Ferguson is not just about systemic racism—it’s about class warfare, and how America’s poor are held back
Will the recent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, be a tipping point in the struggle against racial injustice, or will it be a minor footnote in some future grad student’s thesis on Civil Unrest in the Early Twenty-First Century?
The answer can be found in May of 1970.
You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment.
You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.
On May 14th, 10 days after Kent State ignited the nation, at the predominantly black Jackson State University in Mississippi, police killed two black students (one a high school senior, the other the father of an 18-month-old baby) with shotguns and wounded twelve others.
There was no national outcry. The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.
And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.
That gets us a little historical perspective. We can come back to it in a minute. Let’s continue or exploration, here:
By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)
First and foremost, let’s hear it for someone willing to be honest about this problem. We don’t see this discussed at all. I think that you may find more raicsm against whites than against blacks, but I will also agree that the black against white racism doesn’t generally impact things the way white on black racism (even if less forcefully in-your-face) does. I think I can agree with this completely, and I can say this as someone who has been a victim of black-on-white racial violence. Let’s pursue this a little further:
Then we’ll start debating whether or not the police in America are themselves an endangered minority who are also discriminated against based on their color—blue. (Yes, they are. There are many factors to consider before condemning police, including political pressures, inadequate training, and arcane policies.) Then we’ll question whether blacks are more often shot because they more often commit crimes. (In fact, studies show that blacks are targeted more often in some cities, like New York City. It’s difficult to get a bigger national picture because studies are woefully inadequate. The Department of Justice study shows that in the U.S. between 2003 and 2009, among arrest-related deaths there’s very little difference among blacks, whites, or Latinos. However, the study doesn’t tell us how many were unarmed.)
I don’t see anything here to disagree with. Police have their own problems, and they do not come to the table with clean hands, but when we are bringing our wrath to bear about the treatment of gangbanger-wannabes in thug life as victims to the table, we have to also represent the police themselves. Let’s explore this a little further:
This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.
And that’s how the status quo wants it.
Notce how he doesn’t say “Left” or “Right” or “Black” or “White”. It is the forces of the status quo, who have a good deal of money that they are making out of the situation, that are pleased by this course of events. I really like the way that he has set this up. It is well written. I don’t have any particular complaints about the content, the agenda, or anything else that he has presented so far. Continue:
The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.
One way to keep these 50 million fractured is through disinformation. PunditFact’s recent scorecard on network news concluded that at Fox and Fox News Channel, 60 percent of claims are false. At NBC and MSNBC, 46 percent of claims were deemed false. That’s the “news,” folks! During the Ferguson riots, Fox News ran a black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the bold caption: “Forgetting MLK’s Message/Protestors in Missouri Turn to Violence.” Did they run such a caption when either Presidents Bush invaded Iraq: “Forgetting Jesus Christ’s Message/U.S. Forgets to Turn Cheek and Kills Thousands”?
How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted? They can’t, which is exactly how the One Percent controls the fate of the Ninety-Nine Percent.
I don’t particularly disagree here though I might dispute the specific numbers for Fox News versus MSNBC, we can’t ignore the fact that across the spectrum we are not being given the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by the news media nor our political leaders. We are being lied to and manipulated, and I think that at some level we all knowthat. He goes on:
Worse, certain politicians and entrepreneurs conspire to keep the poor just as they are. On his HBO comedic news show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver ran an expose of the payday loan business and those who so callously exploit the desperation of the poor. How does an industry that extorts up to 1,900 percent interest on loans get away with it? In Texas, State Rep. Gary Elkins blocked a regulatory bill, despite the fact that he owns a chain of payday loan stores. And the politician who kept badgering Elkins about his conflict of interest, Rep. Vicki Truitt, became a lobbyist for ACE Cash Express just 17 days after leaving office. In essence, Oliver showed how the poor are lured into such a loan, only to be unable to pay it back and having to secure yet another loan. The cycle shall be unbroken.
Payday loans aren’t my thing one way or another, and I don’t know the political parties of the people he mentions by name here. I think that we can all agree that this looks pretty shady, no matter who these people are or what party they represent. And we see this same thing at the national level. How many big press operatives have spouses/significant others working in the Obama Administration. Do we really believe that these people are giving honest accounting of the actions of people that they really are literally sleeping with? You’ve got folks in every branch of the government, all over the place, where these relationships help each other make it though the day without people like us dragging the SOBs out of their offices and to the nearest lamp post.
Rather than uniting to face the real foe—do-nothing politicians, legislators, and others in power—we fall into the trap of turning against each other, expending our energy battling our allies instead of our enemies. This isn’t just inclusive of race and political parties, it’s also about gender. In her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, Laurie Penny suggests that the decreased career opportunities for young men in society makes them feel less valuable to females; as a result they deflect their rage from those who caused the problem to those who also suffer the consequences: females.
Yes, I’m aware that it is unfair to paint the wealthiest with such broad strokes. There are a number of super-rich people who are also super-supportive of their community. Humbled by their own success, they reach out to help others. But that’s not the case with the multitude of millionaires and billionaires who lobby to reduce Food Stamps, give no relief to the burden of student debt on our young, and kill extensions of unemployment benefits.
Nothing I particularly disagree with here., I might also point out that making the Straight, Christian, White Male the societal scapegoat (a position held by Jews in Nazi Germany and by blacks in the post-Reconstruction South) isn’t helpful. Continue:
With each of these shootings/chokehold deaths/stand-your-ground atrocities, police and the judicial system are seen as enforcers of an unjust status quo. Our anger rises, and riots demanding justice ensue. The news channels interview everyone and pundits assign blame.
And that, my friends, is the real question. I don’t find anything here that I particularly disagree with. He comes at it from a more Leftward perspective than I would, but I can’t disagree with what he is saying. I could add, where are we in an America that has seen the net worth of the middle class evaporate (to the tune of about 33% of the net worth of the average American Middle Class Family) over the last six years while Wall Street is going gangbusters, and the National Debt is exploding into uncharted levels in all of history. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know it isn’t more gun control, more Wall Street bail-outs, more militarized police, or more draconian laws to hold us all down while the elites party like it is the end of the world while the rest of us are fighting to make a life for ourselves under more taxes and regulation, and the heavy-hand of a police force that looks more like it comes from Death Race 2000 than it does Mayberry.