired of being treated as less than people. Just for opportunity to be able to walk the streets and live and breathe and do what everybody else does. And that's pretty much what we was fighting for. I mean, the level of oppression, it's kind of hard to fathom, and believe that it's actually true in America, especially the middle of America. But it's real, where you have people that are judged off the neighborhoods they come from and the color of their skin and they're denied certain opportunities."