The sad but unsurprising acquittal of George Zimmerman has uncovered the racial oppression that remains the bedrock of American capitalism even under a black President. It is a cruel irony that just a few weeks ago, a narrow Supreme Court majority gutted the Voting Rights Act by citing a dramatic improvement in racial equality since the Civil Rights Movement. A jury has ruled that in Florida, it is legal to kill young black men (17-year-old Martin was not a “boy,” as paternalistic guilty liberals have repeatedly stated) if one thinks they’re “scary.” This finding is only notable since it applies domestically. Abroad, drone strikes have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of black and brown people with little fanfare, beginning under the Bush administration and ramping up under President Obama. As political polarization intensifies and elites are unable to resolve the capitalist financial crisis, formal “post-racialism” is falling by the wayside so that bigotry can again be used as a tool to garner support for austerity at home and recolonization in Africa.
Thinking about all of the injustice surrounding the case of Trayvon Martin today, I couldn’t but help but think about Muammar Gaddafi. Why? The Socialist People’s Libyan Jamahiriyah, the state of the masses outlined by Gaddafi, was a world leader in racial equality and human rights for people of color.
Libya, with its borders drawn by the old colonial powers, has a large black African minority. Muammar Gaddafi launched the September 1 Revolution inspired by his Egyptian counterpart, the Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser. Despite this, Gaddafi’s Green Book highlighted the important contributions of blacks to world history and predicted they would become the dominant people of the world. Seeing how Arab nationalism was being used by corrupt neoimperial regimes to manipulate their citizens, Gaddafi called on the Libyan government to abandon this ideology in favor of a radical vision of a united African continent. The Brother Leader, a Bedouin Muslim, became a pan-Africanist. His efforts toward African unity led traditional elders to coronate Gaddafi as the symbolic “King of Africa.”
Gaddafi was made fun of for his famous bodyguards, who were all female and many of whom were black. But this was actually a beautiful action: showing the nation that Gaddafi was committed to women’s empowerment to such an extent that he put his life in their hands. It was a wonderful rejection of ugly stereotypes. Where others saw weakness in these individuals because of their gender or skin color, Gaddafi saw strength.
Under the socialist government, Libya sustainably developed to the point that it became the most developed country in Africa and the standard of living outranked countries including Brazil, Russia, and China. People from elsewhere in Africa flocked to the country for jobs, education, and opportunity. A tiny minority of monarchists, al Qaeda extremists, and corporate neoliberals set out to overthrow the Libyan system of socialist direct democracy in February 2011 as part of the “Arab Spring” color revolutions. The Jamahiriya put up a valiant resistance to a 2011 military campaign launched by NATO, the most powerful military alliance the world has ever known. The Libyan government went so far as to arm its people. Ultimately, however, a country of 5 million inhabitants could not withstand the constant shock-and-awe bombing and targeted killings engineered by Western powers. NATO’s quislings on the ground engaged in racial terror, committing depraved acts of terror against majority-black towns like Tawergha and dark-skinned political prisoners. Gaddafi was murdered by “Islamists” who rejected his pleas for Quranic compassion.
The first black President of the United States said in response to the Zimmerman verdict, “we are a nation of laws.” Not a nation of social justice or equality or diversity. A nation of law-and-order, of militarism, of fear and paranoia. After four years of authorizing drone strike murders of brown-skinned adults and kids, Obama has ditched the lofty racial rhetoric that propelled him to his office. Black Americans have not had allies in the bourgeoisie since the defeat of Radical Reconstruction.
The legalized killing of Trayvon Martin symbolizes the deranged nature of the capitalist system, of which racism is an important pillar. Undoing that system by standing up to oppression at home and abroad is the key to ending institutional racism and building an egalitarian world.