On Saturday, 90 people in Belfast and 30 people in Derry attended a meeting Socialist and #Blacklivesmatter activists on the anniversary of Malcolm X and the struggle against racism in the US today. Socialist Youth member, Derbhla McDermott reports on the meeting in Belfast and writes about some of the key themes
Over the past year the #BlackLivesMatter movement is something that has been gaining rapid momentum throughout the world due to the powerful actions, words and images of Ferguson protesters, who have come out in their thousands in a vital display of solidarity against the horrific, institutionalized police discrimination and brutality faced by black and other minorities on their own streets.
As a long-time socialist activist living in Harlem, New York, Eljeer Hawkins was able to give us a deeper and even more potent perspective on these protests and to help us understand exactly what forms racism takes in today’s society and what purpose it is designed to achieve. The importance of his words were not lost as even after moving to a bigger room, the space was still completely packed out with people, with many having to stand. His insight into the life, growth and death of Malcom X was also invaluable and offered fresh inspiration in the struggle against racist and discriminatory elements.
“Racism is etched into the DNA of capitalism” is one quote of Eljeer’s that particularly stood out to me. He described how capitalism by its very nature seeks to divide – whether that be by class, race, religion, sexuality or gender. Its very survival depends on inequality within society. Frustrations at the system are directed towards minority groups rather than the government or the wealthy elite by politicians and the media, aiming to damage any real chance of a united working class uprising. This is something we have seen recently with the rise of racist anti-immigration parties such as UKIP who thrive off of the fear and anger of the working-class by presenting populism and division as the solution rather than any meaningful change within the system.
Through this, capitalism and racism are so completely intertwined that in order to end this discrimination, a new and equal socialist system must be created to replace this structure of hatred. Eljeer’s knowledge and understanding of the figure of Malcom X and the lessons that can be learned from him were incredible. He spoke of his great fearlessness as he remained outspoken and firm in his revolutionary beliefs despite multiple death threats and assassination attempts.
Malcom X’s formation of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity and his ground-breaking work for black civil-rights have rendered him one of the most important and influential figures in American history and a source of inspiration for anyone wanting to change society. The emotional potency and passion of Eljeer’s words were followed by a standing ovation,eager questions and audience contributions which clearly demonstrated the immediacy and importance of his message to ordinary people today.