by Sharon Kyle
This month, writer Ben Ehrenreich and Rabbi Brant Rosen had an open and frank discussion about the plight of the Palestinian people in the face of Israel’s presence in Gaza. Dick and I listened intently in a packed room at a location on the Westside.
A week before, while 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—we stood in solidarity with the attendees.
Both convenings were well attended—pretty much standing room only. Between them, approximately 300 people showed up. As the LA Progressive’s editor and publisher, Dick and I attend lots of these gatherings. Some months there are more, some months there are fewer, but there’s always something. A day doesn’t pass without something to promote, attend, moderate, speak at, write about, or support. We try to keep up, but it just gets harder.
Over the years, it’s become clear to me that progressive policies and politics are widely supported across this country . But somehow that support doesn’t translate into legislation. In fact, our policies are going backwards.
Several factors contribute to this but the least addressed is the unrelenting and damaging nature of this country’s racial and ethnic apartheid systems. That’s right, apartheid—a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of race (and I’d add ethnicity). 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 just as effective and produce pretty much the same results.
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 look like them. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court found, in Brown v. Board of Education, that separate is inherently unequal—that racial segregation yields inequality.
As with almost all events we attend across Los Angeles, the attendees of the two events I mentioned earlier were almost entirely comprised of a single ethnic group. The first was almost entirely Jewish, the second almost entirely Latinx.
And so I come to the point of this article and why Dick and I have spent so much of our time trying to organize the upcoming Left Coast Forum.
Socially sanctioned apartheid is sanctioned by the Left and by the Right. I suspect the Right is comfortable with segregation. But I don’t think that’s the case with the Left. I think 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.