A Vision to WAKE Up and SHAKE Up Campuses!
March 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
An important CALL has been issued for “April 21: National Student Day of Action to STOP Police Terror! WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?” Revolution newspaper/revcom.us interviewed a number of students in California who are organizing for this Day of Action—some who are members of the Revolution Club, and some who are very new to the movement for revolution and new to taking up the struggle against police murder and brutality. We learned a number of things from talking to these students, including lessons for building for this day that show the potential for this being taken up very broadly among students. We urge students to take up this Call and write to revcom.us about their experiences (firstname.lastname@example.org).
One thing we learned is that these students are coming together from very different backgrounds and experiences, but they all feel passionately about this issue and the urgent need for students to take up this struggle on campus as part of really putting a STOP to an intolerable situation.
One white skater said he comes from a small town where there were like only five Black kids in his high school and little awareness about police brutality. He said his parents always taught him to speak up and took him to a lot of anti-war protests when he was young. But also he himself got fucked with by the police a lot because he was a skater.
A Latina student who helped write the Call said that taking a class where she read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander sparked her interest in the struggle around police brutality and caused her to begin to have big questions about the whole way this system has used the War on Drugs to demonize Black and Latino people to justify the brutality against them and mass incarceration. She said, “When I started reading that it just opened my eyes—how the War on Drugs was a whole façade for mass incarceration.... They used racist labeling like ‘welfare queens’ and ‘super-predators.’ .... [This] opened my eyes to like, that’s them programming us to think like that, to think it’s just about targeting criminals but it’s not—it’s really about targeting certain races.”
She said that when she was growing up in East LA, “It was just like normal for the police to attack people that looked like us, I just assumed it was like normal. Because I heard so many stories about it growing up from my cousins, my grandpa, my aunts and uncles, I didn’t realize until I grew up and got older that this isn’t right—that this is not normal for this to happen. It really happened when I changed location. I lived in Southern California in a Latino-dominated area where there was hardly any other races around us. But then when I started to experience other places and heard about other experiences where this wasn’t normal, I would tell people stories about my dad growing up, to my friends, and they would go, like whoa, that’s too extreme, why didn’t you do anything about it and I was like, well, what are we going to do, there’s a cop. I don’t know how it changed exactly, I guess it was just like a process, growing up and focusing more on the issues going on in the world than the issues going on in my high school or the drama going on in my cliques.”
Another student, a Black woman who helped write the Call, talked about how she comes from a family that has a lot of people in the police and military. She said, “Growing up with them was pretty tough because I’ve always been a person that has kind of spoken out against those things, I’m a pretty outspoken person about that type of stuff. So just growing up, I was just constantly clashing with the people who I was related to. Then in college and getting involved was just natural for me... I really tried to find ways to get involved on campus, and try and not only promote what I believed, but to take a stand against something that is really wrong, that is objectively wrong.” She said, “I started with Rise Up October last year, I did fundraising and leafleting. But before that I was in the Black Student Union on campuses, but they weren’t really doing enough in my opinion, wasn’t challenging enough, so that’s when I decided to stick with revcom.us”
A member of the Revolution Club who recently graduated from SF [San Francisco] State said that going to an anti-July 4th picnic and hearing Bob Avakian was a turning point in her getting involved in the struggle around police brutality, but also beginning to put this struggle into the larger framework of the need for revolution. She said, “The first time I heard BA was when they played one of the tapes from the Revolution talk and I heard him say there’s no Black man that walks around that does not have the fear of getting murdered by the police. So when I heard that I kind of thought about it and thought that’s basically true and it says a lot about America and what America represents. It kind of resonated and I guess that that’s when I decided to start getting involved in fighting police murder and brutality.”
Struggling for a Vision for the Day
The second big thing these students talked about was the vision they have for this day, what they hope to accomplish, and what kind of struggle needs to be waged to make this happen. A number of students talked about how this day has to be a day to really WAKE people up, to really do something that disrupts “business as usual,” to make people confront the reality of the situation. As one student put it, “We want to have a rally that goes against business as usual because business as usual in this country is genocide of Black people.”
One Rev Club member said, “What I would like to see happen on [this campus] would be either to have as large number of students as possible walking out of school and doing protests on campus or out in the community at large. We’ve been working with multiple organizations. And I believe we’ll be calling for a demonstration that day that students will walk out of school to attend... So that’s our vision—to have as many students as possible walk out and actually use this as a launching pad to build permanent organizations on these campuses.”
There have been positive responses from both students and professors/teachers. One student reported that, “One of my professors, when I told her about it, she said, if you walk out, I’ll walk out with you.” But students also talked about how it is a struggle sometimes to wrench students out of how they are going about their lives, only thinking about pretty insignificant things, just being concerned about themselves. One of the organizers at SF State said, “This is such an important issue and we need to start caring about issues that are important in our society versus like what’s going on with the Kardashians. That’s what I envision, that one day people will stop caring about the insignificant stuff and start caring about what’s really happening to our fellow peers.”
The Rev Club organizer at SF State talked about how a lot of times there is this “narrowness among students where they’re thinking about themselves and getting through school and then becoming somebody. But they don’t think about the world because they’re not supposed to.” She said you ask them, “Is the only thing you want to do in life is get good grades and think about yourself or do you want to think about how you want to get free?” And she says she picked up a sharp point of agitation from listening to Sunsara Taylor, who challenged students saying, “They ask you what you want to be when you grow up but they never ask you what kind of world you want to live in.”
One organizer at SF State said, “I think a lot of people care about the issue and know about the issue. But when it comes to actually taking a stand and believing they can make a change, that’s where we’re really lacking, and what people really need to understand is that you have an opinion and you have a voice and when you use it and when you stand firm with it and you’re persistent, then that’s when things get changed. But as of right now, I think that a lot of people want to do things the easy way. But this is not something that’s easy; it’s not something that’s even easy to talk about. And I think that’s what’s most important, that we have to help people understand and talk to them about the issue of police brutality in ways that they can get involved,.”
A Black student who has been building the struggle against police murder and brutality on his campus said, “The students, most of them are in school so they can move up, and they don’t really see it as an issue for them, but I’m trying to convey it to them and trying to get them to have a different perception on what’s happening and get them to see that it’s not just happening to criminals, it’s happening to the poor, and now and then it happens to middle class people as well. So I just want them to know that this is a real issue. It’s a real system operating, and it’s a real tyranny going on. I’m just trying to get that through to them. Just trying to figure out a way to relate it to them, to know that this will affect them whether it affects them directly or indirectly, it will affect them eventually. So it’s important for them to stand up with these people that have been directly affected already.”
The “Presence” of BA
A third major thing that struck us in talking to these students was the “presence” of BA and the whole understanding that he has brought forward of the problem we face and the solution to it of communist revolution.
The leadership of the Rev Club members is providing a situation where lots of different people are getting involved, coming at this from different viewpoints and understandings of what is the problem and what is the solution—and as everyone is united around the need to fight police murder and brutality and build for this day, students are being introduced to the leadership of Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution and beginning to grapple with the bigger questions of what it’s really going to take to get to a whole new world, to emancipate all of humanity.
A Rev Club member recounted how someone from the Black Student Union said that he was reticent to take up the Day because “if people see me with you every time you guys have an event, people are going to think I’m in this party. And I don’t really know enough to represent that, so I’m not sure, I’m hesitant about that.” So the Rev Club member said, “You can just be honest and tell people you’re not in the party. But you can also tell people I like some of what they do and I work with them on certain things.” But he also said, “If you feel like you don’t know enough, you’ve got to go the source. Come to the BA Everywhere dinner, go to revcom.us, go to the books—and really look at this program and what it’s saying and compare and contrast this to other programs and how they name the problem and solution.”
Several newer people around the Rev Club talked about how they are seriously checking out what BA and the Revolutionary Communist Party are about. These students are “fighting the power” and as they are doing this, they are transforming their own thinking, and their sense of urgency around the issue of police murder and brutality is increasingly being linked to a growing feeling that these egregious crimes against the people are linked up to something more systemic and fundamental about the nature of America.
The skater talked about how a lot of people have the view that “it’s not all cops” to which he says, “It’s easier to say that it’s not the whole system, that it’s not every cop. But if you look at the facts and you do your research, and have an open mind about it you can see that it is every police officer that is supporting the system that allows the police to do whatever they want to you.” He says he’s not in the Rev Club but, “I support a lot of what they’ve done, what I’ve heard from them so far. But I wouldn’t say that I’m with them yet cause I haven’t read enough about Bob Avakian and enough about this. But I’m supporting it right now because I think that this is the best thing that I can find that’s worth fighting for right now.” When asked about what is attracting him to the Rev Club he said, said, “It’s the only group of protesters that have offered an alternative, that have a plan. That it’s not just, oh, we’re going to go out and protest so that more people know but then there isn’t really a plan after that. So it seems like there is a answer for it—like we’re going to get people aware of why we’re fighting police brutality, why we need to fight against capitalism and imperialism and then we start working toward the end goal of communism—which I don’t really know too much about that right now. But I would rather try communism than people just keep getting oppressed and getting killed by the police.”
One Rev Club member talked about coming at this day from the standpoint of “Humanity needs revolution and communism” and “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” He said, “Strategically, this is a major fault line in society. The role of the police—what is the real role of the police—to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. Most people on campus, and everywhere, they don’t quite understand what this quote from BA [from BAsics on about the role of the police] means. They don’t understand what goes into saying that, why it’s true. Lot of people would say, yeah I agree with you about the police. But do they really understand the role of police under this society, why they keep getting away with murder? They have to go there in their thinking. And I think the Revolution Club needs to bring this higher reality and understanding to them and challenge them to really grasp that this is true. And to grasp that we can have a whole different society. Like—oh, why are you bringing in that communism, that BA? Well, if you want to get to a world without police murder—because he authored this Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, and you’ve got a great, striking example of how we could uproot national oppression, how we could dismantle current imperialist USA, how we could have a whole different political and economic system, culture, people’s security forces that would rather risk their own lives than kill one of the masses like they do over and over again in this country.”
Another Rev Club member who volunteered to go to New York City last year to build for Rise Up October said that there are a lot of lessons to sum up from that experience and that “this time we are doing things differently,” challenging the students themselves to take the initiative in things like writing the Call and planting a pole that, “We are followers of BA and we think that humanity as a whole needs to be emancipated through revolution and we’re fighting for a communist world where people are not going to be exploited like in the past.” She went on to say, “We need to be fighting the power, but that [alone] isn’t enough, we have to transform the people for revolution. And in the fight against murder by police, it’s egregious and it must be stopped, it’s one of the key contradictions in this country, this country was founded on slavery and the oppression of Black people and we want to unite with people who are fighting this fight. But what’s more important and part of our goal is to let everybody know about who BA is...he’s like the Marx of our time. He’s figured how we’re going to get to this communist world and if you’re about that and you’re about ending this genocide then you should get with us and you should fight with us against murder by police while learning more about who BA is.”
Get with the Revolution Club here