You turn to us for voices you won't hear anywhere else.

Sign up for Democracy Now!'s Daily Digest to get our latest headlines and stories delivered to your inbox every day.

Kali Akuno on the Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination Amid Rise in White Supremacy

Web ExclusiveDecember 19, 2017
Media Options

We continue our conversation with Kali Akuno, the co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a network of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi. He is a longtime organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. His new book is titled Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with Part 2 of our conversation with Kali Akuno, co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a network of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi, longtime organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. His new book, Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi.

So, you’ve just come up from Jackson, and you’re going back home to Jackson, Mississippi. We were just speaking with Chokwe Lumumba, the mayor of Jackson, about the opening of the Civil Rights Museum, about President Trump being invited by the governor of Mississippi, which led to boycotts of so many black leaders of the very museum that they so supported, but since Trump was there—can you tell us actually what happened in that week, the same week of the special election that was taking place in Alabama that led to Doug Jones’s victory over the accused child molester, Roy Moore?

KALI AKUNO: Well, I think, to really put that in context, we’ve got to talk about Phil Bryant a little bit. Phil Bryant is the governor of the great state of Mississippi. He’s a tea party member, ultraconservative, you know, libertarian, very much believes in TINA—”there is no alternative”—and is doing everything he can to, also stealing that phrase, to drown the state government in the bathtub—right?—to make it that small.

But he’s also one of the most, I think, strategic thinkers in this new era of kind of white supremacist politicians. We call them “neo-Confederates,” right? And he’s made a habit, over the last several years, if folks want to go back and look at it—he’s made a habit of doing what he just did with Trump. And that habit is typically doing—you know, every year, there’s some kind of state invocation of Black History Month. And almost at every single occasion when there’s Black History Month, he always announces Confederate History Month, right? He takes the opportunity to announce that in February, during Black History Month programs.

AMY GOODMAN: And it’s called Confederate History Month?

KALI AKUNO: Confederate. There’s Confederate History Day, and then there’s Confederate History Month. And he always announces this, almost every single year. So, for those of us who live in Mississippi, who are familiar with that, his announcing and inviting of Trump, you know, to this ceremony was no surprise. It’s part of his MO. It’s part of his strategy. It’s part of his game plan.

AMY GOODMAN: This ceremony that would open the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

KALI AKUNO: This Mississippi museum. So, just to put that in context. And I think it also should be known to the audience that he had extended an invitation to Trump, you know, to come to Mississippi on several different occasions. And as far as we know, he actually extended the invitation for him to come to the museum. Now, it just didn’t break national kind of news until Trump actually accepted it, right? And he accepted while he was doing kind of his tour in support of Ray [sic] Moore, and so it was like—


KALI AKUNO: Roy Moore. He accepted that, to come on down and to try to offer some statements, to kind of issue some clarity. And that just erupted, as it rightfully should, in a major pushback, in a major protest and boycott, in many sectors, you know, of Trump, not of the museum—so folks are clear—not of the history, but of Trump really going there and desecrating the very memory of those who made the sacrifices that we were supposed to be honoring on that particular day of this historic opening. So, we’ve got to give some context to it so folks know. And I think it’s important, because if you don’t understand people like, you know, Phil Bryant, it’s then hard to, I think, understand the movement that Trump comes from and what emanates and who his base is and what they’re planning on doing and how they’re executing, you know, all these draconian measures on state levels, not just on the federal level.

AMY GOODMAN: Phil Bryant, the governor of Mississippi, being a longtime supporter of Trump.

KALI AKUNO: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. He was running around earlier this year, like in January, and the end of last year, when Trump got elected, saying that he might leave the state of Mississippi and go work for number 45. And he was kind of using that really as like political bait, in the sense of like, “Well, y’all don’t want me to leave, really.” Then some of us were like, “Yeah, please go. Just get out of our hair.”

But, no, they’ve been—they’ve been allies, more probably strategic, of like within the last 18 months than, I think, you know, prior, because Phil Bryant was on the record in the early days of saying he liked Donald Trump, but he wasn’t sure that Donald Trump was truly committed to the neoliberal agenda that the tea party and others like him had. So there was a lot of questions, and he had to do a lot of things over the course of 2016 to really prove that he was on the team. And so, once he made some key moves, particularly once he got connected with Breitbart and Bannon, who Phil Bryant and some of his forces are allied with, that was, I think, a critical turning point, where Bryant jumped on the team, gave his endorsement and really started doing a lot of groundwork for Donald Trump in the state of Mississippi.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Bannon was playing a key role in the Roy Moore race—

KALI AKUNO: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: —came down several times, pushed Trump to support him. You know, Trump had originally supported Luther Strange, of course.

KALI AKUNO: Yeah, right.

AMY GOODMAN: So, the Civil Rights Museum, you had Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers. The gun is in the museum, that was used to kill Medgar Evers, this remarkable civil rights leader. She ended up coming, because she didn’t want to desecrate—

KALI AKUNO: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —that she wanted to honor this place, that had been built after so many years, but wouldn’t be seen together with Donald Trump.

KALI AKUNO: Right, with Trump.

AMY GOODMAN: And he spoke inside rather than outside?

KALI AKUNO: He spoke inside. He spoke at a small, private engagement, with a list that was primarily composed of Governor Phil Bryant’s kind of invites, largely kind of campaign contributors and donors. And I think—as we were talking earlier, I thought that that was one of the more strategic moves that they could have made. I think they did some calculus that if they would have allowed Donald Trump to just be himself and speak off the cuff, he actually would have incited black voters in Alabama to turn out in even stronger, you know, numbers than I think was anticipated. They had done some calculus that was starting to look like, “Hey, we might lose this thing if this voter turnout winds up being high.” So, rather than incite people, I think they strategically just backed off and said, “You know, let’s just—we’re here. That says enough. They can’t make you leave, as you’re the president of the United States. So just chill out. Let them have their demonstration. Let them have their protest.”


KALI AKUNO: Outside.

AMY GOODMAN: Where a thousand people were.

KALI AKUNO: Yeah. “And then, you know, we’ll get out of this unscathed, and you can go on, and you can support Roy Moore.” Right? So I think that was a critical thing. And that doesn’t—and I’m not trying to diminish in any way or fashion the response of, you know, our people in Mississippi. I thought it was on point. I thought it was necessary. But we always have to look at the larger implications of strategy of both our side of the equation and the other side of the equation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, before we talk about what’s happening in Jackson, I want to talk about Doug Jones’s victory, because something very interesting happened, the Democrat winning. I mean, you hadn’t had a Democrat winning in a quarter of a century—

KALI AKUNO: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —before Shelby, when he was a Democrat, ran in 1992, then switched a few years later to become a Republican, Senator Shelby. But it seems that Doug Jones made a calculation at the end not to go for the maybe Trump-leaning undecided voters, but to go for the African-American vote—

KALI AKUNO: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —to really do a get-out-the-vote campaign, which is what activists have been saying all over the country: You’re biggest enemy are the people who just—enemy to democracy is the people who just stay home, and you have to galvanize people just to get out to the polls.

KALI AKUNO: Right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: You don’t always have to win over the other side. So, major black leaders came down to Alabama, and Doug Jones went all over with them. And then he quotes Dr. Martin Luther King in his victory speech. But now we see, on Sunday night, the senator-elect, Doug Jones, saying he will, of course, consider voting with Republicans on certain issues, once he’s sworn in to the upper chamber, also pledged to look for areas where he can work across the aisle, raising—leading many people to say, “Would he even vote possibly for the tax bill?” But what about these strategies and what it takes, you think, to form coalitions, what Doug Jones did well and what you’re concerned about?

KALI AKUNO: Well, I mean, those of us who were doing some homework knew that he already had leaned towards the Blue Dog Democrat orientation and tradition, right? Which many of us call Dixiecrats. So, in—

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, he was the prosecutor in the 1963—


AMY GOODMAN: —Birmingham bombing case, the bombing of the Birmingham church, where four little girls were killed. He ultimately prosecuted those Ku Klux Klansmen, decades later.

KALI AKUNO: Right. Well, I mean, it’s not to say he doesn’t have any sense, not to say he doesn’t have any humanity. But I think we’ve got to look at political calculus again. And his comments on CNN yesterday clearly indicate he’s thinking down the road towards re-election. And he’s trying to position himself—you know, trying to be fair to him—he’s trying to position himself in such a way that he could win the bloc of voters that he thinks are going to be those most likely and most consistently to turn out. And he’s really appealing to that evangelical base in Alabama.

The thing that I think we were hoping that he was kind of coming to an understanding is, A, number one, on pure ideological grounds, that base is never going to vote for him. It’s just not going to happen. I don’t care how much he panders to their issues or their agenda. They just fundamentally don’t trust him. Right? Or anybody with his background and his history. But he sees that this is the most consistent voter, voting bloc, and I have to play to it.

But what it speaks to is, I think, a deeper lack of strategy, particularly on the side of the Democrats and progressives, which says, we have to turn out folks, and we have to reach folks, you know, the new kind of silent majority who don’t vote, who don’t see anything to vote for, because nobody’s speaking directly to their issues, to their material interests and concerns. And if you just keep playing the middle, you’re going to keep alienating those folks, and they just see, in their day-to-day reality, Democrat or Republican, I’m still feeling the burden of there not being any jobs, there not being any social services, there not being much by way of educational access for my children or for the future, so why should I turn out? It’s just the same thing over and over and over again.

And I think his statements on Sunday negate all of the statements, to a certain extent, that he had made just the Friday—the previous Friday. And I think the thing that folks have to be deeply concerned about is it just plays itself again as politics as usual. Right? And this is the same old thing. And particularly in the black community, you can already hear our narrative: We turned out for him, and we’re abandoned by him, yet again.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it was 98 percent of African-American women voters voted for Doug Jones. Sixty-three percent of white women voters voted for Roy Moore, even with the, you know, child molestation accusations against him.

KALI AKUNO: Right, right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: Sixty-three percent, actually the same number nationally of white women who voted for Donald Trump.

KALI AKUNO: Right. Well, I mean, it’s going to take a lot of work, I think, to move the white women who are voting in these elections, because they’re voting on the basis of some particular interests. They do not necessarily represent the vast majority of white women in the country, because, again, that’s also a population that’s just basically staying at home, not voting. So what is going to reach them? Right?

And this is something even in the local situation with us in Jackson, we’ve been trying to aim at for the last couple of years of seeing, you know, typically, in our—just on the local level, doing our calculus, it’s about 40,000 to 50,000 people who vote consistently, year in, year out, but there’s 80,000 people who are technically registered to vote, who don’t show up. And so, how do we reach those 80,000 people?

And what we’ve been arguing for, you don’t reach them by just doing the same old same-old. You have to reach them by actually trying to develop a program that speaks to their direct interests and will put them as the central actors in the transformation and the change of what’s going on. And that’s easier said than done, but I think it speaks to an orientation that we would like to see, you know, new forces on the political scene take up throughout this country. And I think it will lead to some profoundly different results of what we’ve gotten the last 16 years.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about that, Jackson Rising. First, talk about how the tax bill, Trump’s tax bill, while he says it’s a Christmas gift to the middle class, what it will actually do—it is an historic bill, there’s no question about that—and then what you’re doing in Jackson.

KALI AKUNO: Well, I mean, starting with not just the Trump-GOP tax bill, I think, if we can, to step back a little bit further. And I think we have to see this all as a fulfillment of the neoliberal dream strategy, which is actually not over yet. I think they’re just really revving up for it, and I think they feel 2018 is really their year to make some profound changes before either the House or the Senate makes some major, you know, adjustments.

But if you look at the whole strategy and how they’ve been setting this thing up, so, just speaking about one particular issue, around healthcare, we know they did several votes this year that basically failed, to repeal the Affordable [Care] Act. Trump has been very clear, very obviously, that “If I can’t defeat it legislatively, I’m going to kill it by eliminating all of the different subsidies that the federal government, you know, is responsible for,” which actually make it affordable. Right? So he’s been cutting those, left and right.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how would it affect you, for example?

KALI AKUNO: Oh, well, for me, I mean, it already affects me. I, unfortunately, have a heart condition, which requires me to be on a couple of different medications probably the remainder of my life. And that puts me in a pre-existing condition category, which they’ve been, just straight up, trying to eliminate. And in the state of Mississippi, we went from, the beginning of the healthcare markets, I think, if my memory serves me correctly, five healthcare providers that were in the market; four years later, it’s down to one. So, I am now stuck with one option. I basically have no other place to go, other than to move. And once I just recently—you know, for me and my family, we just applied throughout the—throughout this year, 2017, we were paying roughly $900 a month, you know, for healthcare and some additional, I think, $150 a month for dental. Under this new calculation, without the subsidies, and in my limited income, which is not, you know, that great, and our family’s income not that—combined income is not that great, we are now being charged—we’re paying $2,000 a month.


KALI AKUNO: From the new healthcare provider.

AMY GOODMAN: From what you had before.

KALI AKUNO: From what we had before. So, it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you have? What were you paying before?

KALI AKUNO: Nine hundred dollars a month.

AMY GOODMAN: So more than double.

KALI AKUNO: More than double, which means, on my family’s limited income, which is roughly about $5,000 a month, you know, which, for a lot of people in Mississippi, that would be well, to a certain extent—let that sink in. So, I’m roughly paying one-third of my income, my monthly income, in healthcare, if I follow through on this plan. And I’m a bit better off, in a bit better position than a vast majority of black folks in the state of Mississippi. So, if this is how it’s going to impact me, imagine what it’s going to do with folks who only have one income or folks who, you know, in some of the poorer regions, say, up in the Delta and some other places, who have no incomes, right? It’s going to be devastating.

And there is—then you have to add that to, over the last three years, the tea party has basically defunded the state of Mississippi, with all the tax cuts that it has been implementing, that the state of Mississippi is already now deeply in a debt hole that it is trying to kind of crawl itself out of. So there’s no support on the local level or on the state level coming to provide any additional subsidies for the healthcare markets or any other tax breaks. So, you’re compounding, you know, layers and levels of just forced austerity. Like this is really what’s going to happen in Mississippi in the next couple of months, in the next couple of years. And Mississippi is just one of many places. I mean, I can speak to it because that’s where I live, but same in Alabama, same in Tennessee. And I would argue it’s probably the same here in the rural parts of New York.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what is Jackson Rising? What are you doing in Jackson? How are you going to take on the starvation of the cities and states, forcing these cities and states to cut back on government spending, on important programs that support people?

KALI AKUNO: Well, that’s a good question, Amy. I can tell you what our aims and objectives have been over, you know, a course of time. And the overall kind of political project and strategy that we’ve been working on is—we call it the Jackson-Kush Plan. And the ideal piece of that is taking, at least in the western part of the state, the numeric majority of the black population in several counties, using that as a form of political leverage and, over time and through work of building up the solidarity economy, transforming Mississippi’s economy, starting in Jackson, but transforming from the inside out. That was the long-term strategy.

And with that, we had made some very clear calculations that we need to recruit and ally ourselves with a certain number of white progressives in the state that we hope to, you know, nurture and develop. And with that calculus, we saw, maybe within the span of 10 years—this is going back to 2006, 2007—that, by 2025, a new progressive alliance could take over the state of Mississippi. Now, that was the projection. I still think a lot of that is very possible, very viable.

But the other side of the equation have done some things to make it far more challenging. And then we did not anticipate—because you can’t see everything—we did not anticipate a Trump emerging on the scene. Right? We anticipate things moving further to the right, but there are degrees of how that rolls out, and I think Trump is the worst of the kind of the Goldwater revolution coming to fruition, which is deeply racist, you know, deeply misogynist, deeply xenophobic and neoliberal to the core. And you add all that up, it’s a very vicious mix, which we’re now—and dangerous, I should add, that we’re now, you know, living through. So, on the local level now, honestly, there is a period of kind of recalculation that we’re trying to figure out and go through. You know, as you had Chokwe Antar Lumumba on the show—I think twice—here recently—

AMY GOODMAN: Right around the time he was—he became mayor. He was inaugurated July 4th weekend. Right before that, he had spoken in Chicago—

KALI AKUNO: Right, right, right.

AMY GOODMAN: —at a big People’s Summit, and then, now, talking about the museum—


AMY GOODMAN: —and his boycott.

KALI AKUNO: Well, he is in a—he is in an unenvious position, you know, because the terms and conditions that I think he is going to have to battle and navigate from his position as mayor are far worse than what his father had to deal with. The conditions in Jackson and the conditions in the state have deteriorated. Like I said, the state is in deep debt. The city is barely out of debt. And if you look at kind of the long-term infrastructure projects that we have to comply with, both with the EPA for our water delivery system and then there’s other ones which are within the wings, we have some major challenges we’re going to have to figure out.

Now, from my vantage point, you know, I don’t have the burden of having to administer and having to be in government. I’m on the social movement side of the equation this time.

AMY GOODMAN: You run Cooperation Jackson.

KALI AKUNO: I’m one of the—I’m one of the people. It’s a collective, but one of the co-founders of it. On our end, we have, I think, a bit more freedom to experiment. But we have the challenge of where do we—you know, how do we access resources to do the development projects that we’re trying to do? So, we’ve been very clear that, first and foremost, we’re trying to draw existing resources within the community, first and foremost, for us to pay our own way, because we don’t have, you know, progressive philanthropies in Jackson that are willing to support working-class black folks doing almost anything. And there’s not a lot of capital wealth. But there is a tremendous amount of talent. There’s a tremendous amount of energy. So, it’s like, how do we balance our assets?

And so, trying to organize folks to do autonomous development, starting with the basic skills that we have, first around agriculture and around, you know, other food, but we’re also trying to be as forward-looking as possible and getting into digital fabrication, what we call community production, and really trying to link those two to be able to create, as much as possible, a solidarity economy, which can be mediated as much through mutual exchange and trade as it is by cash. And that is a very important element for us, in a place where it’s a cash-starved economy, but there’s also a thriving solidarity economy that already exists, that we don’t have to organize. The question is: How do we formalize some of those relationships that we’re working on? And how do we build them and extend them so that they’re not just little pockets of people who are helping themselves, but how can we build the scale so that we’re doing this citywide. We haven’t figured it all out, but we’re working on it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this issue of solidarity economy, I don’t think most people have heard that term. Explain what you mean.

KALI AKUNO: Solidarity economy, you’ll probably hear different definitions of that. But, for us, what it means is trying to develop relationships that are not mediated by the logic of capital. Now, what does that mean, a bunch of fancy words? What does that mean? It means, first and foremost, I don’t view my engagement with you or anyone else as purely transactional, that both of us have, when we come to the table, some intrinsic value, and we should find ways to exchange as equals within that relationship. So I don’t reduce everything down to how much money you have in your pocket or how much money I have in my pocket, but I try to create a dynamic where we’re sharing, and we continue a process of sharing. We’re continuing a process of being in solidarity with each other to meet both of our individual needs, but, more importantly, a communal need.

And, for us, we think this is important, just given the history of the black working-class population that we’re trying to organize with, to try to move people out of long-term exploitative relationships, of which they’re never going to really, you know, get ahead of, trying to compete in the market, which is so unfair, so uneven, and you’re so disadvantaged, from the day you were born almost to the day you die, no matter what you do, how much education you receive, you know, how many social benefits you might receive, if they’re even available, you know, from the struggles that we have amassed to, to get ourselves to a point where the government is trying to take care of some things socially. So, doing that.

And so, for us, what we’re trying to do, Amy, is, in a place where it’s been deindustrialized, you know, some 30, 40 years ago, we know where capitalism is at right now. It’s not aiming to produce any new jobs. If anything, automation is accelerating in such a way that there’s going to be fewer and fewer jobs. So we’re starting with: What are the things that we can do, within our own community, within the resources that exist, to improve the quality of life? And that starts with, first, organizing ourselves to understand there’s—you know, if we don’t help ourselves, no one else is really coming. There’s no great savior that’s coming. So, how do we take resources we have, pool them together and create a new system? You know, and that’s what we’re doing.

And right now, what we’ve been really concentrating on is really trying to create somewhat of a closed loop. So, for us, we’ve started, very intentionally, on doing urban farming, doing some minor food production with the cafe and catering co-op, and doing some regenerative work in terms of recycling, composting and lawn care. And those three are the kind of the basis or the anchor of our kind of revolving network, where they support each other with waste being transformed into organic matter, which helps to stimulate the food production, and they’re all sharing in common resources, in common income, in such a way that boosts that particular economy and creates some jobs.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re talking about them being organized as co-ops, as worker co-ops.

KALI AKUNO: As co-ops, yeah, as worker co-ops.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that means as a model.

KALI AKUNO: As a model, what it means is a group of individuals come together, they pool their resources to start a small business or a large-scale business, depending on how many come together, but they pool their resources, number one, together. And then they create a democratic structure by which they manage the enterprises together. So there’s no boss, other than themselves, acting collectively, telling them what to do, what their hours are, you know, what their working conditions are. These are things that they determine themselves. That’s the central, core component of it. It’s collective ownership and collective decision-making that makes it a real workers’ cooperative.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you see this as part of a national and international movement?

KALI AKUNO: We do. We also see ourselves as trying to be a force trying to stimulate that in other communities. Like here in New York, there’s already a thriving kind of cooperative model. I think, for us, for like in New York and other places, what we’re trying to do is not just do business for business’ sake, but to have it have a very explicit social mission, which is about liberating people. And so, there’s an infusion of politics that we’ve been very intentional about trying to, you know, put at the center of our process and politics within the Jackson model. And it’s not necessarily—it’s not ideologically neutral. Let me be clear with everybody on that. But it’s not—as we say, it’s not monolithic. And, for us, what we’ve been telling folks is that, you know, we are—Cooperation Jackson, if you want to break it down, is a collection of anarchists, socialists and liberation theologists, you know, trying to figure out how to work with each other in a democratic manner. That’s really what we are. And we’ve got all the bumps and bruises to prove it.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, as you said, you were surprised, could not predict the rise of Donald Trump, which, as you describe it, racist, xenophobic, neoliberal, misogynist, and what that means, from the protests in Charlottesville against the white supremacists who marched there and Donald Trump siding with them, talking about the fine people on both sides.

KALI AKUNO: In Charlottesville.

AMY GOODMAN: In Charlottesville. What this has unleashed in the country and how it affects your work?

KALI AKUNO: Well, again, stepping back, I think we have to look at the evolution of this. And this has been a long progression, that I think took a qualitative turn during Obama’s presidency. And we should not forget, you know, all those demonstrations that happened by the tea party and other right-wing forces, that had, you know, Michelle looking like a gorilla, that had Obama in effigy, with him being hanged, and all the history of that association. And that had been building up over time.

And to a certain extent, you know, if you look at CNN and some of these, in particular, they were giving audience to this, even though some of those demonstrations might have only had 40 people. But we went through four years where they were giving tremendous amount of free press to that whole development and really, in a certain sense, legitimizing it as a rational form of opposition to Obama, when, on the other side of the equation, we would have gatherings, that were more left of center, if you would, or progressive, that would hardly break, you know, any news. I remember when I was at the Social Forum in Detroit, and it was over 10,000 people there. We got like this amount of coverage on CNN. But then there was like two whole weeks of maybe a few hundred people demonstrating here or there for the tea party, and it was all over the news.

And I think the large impact is that that wound up rationalizing and justifying and normalizing the racism that we now see apparent under Donald Trump. And I think Donald Trump’s brilliance—and I have to—you know, I hate to say that, but I think his brilliance, during his campaign, was recognizing the shift and playing to the shift. And so, he altered the rules of saying, “I know the tune and the music, and I hear it out there, and it’s clamoring for some simple rationalizations on why, in particular, the standard of living of the white working class is declining.” Right? So he was, I think, at least honest enough to recognize that, but then came with these xenophobic and nationalist solutions, which are not going to work. He knows they’re not going to work. And that wasn’t the point. His point was: How do I galvanize all this anger, all of this energy, to get me to a certain particular place—i.e. the presidency—where I can then just move both my own personal agenda—which is continuing to get rich, very clearly, but then also he allied himself with the religious right and the most hardcore of the neoliberals to form a new coalition that’s going to just ramrod their agenda on all of us, right?

Because—and I say all of us, because the white working-class base, which may or may not have supported him—I think that too much has been made of that, and it was really a lot of middle-class forces that elected him, I think, truth be told, but the white working class right now is kind of getting the blame for that. But to the extent that there are supporters amongst that core group of people who are Donald Trump supporters, within the next six months to a year, as they start feeling the pain of not having access to healthcare, of seeing their taxes actually increase because they are, you know, the bracket that they’re in, social services getting cut, I think many of them are going to wake up to a new reality, that, “Hey, this agenda is not working for me, and we need to try something different, something new.” The question is, from my vantage point—this is a longer question, a longer dialogue: Are radical and progressive forces going to be organized enough, prepared enough, to offer a real alternative when the opportunity passes?

AMY GOODMAN: Kali Akuno is the co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, network of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi, longtime organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. His new book is titled Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. He is speaking about the book on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn. That’s Tuesday, December 19th, at 6 p.m.

This is Democracy Now! To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Up Next

Will Biden Undermine His Own Climate Goals with New Tariffs on Chinese Electric Vehicles?

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation