ABCs of Socialism: “What about racism? Don’t socialists only care about class?” (p. 70-81)
Brian Jones, The Social Construction of Race
- Start by viewing this short clip together (Video: “Not All White People Were Created Equal: White Privilege in America”)
- Has racism always existed? How has whiteness changed over time?
- Write down the following quote on the board and discuss: “So when I say it’s all made up, I mean it. It’s made up. But that’s not to say it’s not real. It’s very real. It’s real in the same way that Wednesday is real. But it’s also made up in the same way that Wednesday is made up.”
- Cite some contemporary examples of how people in positions of power (elected officials, landlords, corporate shareholders, bosses, etc) benefit from racism. How does the ruling class reproduce itself in part through racial ideologies? How did the ruling class use whiteness to maintain power?
Exploring Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike, and the Poor People’s Campaign
Reading: Michael K Honey, “Martin Luther King Jr.: 50 Years Later”
Watch: David Appleby, Steve Ross, and Allison Graham – “At the River I Stand”
Questions (“At the River I Stand”):
- What does the film reveal about the ties between class and race, workers’ rights and civil rights?
- What methods did the local government use to try to repress the sanitation workers’ attempts to organize?
- What were the escalation tactics used by workers?
- How and why did the community get involved?
- What did the statement “I am a Man” mean? How did it serve to mobilize individuals?
- What happens when national civil rights leaders got involved?
- What are some lessons we can draw from the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike?
- How were you taught about Martin Luther King Jr. in school? What parts of his legacy were highlighted? What parts were not
- (e.g. fight for union rights, leader in the labor movement, etc).
- How is the fight for civil and voting rights intertwined with that for economic justice?
- What were some of the demands in the Poor People’s Campaign?
- What sectors of the population did it bring together?
- Compare this campaign with contemporary movements and campaigns (e.g. Fight for 15, #metoo, Black Lives Matter, Medicare for All, College for All, Fridays for Future, decriminalization of sex work). Draw similarities and differences, discuss.