Note: the following is a response to Jeffrey Sterling’s testimony from inside federal prison where he is serving time for having been a whistleblower against his former employer, the CIA (https://medium.com/search?q=jeffrey%20sterling). Despite this experience of corruption inside the CIA, and his experience of being imprisoned for exposing this corruption, Mr. Sterling’s essay, “I Was a CIA Whistleblower. Now I’m a Black Inmate. Here’s How I See American Racism,” is a testament to his devotion to and hope for America. Below is my response.
Dear Brother Sterling, I am as enthusiastic, determined and soul-bent about being human and creating for humanity as you are the same for your America.
I don’t love your America. My ancestors, I’m figuring just like yours, kidnapped Africans, poor White trash Italians and colonized Puerto Ricans were slaves, and/or little above chattel slaves over the past 300 years in this country. My nearest ancestors — of each of these three sections of the U.S. population, African American, Puerto Rican, and working class Italian American, devoted their entire lives to creating a People’s Government, one which did not serve the giant monopolies, and their white supremacist/male supremacist project.
I love all the peoples of the world — equally. America is great at espousing formal equality, that is, capitalist democracy. Capitalist democracy says “everyone has equal opportunity,” and that “everyone is equal before the law.” That is formal equality. Actual equality means that Black folk are actually not slaves, in real life, not just on paper.
Brother Jeffrey, I teach history at the undergraduate level, and my students and I study and write together about the world we want to create. Towards that goal we are all studying three recently published texts which follow each other into a very lucid narrative of genuine U.S. history: From Edward Baptiste’s (2014), The Half has never been told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, Basic Books; 1 edition, and Douglas Blackmon’s (2009), Slavery by another name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, Anchor, to Michelle Alexander’s (2012), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness, The New Press, one narrative is developed which unequivocally proves that U.S. world dominance politically and economically is based in slave labor, both the past history of such and its present manifestation. The accumulation of capital necessary to launch the most powerful and richest country in the history of humanity was possible because the early business in the United States was conducted on the backs of people who were not paid. This free labor-power amassed a wealth for this country’s business class which over time could not be matched by any other capitalist power, whether in Europe, Japan, China. None of the latter had 250 years of chattel slavery on which to build their arsenal of capital; to build this on the backs of people who were not paid. None of them had yet another 100 years of Jim Crow (another name for open slavery) to amass wealth at such a level. None of the other capitalist powers had hundreds-of-thousands of Black bodies in for-profit prisons (the last 65 years) producing products for the market without pay. The United States has broken all world records for the percentage and volume of humans (mostly Black and Brown) laboring as slaves in prison.
No other capitalist power can match this advantage which the U.S. monopoly capitalist class has held. That you, while imprisoned yourself, bleed for this America is hard to figure beyond simple speculation, such which is not of much value. I, however, value the information I’m passing on to you.
Brother Sterling, I tell you about these texts and this truly liberating narrative, because on one side you are clearly literate. On the other side, you’re in prison, so you have plenty of time to read. Having an open mind is one of the most valuable assets any Higher Power can afford us poor souls. I’m suggesting that you give yourself a break, and look into the ways the rest of the world’s people (beyond the “white TV room” that you have visited during your stay) see your America.
Brother Sterling, where your faith in the U.S. comes from, I have no idea. But, right now in Boston, Massachusetts (“Up South”) selling marijuana has become legal. As they work out the kinks regarding who is going to be able to sell marijuana in my poor Black neighborhood, three things are clear:
1. Hundreds of young Brothers from Boston’s Black community are serving long prison sentences for selling marijuana.
2. In order to launch the business, past all of the “legal requirements” (payoffs to government officials), the prospective marijuana seller must have capital. In order to launch a capitalist business, you have to have capital, lots of it.
3. The only people with the amount of capital necessary to launch a marijuana store in my poor Black neighborhood are White businessmen — this over the bodies of the families left behind by the Brothers who are now languishing in for-profit prisons laboring (for free — last time I looked, that’s called slavery).
How does a Brother like me feel about White businessmen selling marijuana in my neighborhood? Clearly, not like an American-lover like you? I give you this image, Brother Jeffrey, because it is a hologram for how U.S. white supremacist capitalism launched the most powerful, most economically dominant country in the history of the world. They had capital that no other country could match. They had it for the same reason that Brothers here are in prison while White businessmen are about to start selling marijuana in my Black neighborhood.
The link below is to a study produced by one of my students regarding the murder of young Black men by police. I fear that you spend at least half of your non-prison time with White men. How else to explain your juxtaposition of the minuscule incidents of Black men killing cops, next to the ubiquitous (as in every day) unprovoked execution of unarmed Black men by fascist… police, as if these two phenomena were somehow of equal significance?
In the narrative below, my student frames a fantastic, and otherwise fantastical, image of a People’s Police Department. “Fantastical” because he wrote it for a college class — in other words, at least for now, it aint happening anywhere beyond the classroom. “Fantastic” because I want you to imagine, when you read this piece, what it would be like to have actual, not formal, equality. That is what his proposal for a People’s Police Department images.
You are a devotee of the CIA, even while being in prison for exposing their unjust processes. While disagreeing with your fellow inmates, you make the case yourself, by the logic of your narrative, for the propositions of “Man, this is prison” and “Man, this is America” as coequal realities.
Brother, you have nothing but time. I also suggest George Jackson’s Soledad Brother and Blood in My Eye from a Brother who had as much hope as you do, and actually organized Black, Brown and White inmates together before the authorities assassinated him. And Let me Live, Angelo Herndon, who organized side-by-side with his fellow Black sharecroppers, starving White Klan’s men, he organized them out of the Klan and into a united fight for government relief in Georgia during the Great Depression. He also had great hope. It was not for your America. It was for the soul of humanity. America is a stinking corpse. Humanity can do incomparably better.
It would be quite the waste of your time if you did not have an open mind while you have all the time in the world to study. I spent this time writing you, because I too believe in the people — I don’t believe in your America, but I believe in the ability of humans to create a humane world.
I wish you the best,
Alexander Moreno Lynn