By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

Anti-racism protests in view of Ayatollah Khamenei’s letter to Western youth

June 21, 2020 - 12:11

Uprisings decrying racism and injustices perpetrated and perpetuated by police have erupted in hundreds of U.S. cities and towns, and spread to numerous cities in North America and Europe. Initially triggered by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020, protests have expanded to embrace the broader cause of eliminating racism and injustices embedded in Western capitalist governments.

“The histories of the United States and Europe are ashamed of slavery, embarrassed by the colonial period and chagrined at the oppression of people of color and non-Christians,” the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, wrote in a letter to the youth in North America and Europe in January of 2015.  The Leader went on to ask, “Why should the revision of collective conscience apply to the distant past and not to the current problems?” 

Do the current uprisings throughout America and elsewhere represent a revision of collective conscience?  Will the protests manage to finally bring about much-hoped-for change in the oppressive governmental structures of the West that have undergone reinforcement over the centuries? One Western journalist in New Mexico is confident that the world is at the threshold of substantive change. “We’re experiencing a cultural shift, breathtaking in its pace,” wrote veteran journalist Tripp Jennings.   

Others are not so sure. After all, nothing significant has happened so far beyond the indictment of the police officers involved in the slaying of George Floyd. The toppling and removal of Confederate statues, all of which are an implicit glorification of racism and slavery, is necessary, but only meager, first step.  Efforts for the eradication of these satanic symbols of racist ideology were certainly given a vigorous boost in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, but in some cities plans for their removal had already been in effect for years.

In the city of Louisville, Kentucky, for example, plans for removing two Confederate statues were announced by Mayor Greg Fischer in 2016, but a court decision allowing the action only came last Friday, June 12, 2020 following years of legal battles. Rejecting claims that this was an attempt to erase history, Fischer insisted that the removal “allows us to examine our history in a new context that more accurately reflects the reality of the day, a time when the moral deprivation of slavery is clear.” In the city of Jacksonville, Florida, Mayor Lenny Curry has announced plans to remove three Confederate monuments and eight historical markers.   

When demonstrators threatened to topple the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor Randall Woodfin begged the crowds to disperse and assured them he would “finish the job.” Later the mayor insisted, “Violence, looting and chaos is not the road to reform,” but, “In order to prevent more civil unrest in our city, I think it is very imperative that we remove this statue that's in Linn Park.” If Woodfin keeps his promise, he may be faced with a lawsuit from the state, since the Alabama legislature passed a law in 2017 prohibiting local governments from removing or altering monuments and memorials.

In a sense, Birmingham Mayor Woodfin, who is Black, is representative of the intractable problem of racism and injustice in America. With a motto of “Putting People First,” Woodfin envisions making Birmingham “a laboratory for progress,” but has announced a crime-fighting program that increases the number of police officers on the streets. Increasing the number of police officers translates to increased violence against Blacks and minorities, as is gruesomely verified by the statistic that eight out of the 100 largest city police departments in the U.S. kill Black men at a rate which exceeds the average U.S. murder rate. 

In contrast to this reactionary, typically white tactic of increasing police presence, protestors in Seattle, Washington have created a police-free autonomous zone. After police abandoned a precinct building, demonstrators simply moved in and took over, claiming it for the people and setting up CHAZ, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. One of the members of the newly-created community explained, “I think what it’s doing is exposing the unnecessary need of an over-policed state.”  Mike Baker of the New York Times characterized CHAZ as “an experiment in life without the police — part street festival, part commune.” 

U.S. president Donald Trump responded to the innovative CHAZ community by threatening Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, who refused to give permission for federal troops to come in and evacuate the occupants. “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump tyrannically tweeted, referring to the peaceful protestors as “ugly Anarchists.” Durkan replied, “One of the things this president will never understand is that listening to the community is not a weakness. It’s a strength.” Some members of the CHAZ community have even set up checkpoints manned by armed individuals, the purpose of which is to safeguard what one worker in a nearby coffee shop called an “anti-racist zone.” 

Rather than seeing the latest American uprising as a revolt against racism and injustice, the moneyed class continues to view the protests in terms of economics and society; specifically, frustrations due to unemployment resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and the dysfunctionality of the U.S. political system.  “What started as a health crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned into an economic crisis, then leading to a job-loss catastrophe,” explained CEO, founder and executive recruiter Jack Kelly, who noted that frustrations encompassed “society as a whole—including our inept political leaders.” Blaming egotism and political differences, he predicted that “we’ll continue to have unrest, increasing unemployment and the destruction of small businesses.” 
Blaming the current crop of incompetent politicians, momentarily satisfying as it may be, fails to address the systemic racism, economic inequality and societal injustices embedded in the staggering system of corrupt crony capitalism as practiced in America and the West, and promulgated by threat of sanctions and military force. “Peaceful” protests will not change this system. Even conservative white journalists will concede this fact. “As I listen to government officials these days calling for ‘peaceful’ protests,” wrote Walt Rubel in the Las Cruces (NM) Bulletin, “I suspect what they really want are protests that are easy to ignore.”   

Perhaps taking Rubel’s words at face value, protesters in the second largest city in New Mexico have twice resorted to blocking traffic at a major intersection, unusual civil disobedience by Las Cruces standards.  On Saturday, June 6, a group of demonstrators held up traffic for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the duration of time Minneapolis police had George Floyd in a so-called choke hold, technically termed a vascular neck restraint (VNR). Incidentally, researchers in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Psychology had concluded “VNR is a safe and effective force intervention; however, outcomes could vary in different populations,” which was certainly true in George Floyd’s case.

Trump had even planned a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of one of the bloodiest racist massacres of Blacks in U.S. history, which was executed by white citizens of that city in 1921. June 19 marks the celebration of Juneteenth, the day in 1865 when enslaved Blacks in Texas finally found out they had been freed some two and one-half years earlier by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Despite denouncing the evils of slavery before the graduating class of the U.S. military academy, yet the hypocritical U.S. president has declined to authorize the renaming of the ten U.S. military bases named after Confederate army officers.  

Ayatollah Khamenei asked in his letter to the youth in the West, “Why does the power structure in the world want Islamic thought to be marginalized and remain latent?” The martyred Black leader Malcolm X understood the transformative power of Islam and the threat it poses to corrupt Western crony does the white power structure that assassinated him. The youthful leaders behind the current American uprising should read Ayatollah Khamenei’s letter, learn about the power of Islam and apply it to revise the collective conscience of the West.


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