Tag Archives: race riots

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Baltimore Riots Were Caused by Capitalism and Cops, Not Poverty

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The race riots that followed the recent murders of unarmed black men by police in places like Ferguson and Baltimore have liberal commentators and politicians placing the blame on poverty, specifically among inner-city African-Americans. This is an American tradition: progressives wrote similar editorials calling for antipoverty programs, and politicians issued (empty) promises to enact them, after the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles provoked rioting in the South Central neighborhood in the early 1990s, and following the even bigger urban conflagrations of 1968 in Detroit, Newark and Watts.

I grew up poor, and I have struggled financially. I hate poverty; I’m all for any government program that tries to mitigate the pain of not knowing whether one will be able eat, keep the electricity on, or avoid homelessness. Still, the poverty-causes-race-riots tautology is weird. What about the cops?

Baltimore was in trouble long before six police officers arrested Freddie Gray without cause, snapped his spine, gave him a so-called “rough ride” (handcuffed, unbuckled, driven wildly in order to bang you around) in a paddy wagon, and refused his repeated entreaties for medical attention. Too many of its citizens were dark-skinned, impoverished, underemployed, disenfranchised and victimized by gangs and drug dealers.

But it wasn’t a spontaneous outburst of class warfare that caused the riots — it was Gray’s murder by the police, and the authorities’ non-response. Ditto for Ferguson: no killing of Michael Brown by a cop, no riot.

Not that the liberals aren’t onto something: the police in Beverly Hills don’t shoot that many unarmed guys in the back, as they’re running away. Cops in the Hamptons don’t choke fat dudes, who aren’t going anywhere fast, to death on sidewalks in broad daylight. Police don’t mess with you if you’re rich and therefore powerful.

Cops in Baltimore kill unarmed non-suspects because they think they can get away with it. They think they can get away with it because they always have. They always have because unarmed non-suspects in Baltimore are poor.

The victims are poor because they’re black.

Pundits get it wrong when they try to explain the roots of poverty. “The real barriers to social mobility,” writes moderate Republican columnist David Brooks in The New York Times, “are matters of social psychology, the quality of relationships in a home that either encourage or discourage responsibility, future-oriented thinking, and practical ambition.”

In the same newspaper on the same day, Johns Hopkins history professor N.D.B. Connolly gets closer to the truth, pointing to structural racism with its roots in slavery. “The problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods.”

But Connolly falls short with his proposed solution when he calls for a “state of emergency” on “the problem of residential discrimination, by devising a fairer tax structure, by investing in public space, community policing, tenants’ rights and a government jobs program.” These would all be moves in the right direction, and I support them, but to pronounce window-dressing reforms “solutions” is ridiculous.

Yesterday, the day Baltimore’s dynamic young black district attorney filed charges including murder against her city’s six killer cops, was May 1st: International Workers Day. Which ought to have reminded editors at places like the Times ­— which has employed numerous far-right opinion columnists, but never a leftist — that poverty is caused by capitalism.

Liberals believe capitalism is a good system prone to excesses, which they propose to mitigate via reform and regulation: poverty, income inequality and racism associated with class are flaws in an otherwise laudable economic model.

But that’s not true. Poverty, and the racism that goes with it, are features, not bugs. The ruling classes require a permanent underclass to exploit directly, and serve as a warning to workers not to ask for big raises, shorter hours or other improvements in workplace conditions — be quiet, lest you wind up like them.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Changing the Man in Charge Doesn’t Change the System

Watching our millionaire president hobnobbing with celebrities at his luxurious vacation in Martha’s Vineyard as Ferguson, Missouri convulses in rioting after a cop shot unarmed Michael Brown, it’s obvious that electing a black president isn’t enough to change reality for millions of less privileged blacks. The only thing that separates Michael Brown from Barack Obama is a thin veneer of borrowed privilege.

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Back to Normal

Pundits and politicians are looking forward to the “recovery” following race riots in Ferguson, Missouri. What will “back to normal” look like? Police randomly stopping young black men in the streets just because, checkpoints by heavily armed uniformed goons, police shootings of unarmed men, high unemployment and underemployment.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: We Would Never Have Had a National Conversation on Racial Profiling if People Hadn’t Rioted in Ferguson

Ferguson, Missouri offers a lesson for those of us who are trying to make life more fair: if you want the powers that be to pay attention, violent protest is more effective than nonviolence.

At this writing, race riots following the shooting of an unarmed young black man by a white cop in a suburb of St. Louis are dominating newspaper headlines and network news coverage. Federal and state officials have taken the rare step of chastising local police authorities, with the second-guessing going so far as to include a do-over of the autopsy of the 18-year-old victim, Michael Brown.

Violent demonstrators have the attention of the attorney general and the president of the United States, the latter of whom broke away from his vacation to call for both “respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.” (After his administration’s coordination of the brutal crackdown against the peaceful Occupy Wall Street movement, and his decision to shunt marchers at the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions into distant, hidden, caged “free speech zones,” Obama’s defense of the right to protest is a startling 180° turn.)

After years of ignoring the problem, we are finally beginning a national conversation about police racial profiling of African-Americans, especially young men. “Driving while black,” “stop and frisk” and the militarization of local law enforcement that always seems to fall heaviest against black communities (c.f., New Orleans during Katrina) have gone on for decades — but no one besides blacks seemed to care.

Thanks to Ferguson’s rioters, mainstream (white, wealthy) America is questioning those oppressive tactics.

This is a political breakthrough. And it’s only happening because people are throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks, and breaking windows and looting, and coming out night after night to confront the police even though — arguably because — the police are shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at them.

Michael Brown’s death fits a standard narrative: White Policeman Shoots Unarmed Black Youth. Happens all the time. White cops who kill unarmed black people are rarely charged with a crime; those who get charged are rarely convicted.

As far as I can tell, no white policeman in the United States has ever received a lengthy prison term for killing an unarmed African-American civilian.

Police shootings provoke anger among the black community — and there it remains. This is because black political and religious leaders usually persuade citizens to limit their tactics to peaceful protest.

Peaceful marches don’t scare the ruling classes. Which is why they don’t lead to meaningful change.

Nonviolent protest was the reaction last month when a NYPD officer killed 43-year-old Eric Garner, suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes, using an illegal chokehold. “We’re not gonna start fighting and pushing each other and breaking windows, right?” Garner’s mother urged at a rally.

So far, the protesters’ decision to respect private property rights has had zero effect. Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, yet the cop remains at work and uncharged.

Also in New York, another unarmed 18-year-old, Ramarley Graham, was shot to death by an undercover narcotics officer who broke into his apartment without a warrant in 2012. Protesters adhered to the usual nonviolent tactics. As usual, results were nil. From The Los Angeles Times: “A judge threw out a manslaughter indictment against the officer who shot Graham on a technicality. A second grand jury failed to indict the officer, saying there was insufficient evidence to charge him. Graham’s family and local lawmakers have called for the Justice Department to investigate.”

I’m a white guy, so I don’t have to worry about getting shot by cops if I’m in a car accident. As a black man, however, Manuel Loggins, Jr. wasn’t so lucky. After Loggins wrecked his SUV, an Orange County sheriff’s deputy shot him — he was unarmed — in front of his 9- and 14-year-old daughters because he had a “mean” expression. This was in 2012. Again, there were peaceful protests. As usual, the deputy was not charged.

This is how it always goes.

Ferguson’s protesters include old-school nonviolent civil rights types as well as younger activists who are fighting back against the police in kind. At a meeting, The New York Times reported, “clergy members despaired over the seemingly uncontrollable nature of the protest movement and the flare-ups of violence that older people in the group abhorred.” The paper quoted an older man from East St. Louis: “These kids do not understand why the nonviolence movement is the best way to get done what we need to get done.”

Given how quickly the young firebrands are getting results, the old folks are the ones who don’t understand.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Death Threat

After police in Ferguson, Missouri shot a young African-American man named Michael Brown to death despite being unarmed, officials refused to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting on the grounds of death threats. But it was the highly militarized police who threatened local people protesting the shooting.

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A Look Back at the Looks Back

It began with the March on Washington, or more precisely the 50th anniversary thereof: the 50th anniversary of the 1960s. Because Baby Boomers control the media, get ready for a decade of 50th anniversaries.

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