A Conversation With Activist Darletta Scruggs
PHOTOS / JINGYU LIN
STYLING / LAURA GORDON
HAIR + MAKEUP / KERRE BERRY @ FACTOR ARTISTS
STORY / KOKO NTUEN
Darletta Scruggs is a vigilante for the working class. Raised in Chicago’s notorious South Side, she was thrown into the world of institutional oppression often experienced by people of color before she could say her first word. Darletta grew up to join movements that observed, questioned and then acted in response to the horror she saw in a failing system. Her spotlight in the political realm came out of necessity –for her life, her child’s life, and the world full of people whose rights are being ignored and revoked at an alarming rate.
Her breaking point came when she was working for a money delivery company. She managed employees who were exploited in their working conditions, wage theft and cut benefits. While working at management level for this company that delivered trillions to banks such as Chase and Bank Of America, she was privy to disgusting comments about the workers she was managing, most from the West Side of Chicago.
“Everyday I would see this obscene flow of money handled by people who were being treated so poorly, so I wanted to stop it. I organized a strike and we attempted to have a union drive. Then I started to recognize how unions are embedded in the system and how they were against workers.” Darletta says.
She became a recognizable figure in activism, passionate about a diverse set of issues: Climate change, Black Lives Matter, Socialist Alternative Party, and Movement4Bernie. Last year she gave Fox News anchor, Neil Cavuto a run for his money, when he struggled to keep up with her breakdown of the poison capitalism, had on our society and ways to restructure tax dollars for a more inclusive America. It was hard to disagree with her logic and passion.
Darletta’s advocacies are destined to be building blocks to the modern future, we chat with her more about her advocacies and tools for the resistance.
Can you tell me a little background on what lead you into the political realm? What motivated you to speak out for everything?
I think for me it was life experiences, like most people. My life was substantially different than other people’s. I was struggling, living in poverty, dropping out of high school. I didn’t see college as something for me because of the cost. The financial burden was unrealistic for me. I went out and I got a job and worked. After I had my child I realized that I didn’t want the cycle of poverty to continue. I didn’t want him to go through the things I went through and the constant obstacles where it wasn’t a matter of will or intelligence, it just seemed that something restricted me from living a quality and dignified life. That about led me to seek information, I got thinking that all politics are corrupt. I dove into the conspiracy theory element for a little bit.
Then I stumbled across a book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow. Prior to this, I had no political experiences, I wasn’t indulged in politics other than what CNN would tell me, the basic corporate media. But when I read that book it explained to me what I saw growing up in my community, constantly struggling and police occupation, within the black community. It showed to me that it wasn’t just the Republicans doing this, it was the Democratic party doing this. The next thing I did was go to a book club and asked the women how we could fight this, what can we do? I wound up meeting someone from the part of the socialist alternative, he invited me to some meetings and led to connections of capitalism and its role in systemic racism, its role in patriarchy and misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, all of these things that were bred and indoctrinated with growing up.
I thought, well I had personal needs to fight capitalism so for me the way my bank accounts and pockets work, I was broke. So I had to change society, so I can live and so other people can live too.
Would you describe yourself as a socialist or communist?
It’s a system, and it’s important to call it by name is capitalism, that was built off of the backs of slaves. African slaves who were taken from Africa to a land where its indigenous people were murdered and killed off by genocide. What the system does, is it kind of reproduces this outcome, over and over again, through various racists. It’s not just Whites and Europeans that perpetuate violence. You start to see that in mostly misogynist countries, people the same race as the people that they are exploiting. The same violence and shame. Fundamentally, you have to understand the system of capitalism produces this outcome because that is the apparent nature of it. You need profit, you need competition, you need growth, you have to commodify everything, you have made money off of it. Whether you have to go to other countries where labor laws are worse, where they exploit workers for eight cents a day or in China and Mexico, the places that have the worst working conditions we could possibly think of. We can talk all we want but we know who pulls the strings and it’s capitalism. They have the wealth, not us, not the workers.
shirt + pants / WULFKA book / THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO
I know that you have been advocating and speaking a lot on student debt, what drove you to that specific topic?
Personally, I think education is a connection that is so vital because I see it as a mechanism of control. As long as we don’t have any control over how we are educated, we have no ability to question power. We won’t be given the tools to question and analyze power. It’s absurd that education is being commodified and sold, that’s fucking ridic. As long as it’s being sold and commodified, they’re not going to give you the tools to actually understand. They won’t give you a true account of history, they won’t give you alternative views of economics. You could only learn about a democracy, a republic, capitalism, socialism, and communism. You’ll be told that Christopher Columbus came and found some land, there wasn’t anybody here, and just some volunteer servants came up and wanted to serve the white man and they just built wealth, like no. As long as those people are able to control the history books and how we learn, they’ll feed us what they want us to think. When it comes to education, it should be a public good. It should not be something for private entities to profit and make money off of. It should be used for the collective benefit of all because we all benefit when we’re all educated, you can see that when you compare the U.S. to other countries, we’ve failed! We’re not producing anything but workers to be obedient and go to work. That isn’t a way to advance society.
I think it serves only those in power for us to not know history. Those who do not know history are known to repeat it. They do not want us to know that property at one time, was a person. People were property, the constitution was built off of that theory. You have the thirteenth amendment which allows people to still use aspects of slave labor. I think this also to is a service to them, as long as we don’t know what slavery was used for then we won’t question the system that we currently live in. Slavery was used to develop a capitalist society.
Would you say the oppression which we have failed to reconcile with as the development as a species, is contributing to all of the issues we have today? What kind of economy would you like to see?
The only thing a capitalist society does is determine who gets the profits. You could have a planned economy and markets in a socialist society, the only difference is, your system is serving for a profit. It’s made to provide the service that is needed for the greater good. When we look at capitalism in a market, it actually undermines growth in some ways. We have to wait every year for a new IPhone to come out when it’s already there, they’re gonna sell us the same shit over and over. They subsidize the meat industry and not the fruit industry, which is causing obesity and cancer. Now we can see that it’s not people who want these things, it’s just that we have a society that prioritizes the profit logic, over what is needed. We’re often times undermined, the ability to make society better for the greater good is hidden!
We need to raise our expectations of the U.S. society, we don’t have socialism here at all, not even a little bit. We don’t have free public education, health care, affordable transportation, we haven’t got shit in the lines of socialism. We are capitalist and that’s the way it is, like my granny said, “If someone telling you the truth, believe they ass, because they not lying to you.” There’s room for us to expect much more from the Social Democratic Party. Obama, who wants to get rid of Trump, is telling us to wait til 2020. ‘Be patient.’ I can’t wait that long!
jacket / ANNA BROWN shirt& pants / Darletta’s own