The barbaric murder of teenager Anthony Walker by axe-wielding racists has been much in the news recently. To most thinking, feeling people, such a senseless and unprovoked attack on an innocent boy is simply impossible to fathom: the only explanation seems to be that those responsible were either mentally unhinged or just inherently evil. Since the two young men convicted of the killing were not on some drug-fuelled rampage but had quite knowingly picked up an ice axe and gone looking for a black victim, this would seem to many to be confirmation of the killers’ inherently psychopathic natures.
Meanwhile, the Merseyside police have been very keen to prove that things have changed since the days of Stephen Lawrence’s murder, when institutional racism meant that his killers, although known to the police, were never brought to trial. Of course, a swift arrest and conviction will have saved Anthony’s grieving friends and relatives from some of the traumas suffered by the Lawrence family, but they will not bring Anthony back; nor do they do anything to address why he was killed.
Exactly how is it possible that two young men should have decided to take an axe to another human being, for no other reason than the colour of his skin? One does not have to look too far to find the answer: we are living in a society that oozes racism from every pore and infuses it into us daily in a myriad subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
Racism does not just come from overt and self-confessed racists; far more damaging are the cynical manipulations of the ruling class’s politicians and propaganda machines. The hysterical outpourings of the BNP find willing ears only because they reinforce the racist propaganda that is spread every day by the mainstream media, by all bourgeois politicians, and in pulpits and schoolrooms across the country.
When parliament and the media are filled with ‘debate’ over the ‘problems’ of immigration, or when new laws against ‘terrorism’ are passed amid much hype over ‘Muslim fundamentalism’, the real aim of such hysteria is to whip up racism amongst the working class. Likewise, when more weight is given to the suffering of a single British soldier than to the mass slaughter of innocents by imperialist bombs in Iraq or imperialist economics in Niger, we are being taught to believe that there is a basic disparity in value between the life of a ‘civilised’ white westerner and that of a darker-skinned ‘foreigner’. Thus it is that the holocaust of six million European Jews is commemorated annually all over the imperialist world, but the annual holocaust of 13 million children under five who die every year from preventable diseases is hardly thought worthy of a mention, and, when these deaths are mentioned, it is always in the context of ‘irresponsible’ governance, or some equally racist formulation that blames the victims for the crimes and implies that black people are somehow unable to govern themselves properly (unlike we sensible, rational Europeans).
How often have we heard the phrase ‘life is cheap over there’ applied to some ‘third world’ country? But the truth is that the lives of those children are not held cheap by their parents, only by the imperialists, who consider their deaths to be a worthwhile price in the pursuit of maximum profit, just as Madeleine Albright considered the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from sanctions to be a price worth paying in the struggle to control Middle Eastern oil.
Racism is a weapon used by the ruling class to keep the workers and oppressed peoples divided and easy to control. Unless we consciously fight against this prejudice, we will never be able to free ourselves from the chains of capitalist slavery. Anthony Walker’s killers may be locked up, but the system that turns ordinary young men into murderers is still in place and, as long as it stands, there will be more Anthony Walkers; more lives lost in senseless waste and brutality.