"We have nothing to lose but our chains," a political conference in Washington, D.C., yesterday that drew 8 Democratic 2020 hopefuls chanted.
The words came from the works of convicted cop killer Assata Shakur, featured on the F.BI.'s Most Wanted list and now domiciled in Cuba.
Leading the chant was Jamal Watkins, the Vice President of Civic Engagement at the NAACP.
An unlikely "wretched of the earth" candidate, Mr. Watkins is chained to a Stanford University degree in philosophy and graduate level work at NYU.
Nor do the Sierra Club, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, SEIU and Communications Workers of America–and of course the 8 Democratic candidates–also in attendance, seem oppressed.
The chant at this left establishment gathering is just more evidence that Assata Shakur seems to have a growing fan base.
We've noted before, for example, that Women's March co-founder and Sharia law supporter Linda Sarsour in 2017 used the March's twitter feed to wish happy birthday to "the revolutionary#Assata Shakur."
Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted of the first degree murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster after a shoot out on the New Jersey turnpike in 1973. Trooper Foerster, who was killed with his own service weapon, left behind a wife and 3-year-old son. He was 34. Shakur escaped to Cuba, where she has lived since 1984.
Here is a news description of the conference:
"Now I came here not to talk at you — it's gonna be a long and powerful day," Watkins said. "But I want you to do something with me. I'm gonna actually have you participate with me in repeating some words from a leader by the name of Assata Shakur. So if you could stand up — if you can't stand, it's okay — but I want you to repeat after me."
Watkins then quoted Shakur, pausing to let attendees repeat after him: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Shakur's words, in turn, were appropriated from the final sentences of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels' Communist Manifesto: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of All Countries, Unite!"
The 2020 hopefuls at the conference were Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee and Kirsten Gillibrand.
None of the news reports I saw had the candidates chanting or embracing Shakur's words.
But what we can say for sure is that it is sickening to hear a bunch of generally privileged people chant about being in shackles.
If the left wants to talk about "cultural appropriation," yesterday's gathering would be a good place to start.
There actually have been people in shackles in American history.
But these people are playing at being oppressed.
It could be dismissed as a radical chic game, if it weren't actually harmful to the very people whose votes the play acting is designed to attract.
Convincing people they are in the thrall of a racist society–in shackles–instead of urging and helping them to get ahead is vicious.
Shelby Steele had a terrific oped in the Wall Street Journal yesterday that is germane to this. Steele argued that minorities suffer not from racism but economic underdevelopment.
That the left wants to garner votes by convincing people they are in chains rather than urging them to better themselves presents opportunity for those on the other side of the aisle. Steele writes:
Suppose American conservatism begins to argue for progress as the best way to overcome inequality—not to the exclusion of justice, but simply as America’s guiding light in social reform. Progress is possible, measurable and most of all doable. Rather than fight over “microaggressions” and “triggers,” why not, as Booker T. Washington so beautifully put it, “cast down your bucket where you are”?
To put all this on a dangerously romantic level: Why not go back to that perpetually workable thing, the American dream?
Using Shakur's words to convince people they are in chains actually puts them in chains of a kind–mental chains.