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
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
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.