IWU speaker talks black history’s connection to China

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 26, 2024

Dr. Tom Lutze, a former history professor of 25 years at IWU, presented The China Connection: George Floyd, Mao Zedong, and Black Liberation. Inspired by Dr. Lutze’s presentation in China that marked the 130th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong, the February 21 lecture concentrated on the systemic racism in America and Mao Zedong’s recognition of the black struggle in America. 

Dr. Lutze mentioned how racism has been called systemic in recent years by the millions of protestors who took to the streets following George Floyd’s murder. He raised the question: what is that system?

Looking back at colonizing America, America was built on oppressing people of other races as seen by the extermination and removal of indigenous peoples. In the case of black people, racism dates back to slavery. 

“Slavery created the basis for the ‘culture of racism’ that has permeated the United States to the present,” said Dr. Lutze. 

This culture of racism is reflected by current statistics such as the unemployment and imprisonment rate being higher for black people. Specifically, a black man in America faces an imprisonment rate of 1 in 3 compared to a white man’s 1 in 17.

Going through this history, Dr. Lutze introduced an under-recognized figure in the Civil Rights Movement: Robert F. Williams. Robert F. Williams advocated to desegregate swimming pools and public libraries, succeeding in the latter. 

Williams’ significant role in the Civil Rights Movement grew international when he wrote to global newspapers about the “kissing case”; a case where two 7 and 9 year old black boys had been playing and were kissed goodbye on the cheek by a white girl who was their childhood friend. When the mother of the white girl heard about her daughter kissing the boys, she called the police and claimed her daughter had been raped. Williams sought international publicity to release the boys from jail, gaining the attention of Zedong.

Williams moved to Beijing with his family and attended Zedong’s 70th birthday party in 1963. Zedong released his 1963 statement and referred to Williams while he addressed his support for black people in their struggle with discrimination in America. 

“The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes,” Zedong said, “and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the black people.”

Finally, Zedong addressed the ‘systemic’ causes for the continuing oppression of black people and discrimination around the world.

“It is the handful of imperialists headed by the United Slates, and their supporters, the reactionaries in different countries, who are oppressing, committing aggression against and menacing the overwhelming majority of the nations and peoples of the world.” Zedong said.

Dr. Lutze connected the Civil Rights Movement globally. He summarized that  the international allies that Williams’ gained through his writing tracked support for not only black people in their battle with discrimination throughout the United States, but also for people being oppressed by imperialists and colonialists everywhere. 

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