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A critical look at May Day 2006
by Kirilov Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 1:35 AM
Race and Racism at May Day 2006 in Pittsburgh and around the U.S.
Those in control have always been aware that it is in their favor for oppressed groups to quarrel with one and other. This age old strategy has been successful in the past and is still utilized today. During the recent protests for immigrant rights it has become more apparent that Black Americans and those new to this country have taken on these roles given to them by those in power.
Black Americans have been exploited since the beginning of this country’s history thus have traditionally held a left-leaning political stance that places emphasis on progressive social change. Their viewpoints on immigration have become an aberration from Black America’s historically liberal outlook. In my hometown I have personally noticed members of the Black community take stances on immigration more aligned with right-wing talk radio hosts. For instance, the only counter protestor at the May Day demonstration was a young Black man holding a sign that read “Seal The Border”. In Los Angeles, Ted Hayes an “advocate” for homeless Black Americans, has made news by organizing the Crispus Attucks Brigade to work along with the Minutemen to organize against immigrants in that region. Hayes has been said to consider immigrants to be the "biggest threat to blacks in America since slavery”. It should be noted that racism has and continues to be the biggest threat to Blacks in America.
The xenophobia of the Black community has also been met by the racism of immigrant groups. The same day I witnessed the counter protestor show off his sign, I was yelled at by an advocate of immigrant rights claiming that the march was “our protest not yours” in response to my participating in the demonstration but chanting a slogan that wasn’t to her liking. I am not an immigrant but how did she know that I didn’t belong in the “our protest” category? There was nothing on my t-shirt that explained that I was marching in a rally but not one of the many black immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, or a Black Latin American. From her statements I would be right to infer that she felt the purpose of the march was for the rights of select groups of immigrants, i.e. the ones that are not black. This was not an isolated incident and racism towards Blacks from newcomers is commonplace. Although both groups tend to reside in the same communities, their relationship is often tenuous. Malcolm X once remarked “Pretty little children. Soon they’re going to learn their first English word: nigger” after watching a family of immigrants arrive in the States. All too often adjusting to American culture means becoming apart of its long tradition of racism.
If this is going to be the character of the struggle of immigrants and Blacks in America then it should more appropriately be referred to as a competition. The goal of this competition is not freedom but acceptance into an elite group that is allowed to turn their noses down at the exploited. When struggle transforms into competition, xenophobia and racism become its most noticeable characteristics. If this is where these movements are heading then I want no part in either. What is particular to this competition is that there are no winners. Only a select few of one of these warring factions can enter privilege while the majority of both will remain in their present conditions.
It is no coincidence that this demonstration for immigrant rights fell on May Day. This day celebrates the achievements of exploited workers without regards to race or culture. The fact that the demonstration fell on this specific day makes a clear statement that in order for the oppressed to reach their goals they must be united. Immigrants and Black Americans usually live in the same communities and for the time being are in similar situations. It is in our best interests to struggle together than to compete for irrelevant gains despite what our “advocates” tell us. Only when we cease attacking one and other, we can then truly attain the change very much needed.
- Rodion Romanovich Kirilov
by ,,, Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 2:33 AM
Before the trolls get to this, I'd like to express support for all of the ideas put forth here. Thank you for posting this.
also: nationalism & assimilation
by david Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 1:58 PM
In addition to the concerns that Kirilov raises, another alarming contradiction in the emerging Immigrant Rights movement is its predlication for nationalist and assimiliationist attitudes and idealogy. I'm of course referring to the flag waving, the "we pay taxes" chants, and the "proud to be an American" signs that can be seen or heard in protests from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh to New York.
It is troubling and ironic that a movement about borders, xenophobia, economic oppression and racism is celebrating U.S. citizenship and consumerism, both of which lie behind the plight of immigrants in the first place.
There are interesting parallels to the "gay rights movement": now three decades after the movement first gained steam when trannies threw molotov cocktails at the police, and Gay Liberation Front chapters sprung up in cities across the country, we have instead not a social movement, but rather a collection of corporate-funded non-profit organizations and magazines clamoring for equal access to marriage and the military, and the larger vision of social change across race, class, ethnicity and national origin has vanished.
I hope that the Immigrant Rights movement--which is perhaps the most potentially forceful social movement to have emerged in recent years--does not fall prey to the same mistakes made by the gay rights movement.
the straw man cometh
by ed Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 4:02 PM
Rather than a real analysis of the Immigrants Rights
Movement, and the Pittsburgh demonstration of May 1st,
Kirilov seems to make his biggest point about the
criticism he got on the demo for one of the chants
he evidently participated in. So what was the chant?
If i remember correctly, it had some language that
probably wouldn't be too endearing to immigrant
families with young children on the march. Kirilov
might have felt powerful by such chanting, but
it probably didn't do the movement any good...probably
turned off some people...gave the xenophobes and racists
something to slander us with. Also, Kirilov seems to
be lacking the knowledge about the broad nature
of the Immigrant Rights Movement, the basic alliances
that have been build with the African-American community,
the most progressive sections of the labor movement, students, and other social groups. Like any social
movement that really goes anywhere, it must be led
but those most affected by the oppression...in this
case, immigrants must lead, and the left if it wants to be
relevant, should be organizing solidarity, and showing
other communities that the fight for immigrant rights
is in their interest as well.
by ... Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 4:09 PM
I witnessed a woman telling Kirilov that it was "our march and not yours" using language that was the same as his..and another thing that was very strange was while I was in the back of the march I heard everyone in the front of the march starting and participating in a chant with the word "bullshit"..the same people that had confronted Kirilov about using the word "fuck".
Where have I heard this before...?
by no excuse Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 4:52 PM
Hmmm. If it's not 'dirty chants' (which were fine for the people who complained when they initiated them). It's 'masks' or 'they moved a paper machine'.
You can either favor change or favor business as usual, but not both.
You can pander to the 'racists' & 'xenophobes', but it's unlikely they would change their mind if nobody cussed, anymore than GW would change his mind if 'they would just not wear masks'.
by ed Wednesday, May. 03, 2006 at 6:11 PM
It seems like 'no excuse' has found more
straw men to build the pyramid of 'not
dealing with the issue'. Example?
Who said we're trying to change the minds of
GW or the xenophobes or racists on this
issue? No, i think people are trying to build
a powerful mass movement that can win amnesty,
an end to repression and deportations, and economic justice for the millions of documented and undocumented immigrant workers in the U.S. Social change comes from millions
committed to direct action and independent political
action. It has nothing to do with 'changing the minds'
of the corporate rulers. Some history from Howard Zinn
might help you.
an injury to one, is an injury to all.
by you did, ed Thursday, May. 04, 2006 at 12:21 PM
>gave the xenophobes and racists
>something to slander us with
I've read enough Zinn to realize that social change isn't always pretty or neat, and that compromise and concessions are a dead end.
No matter what you do, there's always one or two shrieking liberals, and had the anger not been directed at a Black radical, most likely the next target would have been the working-class immigrants. Who were hushed up at the rally at the end.
by wtf? Friday, May. 05, 2006 at 12:12 AM
it seems to me somewhat illogical and irrational that our friend here got yelled at the march for not being an immigrant due to the fact that it was not only about the raising issue of the immigrants but also about May Day, remembering that day and what It meant, realizing that the immigrant movement then is an extension of those past actions. It seems sad to me looking at it from a foreigner's perspective, because as one I think that solidarity is one of the most important things when talking about protesting and marching, how is it then that the immigrant movement wants to be accepted and given better laws if they do not accept support from other sectors of the movement and societ? I could go on talking about more stuff, but I'm tired. I am certainly sure that this woman's reaction is not that of all immigrants, legal or not, and I hope that issues such racism will be forgotten, because the struggle is common, even more so for Immigrants and African Americans; among other groups of people.
by wordson Friday, May. 05, 2006 at 6:33 PM
Also, if you specifically call it "International Workers' Day" in your call, Anarchists and Communists are going to show up. If you dont want them coming and showing their opinions, don't claim you're celebrating their holiday.
by tootles Friday, May. 05, 2006 at 7:21 PM
i appreciate all the comments in this site. if he is the one i think he is, kirilov might have gotten the impression that he was the one yelled at because of his race, but that was not the case, i did turn around and yelled at what i saw a group putting undocumented individuals in danger, knowingly, it was an equal opportunity pick. this march was a peaceful march organized by the national immigrants' rights movement, and since we are a small group in pgh, the police could've come and do as they pleased with our non-citizens; indigenous immigrants understand racism more than most in the march, no matter what it is said here or anywhere else; we were looking for honest support from part of everyone, not bashing. in the past couple of weeks there have been arrests, encarcelations and deportations on immigrants, and their past rights for judicial process and due process are being canceled as we speak. no matter how many complaints on our due process, citizens still have those rights, but the administration is trying to get rid off them too. i had asked repetitively to people of conscience not to put undocumented immigrants at risk and march peacefully with us so that they have dignity and can get their jail releases and amnesties. immigrants have commited no crime at all but what our legislators are doing is criminalizing them and those who assist them, building more jails and a long border, and adding more enforcement not only in the border but within the country. that includes people of all races, including africans; unfortunately, i was not heard by all marchers and had to yell. i understand your urgency to express yourselves, but you can do that at any time, we can't. so, i'll take the opportunity to apologize again to kirilov (cus i did apologize to someone after he told me that i had yelled at him), if in fact, my eyes went to him (i truly don't even remember who was in front of me or what i said) and yelled out of real frustration. not only that i had to deal with the anti-immigrant and anti-war (cus i've seen him there too) provocatour but i also had to deal with those who are protesting againt social injustice on the streets disrupting the small rally and the march, that beats me, that's not solidarity to me. since i organized this march, i felt responsible for the undocumented immigrants' well beings and reacted as i could and i apologize to the innocent.
i think that bad immigration policy can unite all classes, it really shows that no one is better than the other, and that's the message to be sent. if there is no unity and understanding when we ask for change, there is only wishful thinking and lots of rage. i think it's time to think collectively for the good of all, and people are in fact waking up and seeing that this is not a fair world and there is need for social change and a better social structure.
all ages suck if we're always close minded--punk rock lives!
I, I, I, me, me, me
by whose sidewalks? Tuesday, May. 09, 2006 at 3:59 PM
It's good to hear from the lone defender of immigrants and the sole organizer of the march. The world owes you it's thanks.
If you were so concerned about deportations, do you really think it was good idea to encourage such a small group of undocumented folks to risk detention? After all, you were the organizer of this march. I've never heard of anyone being deported because somebody else used foul languange, but Ceci, you are the expert here.
Like your outburst during the march, this rant just sounds like more liberal egomania, and the tantrum that accompanies anything which looks or sounds different than you imagined it would.
movement or group?
by dt Thursday, May. 11, 2006 at 11:51 PM
organized by the national immigrants' rights movement, and since we are a small group in pgh,
First: YOUR GROUP IS NOT THE MOVEMENT, WE ARE ALL THE MOVEMENT.
The movement is way larger than you and your group might realize. And that will be your failure, if you don't realize it. We, the immigrants - documented and undocument, the children of immigrants, the grandchildren of immigrants, and so on- are everywhere. And we care. And we get pissed off when we show up to something and one of our friends gets told that this march wasn't for him. Especially when there is no conceivable way you could know whether he's an immigrant or not just by looking at him. To think otherwise is racist.
It's time for you to decide: is this a movement for latin american immigrants, or for all immigrants? Is this a movement just for immigrants, or for their children and grandchildren too? Do you have any kids? If you give birth to a son here in the US, will you tell him that this march isn't for him?
Is this movement for some, or for all?