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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Anti-Racist Hero Exposed State and Corporate Oppression and Injustice

The article below is from a recent issue of the New York Times. It's significant because it tells a story of heroism on the part of one white man and his family's fight against racism in both the US north and south. We normally only recall southern racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s; Lee's battles show that the north also had its share of racist institutional practices.

The other interesting aspect of this story is the role of Metropolitan Life, an insurance corporation that sat at the heart of the US establishment that claimed, during the cold war and especially in the 1950s and 1960s, that it stood for freedom, anti-colonialism and anti-racism. MetLife and its many chairmen and directors played significant roles in American national life and other significant organisations, such as the Council on Foreign Relations. Prominent among them was John J. McCloy, asst secretary of war during WWII, US High Commisoner for Germany after the war, the man responsible for organising the internment of japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, adviser to US presidents from then to Reagan: all the while claiming to stand with the most progressive forces in the world. And while the east coast establishment did belatedly discover anti-racism, its efforts stopped after the most superficial elements of American apartheid had been dismantled while the deeper institutional sources of racism remained largely intact.

Finally, it's interesting how Lee was cold-shouldered by black reformists and historically-black colleges that wanted to ingratiate themselves with that very establishment because Lee had communist sympathies. 

He stood and sacrificed his life, which could have been very comfortable and outwardly successful, for his principle of the equality of people regardless of race and colour. Lee Lorch was, then, in his battle against segregation taking on a corporate and political establishment and should be saluted.

Lee Lorch, a soft-spoken mathematician whose leadership in the campaign to desegregate Stuyvesant Town, the gargantuan housing development on the east side of Manhattan, helped make housing discrimination illegal nationwide, died on Friday at a hospital in Toronto. He was 98.
His daughter, Alice Lorch Bartels, confirmed the death. Mr. Lorch had taught at York University in Toronto, and had lived in Toronto since 1968.
By helping to organize tenants in a newly-built housing complex — and then inviting a black family to live in his own apartment — Mr. Lorch played a crucial role in forcing the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which owned the development, to abandon its whites-only admissions policy. His campaign anticipated the sit-ins and other civil rights protests to come.
But Mr. Lorch’s lifelong agitation for racial equality, not just in New York but later in Tennessee and Arkansas, led him into a life of professional turmoil and, ultimately, exile.



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