Author discusses fight against white supremacy
BY KARYN PERENY
ENGLEWOOD - Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry, of Westwood, is a self-described independent, working-class scholar. His work focuses on how white supremacy hinders progressive social change. Perry has written extensively on the topic and is the author of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918."
Perry was a guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palisades on Feb. 19. He lead a discussion called: The Current Crises and Centrality of the Struggle against White Supremacy.
Congregation President Eddie Hadden noted that the organization is intentionally diverse and that although they are spiritually based, they have other themes. Perry was an anticipated guess in celebration of Black History Month.
Perry began the discussion citing his residence in Englewood as a child and adolescent an igniting factor in his interest in social justice. He recalled anecdotes dating back to the 1960s, including the first organized northern sit-ins in Englewood in 1962. He distinctly remembered a 1963 high school sporting match between an all white Paramus team and nearly all black Englewood team.
The event ended in riot with players in the hospital. These events caused him to raise questions and seek involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, a catalyst for other movements.
Through his extensive research, Perry was able to reveal statistics on inequality in America. Of the most alarming was that 50 percent of all U.S. children will use food stamps once in their life and that 90 percent of black children will use food stamps once in their life. He continued to inform the audience of the relationship between poverty and incarceration.
Perry did not only speak about current issues, but went back and traced its roots. He spoke passionately about Hubert Harrison, who he considers a giant of black history, but most dont know anything about him.
Harrison promoted class consciousness and related class and race issues. Perry used Harrisons quote: Politically the Negro is the touchstone of modem democratic idea, to illustrate how democracy has and can be used as both a retardant and catalyst of social change.
Harrison was not the only activist Perry included; he also spoke about the work of Theodore William Allen. Perry has edited Allens "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race."
Allen's work cites three major crises leading to the struggle against white supremacy. They are: Civil War Reconstruction, Populism, and The Great Depression.
Peny discussed that many New Deal programs were shaped through white supremacy and excluded domestic workers, most of whom were minorities.
The GI Bill was particularly important. Perry stated it provided homes with zero down payment and no interest loans. This was awarded to 70,000 people and less than 100 were people of color. This bill allowed the creation of white suburbs around America and continued a pattern of segregation.
The discussion raised many questions from the congregation and an overall heightened sense of awareness. A1 Stavsky, of Teaneck said, I have done a number of readings on the place of slavery in American history, so this was of special interest, but the discussion of Harrison is new to me. Quite a revelation.
Perry believes in speaking directly on the struggle against white supremacy and encourages European Americans to question what it means to be white.
(Notr -- this article is lso in "The Teaneck Suburbanite," February 23, 2012, p. A !8.