When writer Ben Ehrenreich and Rabbi Brant Rosen sat for a frank discussion about the plight of the Palestinian people in the face of Israel’s presence in Gaza, the LA Progressive was there. Dick and I listened intently in a packed room at a location on the Westside of Los Angeles.
A week before, we stood in solidarity with a group at an LA Progressive co-sponsored event—the Sanctuary Town Hall at the SEIU headquarters, which was organized to show the L.A. City Council that demand for a robust City of Sanctuary ordinance is strong.
Both convenings were well attended—pretty much standing room only. To be responsive to our readers we try to cover as many of these kinds of events as possible. They’re peppered throughout the year – depending on the hot news of the month sometimes there are so many rallies, town halls, or panel discussions it’s hard to choose which to attend. There’s always some way to get involved. A day doesn’t pass without something to promote, attend, moderate, speak at, write about, or support. We try to keep up, but frankly it seems to be getting harder.
Over the years, it’s become clear that left leaning policies receive wider support from the masses than one would think especially in light of the legislation passed in various states. In fact, the policies adopted by our legislators seem to be going backwards. This point was driven home when looking out the conclusions drawn after two professors at Northwestern and Princeton Universities analyzed data they gleaned from a twenty year study. Their data demonstrated that policies supported by economic elites and business interest groups were far more likely to become law than those they opposed and that the average rank and file voter had almost no chance of having policies reflect their interests unless their interests overlapped with the interests of the well heeled individuals or deep pocketed corporations.
I’ve heard politicians say they’re better off having the masses behind them than a truckload of money. But Aside from the role that money plays in politics, several other factors contribute to this misalignment between what constituents want and what legislators pass but the least addressed is the impact of this country’s long history of racial and ethnic segregation.
The United States implemented state sanctioned racial apartheid for most of its history starting with the inception of the nation. In contrast, South Africa’s apartheid laws were only on the books for about 50 years. That’s right, apartheid—a set of polices or a system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race (and I’d add ethnicity) has been the way of the land since the beginning. Yes, it’s true that the United States no longer imposes overt state sanctioned apartheid on its people. But it doesn’t have to. Its socially sanctioned apartheid systems are doing just fine. In fact, they are as effective and produce pretty much the same results as the state sanctioned segregation laws of yesteryear.
Case in point: in 2017, public schools are more racially and ethnically segregated than they were in 1954. The vast majority of people in the United States live in neighborhoods along side people who pretty much look like them. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court found, in Brown v. Board of Education, that separate is inherently unequal— and most importantly that racial segregation yields inequality.
Although not spoken of in these terms, socially sanctioned segregation today strongly resembles the state sanctioned segregation the civil rights movement fought against in the 1950’s. What we typically see as we travel to cover events across Los Angeles is that they are generally attended by a single ethnic or racial group. Depending on the purpose of the event, for example the group that attended the Israeli/Palestine discussion mentioned above was almost entirely Jewish. The second event we discussed regarding Sanctuary Cities attracted a crowd that was almost entirely Latinx.
It appears that socially sanctioned apartheid is as sanctioned by the Left as it is by the Right. And this spills over into employment, housing, healthcare and all of the other areas of life — particularly education – that the U.S. Supreme Court said leads to inequality.
Although I claim that the Left and the Right both sanction racial and ethnic segregation I suspect that the Left sanctions apartheid partly by our silence and by our lack of initiative to mount a serious campaign to end it. Yet, until we do, we can’t have the kinds of coalitions that are powerful enough to mobilize against the oppressive policies we see handed down everyday.
In his book, Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America, well known white anti-racist Tim Wise makes the case that economic inequality in this country is caused primarily by predatory affluence. He maintains that until we address racial divisions we’ll never be able to accomplish our overall progressive goals.
I think he’s got that right. So whether you’re involvement in the progressive movement centers mostly on the environment, or the rights of the LGBTQ community, or healthcare, or the economy, or education or any number of issues that progressives care about—if you are not also focusing on our racially splintered foundation, you can’t be serious about winning.
The underlying message of every thing Dick and I do is that we are anti-racists. The Left Coast Forum is our attempt to bring this message forward.
Please join us on November 3-5, 2017 at Los Angeles Trade Tech. Our keynote speaker on Friday night is Professor Richard D. Wollf and there are others. Join the speakers, panelists, and fellow activists building upon sometimes disjointed street protests, online petitions, and siloed thinking to create the potent united front needed to reclaim all threatened rights and freedoms.
When: Nov 3-5, 2017
Where: L.A. Trade Tech, 400 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Link to EventBrite: Click here to check in and learn more
Publisher, LA Progressive