Direct Action Gets the Baked Goods!

On Wednesday, October 26, the Young Conservatives of Texas hosted an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”, where store-bought cookies were being sold at various prices in relation to the race and gender of the people who wished to buy them. Asian-American and white students were charged the highest prices, while black and Native people were given the lowest costs and women were charged slightly less across the board. The event is part of a history of racism from YCT. In 2013, they attempted to hold a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” game where they would offer gift cards to students for catching individuals walking around campus with “illegal immigrant” signs, but were forced to cancel it after a massive outcry. In that same year, they hosted another “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” which was less eventful than this year’s.

This time, in less than two hours hundreds of students assembled in the West Mall area to express their indignation at the blatant bigotry of the event, while thousands watched the situation unfold by live stream. Though the YCT was confronted with mass opposition, they shakily stood their ground, unwilling to listen to or engage with the dissenting voices and concede that they were wrong in any way. This encounter, with the opposing sides arguing back and forth without any results, continued on for hours until they both eventually ran out of steam and the confrontation began to die down. No conclusion was reached, the reactionaries were not run off, and ultimately nothing happened as a result of the confrontation apart from students of color feeling more unsafe and unwelcome than ever around their fellow students.

Meanwhile, the University Democrats, who were tabling nearby, tried to co-opt the people’s anger into voting for their party. Racism is not a partisan issue that can be solved through the political system, but an issue of the masses of oppressed people versus the ruling class, which both parties are an integral part of. The Republicans make no attempt to hide their commitment to white supremacy, while the Democrats are just as racist but more skillful at hiding it under liberal rhetoric. Bill Clinton’s administration, after all the support black voters gave him, proceeded to devastate working-class families with welfare reform and other cuts to social services, condemn black children as “superpredators”, and amp up mass incarceration with tougher sentencing laws, while Barack Obama presided over militarized police repression of black protest as well as record numbers of deportations and drone strikes. The “progressive” Democratic government of Austin is complicit in the gentrification that is driving black and Chicanx people out of the city at unprecedented rates, the murders of David Joseph and Larry Jackson, and the many other crimes of the Austin Pig Department.

There was one positive takeaway from the event, however. About an hour into YCT’s event, a small group of masked students made their way through the crowd, swept YCT’s materials off the table, and made off with the cookies. The reaction from the crowd was one of elated shock. In a place where the private property and “free speech” rights of racists are more sacred principles than the safety and well being of students of color, this type of direct action was unexpected. This small group was effectively able to do more in shutting down the racist event than the hundreds of students who spoke, but did not act. By taking away YCT’s material that enabled them to spread their message and causing the YCT a financial loss, these people ensured that the ability for YCT to continue onward with their bigotry was significantly hindered.

To be clear, affirmative action has not made UT more equitable. Today, black students make up only 4% of the student body compared to 12% of Texas’s population and have their admissions applications rejected at a higher rate than white applicants. The main beneficiaries of affirmative action are more well-off members of oppressed groups, rather than the most oppressed among them; for most working-class black and brown Texans, a degree from UT is still out of reach. And increased representation will not lead to liberation; if anything, it can actually serve to reinforce white supremacy by giving it a multicultural sheen. The first black president did nothing to stop police murders of black people, ramped up US imperialist terrorism against the people of the Middle East and Africa, and presided over more deportations than any other president. Corporations and universities talk about diversity and enact affirmative action policies not because they want to dismantle oppressive systems and make reparations for centuries of exploitation, but because it’s good for their profits and makes them look progressive. But despite the flaws of affirmative action, we oppose all reactionary attacks on it such as Abigail Fisher’s lawsuit (#StayMadAbby) or YCT’s “Affirmative Action Bake Sale”. With explicit George Wallace-style calls for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” out of fashion, opposition to affirmative action is the banner racists fly today to oppose education or employment opportunities for non-white people. Like “All Lives Matter”, they are not motivated by any true concern about inequality or discrimination, but by the reaction of whiteness under attack.

The Revolutionary Student Front applauds the action of the students who boldly stood up to racism by expropriating YCT’s baked goods and sweeping their racist propaganda off the table. Not only did these students directly prevent YCT from continuing their racist fundraiser, they showed that we don’t have to wait patiently for change to happen through the system – we can make change ourselves. We encourage all students who want to fight against racism to follow their example, and the example of the anti-fascists who took it upon themselves to clean up racist graffiti from the Blanton last week (see our statement on the UT Antifa 3 for more information). Enough with the petitions, the peaceful and non-disruptive protests, the electoral campaigns, and the Student Government votes! If these methods really threatened the system, they would be illegal. Working within the white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist institution of the university will never lead to real change; real change will only happen when the masses of oppressed people rise up and seize power. We have the power to fight back, and we ought to use it. As Mao Zedong told the students of revolutionary China: IT IS RIGHT TO REBEL!

Official Statement on the UT Antifa 3

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, the University of Texas Police Department arrested three Austin anti-fascists after a group of anti-fascist students cleaned up racist graffiti outside of the Blanton Museum of Art. The Celtic cross, a widely known white supremacist symbol, had been painted on a column outside the museum in early February, and was previously accompanied by a white supremacist slogan on the building. After eight months of inaction by UT’s administration, students decided they’d had enough and took matters into their own hands by removing the hate symbol themselves.

When someone spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” on Confederate monuments in the South Mall of campus on February 10 of this year, the university washed it off within hours. Every movement for black liberation is accompanied by an opposing white reaction, and only 12 days later, UTPD discovered white supremacist slogans and Celtic crosses spray-painted outside of the Blanton. The Celtic cross, originally an ancient Irish symbol, was taken up by Norwegian Nazis during World War II and is now popular worldwide among neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members, and many other white supremacist movements. The university removed the slogans, but over eight months later, the white power symbols were still there.

After seeing the symbol on campus just over a month ago, the Revolutionary Student Front spread the word about this egregious symbol of racist violence at UT as part of our ongoing anti-fascist campaign. For the safety of our fellow students, we immediately created anti-fascist and anti-racist propaganda to alert the student body about the appalling displays of white supremacy that we found on and around campus. Many students responded with a mix of disgust, confusion, and embarrassment: How could the university let this happen? Why have they taken so long to take any action? I thought UT was supposed to be a progressive place, how could this happen here?

In response to the anger and frustration of the student body, RSF moved quickly to organize an Anti-Racist & Anti-Fascist Town Hall meeting. Over 40 students attended to share their ideas on how we as students could organize to fight white supremacy, since the administration clearly wasn’t doing it. By the end of the meeting, one of the clearest goals of the students in attendance was for the Blanton graffiti to be removed immediately. Long before the meeting was held, one person stated that they’d contacted UT’s Campus Climate Response Team, which is in charge of handling any incidents of bigotry on campus, and by this point had yet to see any action taken. In the face of such contemptible inaction, students began formulating plans for solving the problem themselves.

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016, a group of anti-fascists took up RSF’s call for action and organized to do what the administration wouldn’t. Over 15 anti-fascists, including students and community members, gathered outside the Blanton Museum. The Celtic crosses were painted over while a speech was given explaining the necessity and urgency of the action. Afterward, a large poster was taped over the paint, which read: “Anti-racist students posted this here to cover white supremacist graffiti which the university has ignored for eight months.”

Shortly after, UTPD arrested three community members who played no role in any of the painting for allegedly vandalizing UT property. Without any evidence, the pigs charged the UT Antifa 3 with felony vandalism and set their bail at $20,000 each. But earlier this year, when five students in Arlington faced felony vandalism charges for spray-painting “whites only” at their high school, their bail was set to only $2,500 each. This disproportionate treatment illustrates, plain as day, the white supremacist character of our so-called justice system.

Immediately after the arrests were made, fellow anti-fascist organizers started a fundraiser to provide financial support for the imprisoned comrades. They were able to raise over $3,500 in just one day. They secured legal representation, the bail requirement was waived, and the UT Antifa 3 were all released by mid-afternoon on October 27. But their bogus charges have not been dropped. With the cost of legal representation as high as it is, these three working-class comrades need all the support that they can get. If you can afford to help, please donate to their legal fund:

The Revolutionary Student Front fully endorses and supports any direct actions taken to confront the violent white supremacist ideology that has recently reared its ugly head in Austin. It is an absolute disgrace that the university administration doesn’t care about the problem of white supremacy on campus. But it is not surprising at all, because the University of Texas is an institution that is, at its root, designed to reproduce an irrevocably imperialist, white supremacist society. Hate crimes against black students often go unsolved, while students engaging in racist attacks get away with a slap on the wrist, and the violently patriarchal and white supremacist culture of Greek life is empowered rather than attacked.

The anti-fascists recognized the administration’s complete indifference towards keeping oppressed people safe from the growth of the hate groups rising all across the country. Their actions show that it is not necessary to wait around for an apathetic bureaucracy to address the people’s pressing issues. The people themselves are capable of organizing to solve their own problems in a far more effective and timely manner.

Although the UT Antifa 3 have been released from jail, it is imperative to gather student, faculty, and community support in fighting and denouncing these false charges so they may be dropped. We must muster support from all directions to force UTPD and the university administration to confront their racist hypocrisy as well as the desperate, pathetic, and recklessly speculative nature of the charges against the UT Antifa 3, for which there exists no evidence whatsoever.

We encourage everyone to spread the word about this incident and the irresponsibility and hypocrisy with which UT has handled it, as well as the efforts to support the defense of those bearing the brunt of it. The fact that three people were held in jail for a day and are now being charged with felonies for covering up fascist graffiti that UT was perfectly content with leaving on display is outrageous and infuriating. There is no doubt that the evidence in court will prove that the UT Antifa 3 are completely innocent of the charges that have been falsely raised against them.

Now is the time to act and spread the word about this injustice. Talk to fellow students, get in touch with sympathetic faculty, and call UTPD to demand that all charges against the UT Antifa 3 be dropped. Bold anti-fascist actions such as these should be upheld and encouraged—we must ensure that this racist university is held accountable for repressing those who do right. We must ensure that justice is carried out.