Reading Omar Ali’s comments from the Yes, and Café podcast this week, I was struck by his reminder of how the role of ideology and race are used in the same way to divide people against each other who actually have much in common. On Sunday, there was a front page article in The New York Times titled “A Year of Hardship, Helped and Hindered by Washington” that gave us a poignant and upsetting story of a white, working class young woman, Kathryn Stewart, and her efforts to create a life for herself and 10-year-old son living dependent on the capricious and arbitrary systems of COVID aid. Kathryn was described as not political and a non-voter in the 2021 elections. This was not surprising as neither party is speaking to her or seems concerned about her plight. She is one of the millions of people who have been abandoned by the current political arrangements.
I read the piece the day after I watched Judas and the Black Messiah, a timely and powerful film chronicling the efforts of the Chicago Black Panther party, led by 21-year-old Fred Hampton, to build a alliance with the white working class leaders in the late 1960’s. Hampton was assassinated, as have other black leaders before and after him who saw the possibility of creating new kinds of class wide political alliances.
In the Balance of Power by Omar Ali gives us an important history of independent black politics and third party movements in the United States where we see the journey of African American leadership/identifications with independent politics and the currents of black separatist movements and black nationalist organizing. In the book, one also finds the threads of independent class wide organizing led by many African American leaders, including those of Lenora Fulani’s starting in the 1980’s.
These recent reading/viewing experiences have brought home to me the imperative of class wide organizing today. The white working class is currently portrayed as nothing but Trumpers and insurrectionists, the people who attacked the capital. Kathryn Stewart was neither, as are millions of other people who have been left out and are unrepresented. I was very touched by Kathryn’s experience and felt the urgency of continuing to build an independent movement that speaks out to the concerns of the left-out and the disenfranchised and asks “Can we break out of the strictures of a politic defined by race and ideology?”
Susan Massad is a retired primary care physician educator who is on the faculty of the East Side Institute where she leads workshops/conversations exploring what it means for people to grow and develop in the face of serious illness, aging or memory loss. Susan is a long time independent activist with Independent Voting.
Politics for the People Zoom Event
With Author Omar H. Ali
Sunday, February 21st
Click here to RSVP!