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©_2002_Authorized and_paid_for_by_the Committee_to_Elect Vivian_Houghton Attorney_General, 800_N_West_St., Wilmington_DE_19801

Freedom, The Product of Our Actions

July 19, 2002, Green Party Convention, Philadelphia
by Vivian Houghton

One of the reasons we're all gathered here from around the nation tonight is because we know that what happens in each of our states is connected to what happens in other states.  

When Donovan Jackson, a 16-year-old black youth from Inglewood, California was handcuffed and them smashed face-first against a police car trunk by a white officer, it wasn't only Donovan Jackson who was battered, it was the whole criminal justice system.  Everyone ­ from one end of the nation to another ­ who believes in democracy bled that night.  The truth is that the problem of racial inequity in our criminal justice system is so bad in our nation that it should be an embarrassment to every judicial and law-enforcement officer in the nation.  Just as the chemical pollution of land, water and air are a crime against the earth's living body, so the disproportionate use of excess force against African-Americans and other minorities is a cancer that eats away at and rots the U.S.'s status as the so-called land of the free and the home of the brave.  

Another example of how the issues connect us is Yucca Mountain, Nevada.  The government plans to dump 77,000 tons of highly radioactive material there in spite of the fact that there are still many unanswered safety issues about the site.  Additionally, in order for the government to store this material there, it must first transport it cross-country from a variety of locations ­ and the government wants to do this although it hasn't yet developed a plan for protecting citizens from transportation accidents or terrorist attempts to hijack the radioactive cargo.  

Unfortunately, such willingness by the nation's elites to risk the health of America's unempowered groups isn't unusual.  We all have our own examples of this.  In Delaware, for instance, after decades of resident complaints about illnesses and strange smells along the Christina River in Wilmington, the state finally admitted that toxic wastes had been dumped there.  Over 70% of these sites were located in the city's poorest areas.   One of these sites was in a rundown area where children had built see-saws and other playground-like entertainments.  

So, as we can see, all over America, in my state and your state, crimes against the earth are also crimes against the human body ­ our bodies, our children's bodies.  In this sense, the government's desire to bury 77,000 tons of radioactive waste in Yucca Mountain is both a real action and also a symbolic action.  As a symbol it shows the willingness of the nation's elites to dump death in all our neighborhoods.  To fight back must join together, not by mobbing into the Republican or Democratic parties, but by building a mass movement for justice and political and economic change.  And as we do this, we must draw strength not only from each other but also from our ancestors ­ Mother Jones who holed up in mining camps in order to fight for workers' rights while battling the big coal companies, Malcolm X who spoke fearlessly wherever he went, Geronimo galloping on his freedom horse across a land that he refused to passively give up.   

In order to grow and develop, our party  must incarnate this spirit of liberty.  We must build the party, in true grassroots fashion, from the bottom up while drawing on the strengths of a diverse population so that we can face down injustice and organize against it. 

Of course, building such a movement isn't the easiest thing to do.  It isn't easy because it requires pulling together millions of people who don't always think of themselves, initially at least, as having much in common. The way to solve this problem ­ of bringing more rather than fewer constituencies into the party ­ is for us to develop a more aggressive multi-issue vision based on a plan of action that prioritizes multi-constituency work.  Part of doing this entails remembering that, far from being disconnected from each other, issues are almost always interlinked.  

Take Delaware's relationship to the Enron scandal as an example. Because of Delaware's pro-business incorporation and tax laws, 520,000 firms have been incorporated there.  Enron is one of them.  In fact, it set up 685 Delaware subsidiaries so that (1) it could avoid paying local taxes and (2) could hide some of its high-stakes deals from investor scrutiny..  Tragically, some of these deals helped to bring Enron crashing down on the heads of its employees and many investors.  

Enron's use of Delaware to cloak its anti-people actions is par for the course in my state, and as such Enron's actions are also connected to other people-denigrating corporate presences there.  One of these other presences is Delaware's poultry industry which disregards migrant workers' health and economic needs.  Simultaneously, the poultry industry also ignores the health of Delaware's waterways, turning them into danger zones for marine and human life because of how the industry's runoff water is filtered through tons of chicken feces.  Meanwhile, as corporations receive breaks from the legal system, not every one is so lucky.  Take this fact as an example:  for each white person who is imprisoned in Delaware, 9.4 African-Americans are jailed.  Corporate greed, racism, bad working conditions and all such forms of injustice are interconnected in terms of the hierarchical view of the world that they are built upon.  

In closing, let me say this.  To build our party and to build coalitions, we have to weave multiple concerns into our vision and actions. 

This means that every time we hear a voice raised against the racial inequity of our criminal justice system, we must add our voices to that voice so it doesn't cry out alone.  

This means that while companies continue to eliminate millions of jobs through outsourcing, we must stand alongside both organized and unorganized labor as part of the battle against economic priorities that downplay human need and honor only corporate greed.  

This means that we must be on patrol against any kind of anti-gay behavior, either within the legal system or on the streets.  

This means that we must position ourselves dead-center in the middle of the struggle for adoption nationwide of the comparable worth principle.  

This means that when people gather into huge crowds and then march in the streets for an end to the IMF's and World Bank's abuse of third world nations, we must be there in those marches, expressing solidarities with our sisters and brothers overseas. 

What all this means - and I know you already know this - is that we have our work cut out for us.  But if we aren't afraid to work our asses off, and if we aren't afraid to join with each other across color lines and economic lines and sexual orientation lines and urban-rural lines, if we are not afraid to do these things, then we will be at the forefront of helping to transform America.