Archive for urban
An article in the Grio by Lola Adesioye, a Black British writer, is titled “Riots were a long time coming for black Britons,” and helps to explain some of what is going on in the London and other urban rioting. She notes that
The riots have been ferocious. Buildings have been burned down, shopping centers looted, police and firemen attacked. People are afraid for their lives and their livelihoods.
And that many people there are calling even for the British army to come in and put down the rioting. We might note that the U.S. used military units to put down black revolts in the 1960s in several major cities, so this public and political orientation is not new.
Adesioye points out that the rioting started in the Tottenham area of North London, where conflict between the mostly white police and young black men has been at a high level for decades. Indeed there was another major riot in that area some 26 years back, involving earlier generations of white police and black Britons. The riot in 1985, as with these riots, started because of an apparent police malpractice incident. The Tottenham rioting reportedly started when a mostly white police unit called Trident shot and killed a black man, father of two, and nonviolent protests over that killing turned violent. The Trident unit had been started as a community-generated attempt to deal with black-on-black killings in the area, but she notes that many in that community now see it as “just another way in which the police can oppress young black men,” much like they do in the United States.
Adesioye summarizes her view of the causes of the riots by black Britons this way:
This violence is as a result of . . . unexamined racial issues, a crumbling sense of community among black people with no real leadership, unresolved class issues, social exclusion coupled with a lack of opportunities, a deep recession in addition to an extremely high cost of living, a new government who has been cutting back on services for youth, disenfranchised young people, and a dependency culture. . . . Black people are underrepresented in all areas of public British life from politics, to economics. . . . and we are overrepresented in crime and incarceration.
She further notes that the rioting has spread to other areas and involved nonblack young people, especially working class white youth, who also face major economic and social class barriers, especially under the new austerity policies of the new conservative British government.
What is entirely missing in Adesioye’s article, however, as in almost all research on U.S. rioting in the 1960s-1970s (and most research on racism and racial inequalities today), is a clear focus on the white, mostly male elite decisionmakers who are immediately or ultimately responsible for most of the underlying conditions of these British riots. These “racial issues” seems a very tame and deflecting way of saying “white racial oppression.” The white elite’s drive to keep British (and U.S.) society highly unequal lies behind most items in her list, yet even she does not call out these powerful whites. The beginning of wisdom on these matters is the what Michael Parenti calls the “reality principle,” that is the necessity of calling out and making transparent the underlying oppressive reality and the main agents in that reality. Race riots are always about oppressive underlying conditions, and often triggered by precipitating incidents caused by the police.
And do look at the individual comments made by people after the end of her article. Numerous whites make extraordinarily racist comments. And there are several comments about the possibility of racial riots in the United States. Of course, we as a country hold the record for the number of race riots over a few years in the 1960s and early 1970s—more than 500, with many lives lost and many people injured.
Given the extreme and growing economic inequality in this country between white and black Americans, and indeed between rich and working class whites, how long will it be before we see similar urban rioting in the United States?
The conservative right-wing has remained unabashed about its racist talk. We have heard vitriolic metaphors such as “Don’t retreat, reload,” “armed and dangerous,” and talk evoking the second amendment to encourage (white) Americans to protect themselves against a “tyrannical government,” and I might add, African Americans and other Americans of color. This kind of discourse does not contribute to the development of the great debates on which this country was found and how it solved its problems. Even though we live in the 21st century, our conservative right has returned to the so-called “glorious” days of the Jim Crow era, where the lynching of African Americans was the way of southern life.
For Neal Boortz, an Atlanta-based right-wing radio host, the subtle practice of racism against African Americans and other Americans of color is not enough. Boortz is advocating that whites should take up arms to defend themselves against “urban thugs.” He literally has generalized the criminal activity of some urban black males to the entire black community as well as Hispanic communities. One danger of Boortz’s statement is that some hate-mongering neo-Nazi will use this as an excuse to target at random innocent Americans of color as an excuse to eliminate them, becoming judge, jury, and executioner. Boortz also fails to understand that crimes in urban areas are usually “black-on-black” crime.
Therefore, is Boortz using the phrase “urban thugs” as racist imaging of urban Black men generally — and maybe thereby justifying some whites’ attacking them? The late Marable Manning once said:
Black-on-black crime usually victimizes the working and poor, but it can paralyze virtually all Black people of whatever social class or neighborhood. It produces for capitalism and the state a deep despair, a destructive suspicion [blacks] hold against each other. It thwarts Blacks’ ability to achieve collective class consciousness, to build political agencies which advance [Black’s] material and cultural interests, and develop [themselves] economically. It forces Black inner-city merchants to strap revolvers on their calves or shoulders, while serving poor patrons behind plexiglass shields. It stops Black doctors from making emergency calls to their patients who live in the midst of a tenement slum or ghetto high rise complex. It instills a subconscious apathy toward the political and economic hierarchy, and fosters the nihilistic conviction that nothing can ever be changed in the interests of the Black masses.(p. 66)
Manning does not mention whites in this passage. His statements are limited to black neighborhoods regardless of social class. Any sensible law-abiding American citizen would never approve of criminal activity by any individual, regardless of race. But urban black males and their families live in poverty because systemic racism has incarcerated more black males at a greater exponential rate than poor white tattooed males, because of the outsourcing of jobs from urban and rural communities to overseas, because of the lack of educational opportunities, and because of the lack of a strong support system.
Moreover, systemic racism has economically underdeveloped the urban Black community (see Marable Manning’s book above). Because of the black male’s frequent inability to head his household because of the above mentioned reasons, many black women and children have remained in generational poverty. But the most devastating effect systemic racism has had on blacks was reducing them to animals in the minds of whites to justify the ill-treatment of them, then blaming them for their subsequent poor conditions.
Here is a new and interesting report on “race and place”published by PolicyLink and California Endowment that explores much important territory with data on the costs of structural and systemic racism. It begins this way:
One number may determine how healthy you are and how long you live. It is not your weight, cholesterol count, or any of those numbers doctors track in patients. It is your address. If you live in a community with parks and playgrounds, grocery stores selling nutritious foods, access to good jobs and to other economic opportunities, clean air, safe streets, good schools, ample health care and social services, and neighbors who look after one another, you are more likely to thrive. If you live in a neighborhood without these essentials, you are more likely to suffer from obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic ailments You are also more likely to die of a stroke, a hear attack, or certain forms of cancer. You are more likely to be injured or killed during a crime, in a car crash, or simply crossing the street. Healthy people and healthy places go together. This simple fact, supported by a deep, evolving body of research, is propelling a broad- based movement in California and in this nation to improve the health of people. . . .
and then adds:
Woven throughout the nexus of health and place is the often unspoken strand of race.
There is much food for thought in this research report about the links of space and racism in this report, and it uses a “structural racism” perspective from the Aspen Institute.
Yet the report never really calls out white decisionmakers as such, as the responsible white parties for the many racial inequalities the report’s data document so well. ‘Tis interesting how most critical reports on racial inequality still defer to white sensibilities in that way. Is this sidestepping of white racism by name a sort of white racial frame in its liberal version?
Part Three. Recall that along with a few other Middlebury College students, I spent my January winter term working in a public school in the Bronx. Our Education Studies Program coordinated this valuable learning experience outside of Middlebury’s “bubble.” However, I found this “bubble” not easily escapable; at each turn I found the racist pumps that keep it inflated and witnessed rapid “repairs” to any momentary puncture of its surface, those longing for the fresh air of a counter-frame silenced by the same dominant ideologies that plague the halls of my campus. The following is part of a reflection on my experience.
One day I helped out in a classroom so loud the principal made multiple visits, but to no avail. As the substitute teacher yelled at the students, they responded by making fun of him. “McLovin” they taunted, something to which he did not take kindly. A vicious cycle of verbal attacks escalated between them as I sat down with a small group of students and worked to make the assignment accessible to them. As the pocket of students were producing amazing work, it was clear that if we simply divided up the room amongst us we could reach the students more individually and help them better to engage in the material. When I offered that suggestion to the sub he shut it down without the least bit of hesitation: “That would work in an ideal world, but this happens to be a world of criminals and rapists, and that is who these kids are going to become.”
When I informed the assistant principal of his remarks she halted in disbelief; the administration had just praised him with the offering of an extended position at the school. She thanked me for telling her and ensured he would never be welcome in the school again. “I never would have known,” she admitted. “He looks just like an educated guy.”
It was obvious that white, clean shaven, tie, and a dress shirt equaled educated. Just as obvious was the fact that if any of those elements were lacking it did not hold through. In defining the educated through the white racial frame, the assistant principal defined who her students will never be.
The BBC has a news reports on organized French human rights protests against French government expulsions and other negative treatment of French Roma people (so-called “gypsies’):
Thousands of people have been attending rallies in Paris and 130 other French towns to protest at the government’s policy of deporting Roma people.
A majority of French respondents in polls support the government expulsions and other apparent “cleansing” of these mostly working class residents of France:
About 1,000 Roma (Gypsies) returned to Romania and Bulgaria from France last month, while official figures record that 11,000 Roma were expelled from France last year. The League of Human Rights, which called for the demonstrations, said it wanted to counteract government “xenophobia” and what it described as the systematic abuse of Roma in France.
French President Sarkozy has apparently expanded these high-profile campaigns for political reasons, even against opposition in his presidential cabinet:
Prime Minister Francois Fillon hinted that he disliked the crude links being made between foreigners and crime, while Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he considered resigning over the issue.
There have been violent encounters between the Roma and non-Roma police in some cities:
In mid-July, riots erupted in Grenoble after police shot an alleged armed robber during a shootout. The next day, dozens of French Roma attacked a police station in the small Loire Valley town of Saint Aignan, after police shot dead a French Roma man who had allegedly not stopped at a police checkpoint.
French politicians’ expulsion and other policing actions have seen dissent and criticism from international sources like the Vatican and the United Nations, even the European Commission.
The article largely ignores the large scale racialized discrimination that targets the Roma, something Jessie detailed here. I am not very familiar with these recent French events, or the background. Perhaps some of our viewers can add some savvy comments on the situation in France.
Ahmed Sharif, a New York City cab driver stabbed by a passenger, says he was definitely attacked because of his religion. Sharif was stabbed repeatedly while driving his taxi on the East Side Tuesday. The suspect, a white man named Michael Enright, attacked him after first asking whether he was Muslim. Many are saying that this attack is part of a growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S.
The apparent hate crime attack on Mr. Sharif and the alarming wave of hate crimes against Latinos that Joe wrote about yesterday are connected in a number of ways. One of the major links is the way that these acts of violence are part of a larger social context that includes rising tide of hate speech targeting Muslims and Latinos.
The research connecting hate speech to hate crimes is mixed. When it comes to individuals explaining their motivation for hate crimes, there’s actually relatively little research that investigates motivations for hate crimes. One study that does this finds a range of motivations: thrill, defensive, mission, and retaliatory motivation (J. McDevitt, J. Levin, and S. Bennett, “Hate Crime Offenders: An Expanded Typology,” Journal of Social Issues, 58 (2):303-318). In the case of Enright’s attack on Sharif, this appears to be a “mission” hate crime, in which Enright was on a “mission” to attack anyone who was Muslim. Other research, such as Alexander Tsesis’ book Destructive Messages (NYU Press, 2002), demonstrate how hate speech gives rise to dangerous social movements.
The question really is where did Enright, a film student who was working on a project to promote cross-cultural understanding, get the idea that he should attack someone who was Muslim? No one knows for sure. The fact is that after traveling to Afghanistan to work on a film project, Enright returned to New York where there is an ugly display of hate speech downtown about the so-called mosque controversy. Could this have played even a small role in Enright’s violent actions last Tuesday? It seems more than plausible.
The fact is that the U.S., and even the country’s most diverse city, New York, are becoming more treacherous for people of color. And yet, this violence gets repaid with loyalty. Despite the brutal attack on him, the cab driver Mr. Sharif told supporters outside City Hall that he still loves New York.
“This is a city of all colors, races, all religion, everyone. We live here, side by side, peacefully.”
Bob Herbert at the Times has some very revealing statistics on police harassment and malpractice in New York City:
Statistics will be out shortly about the total number of people who were stopped and frisked by the police in 2009. We already have the data for the first three-quarters of the year, and they are staggering. During that period, more than 450,000 people were stopped by the cops, an increase of 13 percent over the same period in 2008.
Likely more than half a million in one year. He adds:
An overwhelming 84 percent of the stops in the first three-quarters of 2009 were of black or Hispanic New Yorkers. It is incredible how few of the stops yielded any law enforcement benefit. Contraband, which usually means drugs, was found in only 1.6 percent of the stops of black New Yorkers. For Hispanics, it was just 1.5 percent. For whites, who are stopped far less frequently, contraband was found 2.2 percent of the time.
Racial discrimination and little open protest or concern with extreme police malpractice. Welcome to lockdown America? And much of this is also a waste of police time:
The percentages of stops that yielded weapons were even smaller. Weapons were found on just 1.1 percent of the blacks stopped, 1.4 percent of the Hispanics, and 1.7 percent of the whites. Only about 6 percent of stops result in an arrest for any reason.
Notice too that whites were the more likely to carry weapons and have drugs. I wonder why that does not get news headlines? Why don’t they stop more whites, as there would be more payoff?
As I have mentioned here before police brutality and other malpractice is a severe problem nationally:
Lest some think that we are ignoring lots of white victims of police brutality here, we might note that one social science study back in the 1990s analyzed 130 police-brutality accounts in several cities across the country. In that reviews of cases, criminologist Kim Lersch discovered that the targets of this type of police malpractice are almost always black or Latino. The latter made up 97 percent of the victims of police brutality, while the overwhelming majority (93 percent) of officers involved were white. Police brutality overwhelmingly involves white-on-black or other white-on-minority violence. (See full discussion in Chapter 5 here.)