The reason Roger Toussaint resonates with the African Diaspora of New York is because he is a leader in the mold of the people who have brought us thus far, and who we need to protect and see emulated. Mr. Toussaint, like his namesake, Haiti’s great leader Toussaint-Louverture, is smart, principled and strong enough to be grounded in struggle for people to be free of economic oppression, particularly in a system that wants to tend back toward slavery. That is good news not just for Black people, but for all New Yorkers. That is why he was attacked in the headlines of the Daily News and the New York Post. These owners, managers and their rich White male friends recognize him as someone who marches to a very different drummer and they don’t like it at all. Mayor Bloomberg’s furious outbursts, “thuggish, selfish, cowardly” was testimony enough to that fact but tabloid covers like “JAIL ‘EM” on Rupert Murdock’s New York Post and the “Illegal Transit Strike” logo on Mr. Murdock’s FOX NEWS, puts it in writing.
The biggest coming threat to their accumulation of money is paying for workers after they are no longer productive and providing them with health care. During the days of outright slavery the owners could not sell an unproductive slave and yet could not free them, it would be a bad example. So they were kept on at the plantation and we see representations of them today as Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima, old but still useful around the house.
In 2006, the problem for the people profiting from the economic system will be baby boomers asking, “How will I be taken care of in my old age, what about my grandchildren and where is the profit of my human productivity going?” Is it going back to the individual and the community in the form of a legacy of growth to leave behind, or is it being siphoned off by rich white men determined to get richer and have their children be richer still.
In this way the issue of pension benefits that Mr. Toussaint stood on transcends the time we are in because it confronts the flaw in the capitalist system, where everything has to make a profit, the profit must always grow, and it must always go to the owner. Therefore, having to feed, clothe and provide health care when there is no production was a problem to the slave owner then and is a problem in the boardroom now. Especially today when reading cannot be outlawed, the issue transcends race and we live in what is called a democracy.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed away the illusion of economic equality and people across the nation saw there was no safety net provided by a caring government. With Roger Toussaint and the TWU leaders taking the stand they did, 2006 opens on a high note of what unity, determination and courageous leadership look like, they were willing to confront the economic system with the concern for the “future unborn,” setting the bar for principles and qualities to look for in this coming election year.