“The attention given to the social construct of race and racism is four-hundred-year-complicated, the subject of multiple doctoral thesis, many excellent books, and legislation. On the other hand, there is an uncomplicated pre-systemic solution to racism for ordinary people available right now. Become a playful toddler again, and stay that way, as if there was a self-identity in these first years where the qualities of individuality could sustain the social context of newness.”Rex L. Curry
Yes, white people do something. Everything we think we know about the world is wrong and that is a good way to look at it, if we expect to learn anything new. I found Corinne Shutack, (also white) who found Kara’s work (above) to be a helpful image for the distribution of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. Her list helped me to get into racism as one of several American malfunctions I am working on and drafted (here).
Shutack’s work helped me to view recent events as having system change potential, a process described in five other posts (here). Even though the world has been brought down by one innocent pangolin, the secret lesson of the dystopian pandemic is the exposed super-power of a national strike for health and social justice. Coupled with the last set of racial injustice events, I must now plead with you to gird your loins, gear up, and steel yourself for the return to normal. Do Not Let That Happen.
One of her brilliant teachers said the problem is not whether the events are racist or not. The question is this: “How much racism was at work?” To deal with the inequality of life chances for a newborn child it is necessary to build on the recognition of probable impediments. Number one on the list should become the disparities of culture, race, and ethnicity that pose grievous imbalances caused by each of those obstacles. Those that are products of city, state, and national policy offer many opportunities for change. They are aimed and every human being from New York City to Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Each of them produces vastly different consequences for everyone on the diversity spectrum of America.
Love the One Your In?
A significant part of American history and perhaps of the whole world, include patterns of race insecurity. The system we are in fosters that anxiety. The combination of insecurity and anxiety attracts opportunists of all kinds. The emotions are often sought out and exploited by those with political power to sustain or advance their position. Recognize the overarching pathway of this behavior as follows: Pick a group, ostracize them, identify a weakness to exploit or strength to fear, support false, but agreeable “like-with-like” ghetto policies and next, isolate and then criminalize the poverty of the marginalized people. Find or select behavior to define as a crime, confiscate their possessions through forfeiture, and then seize and imprison them. As a process, this is a historical lineage nourished by hate and fear. Reform is a failure with this kind of unremoved, unexamined sickness in the world.
The history of this pattern is that of political practice. It reveals a design to fund and establish the eradication of equality as a self-sustaining Apartheid. In America, the persecution of Chinese immigrants, the internment of Japanese citizens, the eugenic sterilization of the “unfit,” the criminalization of drugs vs. health treatment for the addicted are well known political power moves. Justice speaks when these practices are exposed, the crimes admitted, and payment for reparations agreed. Vox developed a story on the four times reparations were paid in America of the six-times in the world. Think about that ratio. Vox also encourages close reading of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ case for reparations. Since the early 1970s, the genocidal aspects of American racial policy remain in the slow-motion systems associated with the so-called War on Drugs. Like all war, the one on drug use has failed the people while it enriches the businesses of war itself. Reform is a failure, a revolutionary perspective for change will be needed. The debate for me hovers over the idea called a “new era of public safety” vs. “the end of policing as we know it,” and that’s all right
The two contemporary responses of enlightened leadership on race and cops can be considered as pivotal. The wisdom and vision of Barack Obama to even tackle the subject and the far less known insight of Alex S. Vitale, a “critical criminologist.” Of the thousands of research efforts available for discovery, I recommend two of them as follows:
“…here’s a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House. And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.” The whole 416 page full policing pdf report is (here).Barack Obama 2020
The second response includes the excellent criticism of the Task Force’s thorough but modest volley toward a fundamental change in policy by Brooklyn College Professor Alex S. Vitale. His book, The End of Policing, reviews the multifaceted work in this field that recognizes the path on which law enforcement now stands has made it a significant contributor to America’s spiral into deeply racist and racialized practices. There is no double or triple bottom line; cops do more damage than good, and “protect and serve” is the exception to the rule. The bottom line is Fidelis ad mortem does not have to be the NYPD’s motto. It can translate as “faithful (unto or until) death, and there you have the poetic vs. narrative art of the blue wall.
The call from the President of the United States to serve is a compelling and personal honor. A review of the task force report and toolkit reveals a set of thoughtful, experienced change agents. The movement for racial justice in America must call upon the people of the task force to confirm progress, if any, and consider the next steps.
To fully understand the failings of the task force report, excellent insight is offered in Vitale’s book and through his media interviews (here). The Policing and Social Justice Project has an implementation arm for the movement. Finally, life-long learners on the subject should subscribe to The Criminal Criminologist (here), where he interviews scholars and activists. It is a great way to meet people you have yet to work with or encounter.
The relationship of policing to racism requires the use of the inverse proportion rule. It occurs when one value increases (more people working to solve non-police problems) and it decreases another (i.e. the incidence of unproductive police tasks). Adding more workers on a task to reduce the time to complete the task is inversely proportional. Reducing the time to get law enforcement less harmful is now critical (meaning short term), or it is back to the same old, and seriously wrong-normal.
The best relationship between all Americans to every neighbor should be about the structural, materially unequal experience a child may have when entering the world. The systemic inequality of life chances for newborn children of color is exposed decade after decade. The facts are exhibited as shameful but continue unchanged, even though it would be good for every kid.
The use of law enforcement tends to be the hammer that helps to silence criticism. The rightfully enraged also hold a hammer. The better question is, who and what put that hammer in both their hands? Why is the hammer the only tool available? Much of this is already well understood, it is known, and solutions can be implemented with levers and a fulcrum, but not with a hammer. Wilson (below) can tell you in a few seconds with perfect intensity.
Since the early 1970s (Nixon), the severe problems (the ones requiring a sophisticated toolbox) got fully embedded in racism. Ever since Nixon, every President has presented to the American people ideas with an air of cultural sensitivity, truisms such as the need to improve ties, strengthen lines of communication, and making right past wrongs. All of them are politically calculated half-measures and part of the problem. A social reflex in America is to hide from its history while acknowledging our nation as one of the immigrants. Ignoring the record of formal attacks on the “value” of every new group requires exposure and condemnation from every leadership position available. Marginalizing the oldest mass immigration group explicitly enslaved to build the nation requires uncovering the cover-up of all cover-ups. The failure of remedies for another century of repression angers the mind and fills the heart with hopelessness. Neither form the basis for a system change.
Perhaps it is the violence of human history and centuries of brutal intolerance that the American Constitution sought to purge from the governance of people. It aims to enable and encourage people to sustain the hope for change outside of the system, through the establishment of a representative form of government and inside in other ways, such as majority vote rules and compromise. The idea is that excesses of either could be rendered invalid by the other.
Nevertheless, America’s social and economic power, as fueled by slavery and imprisonment continues as a policy. It is a system of governance that appears unwilling to fully deactivate rules that encourage and support racism even though the incidence of injustice persists. Change must, therefore, come from changing the system. The system has been changed and for an hour and a half I ask you to please watch white folks talk about the bifurcation of America by Robert Putnam and friends regarding the subject of “our kids.” Beware, the time spent here is informative, but it can make you a little crazy. They know, they really do know, and have the numbers and the argument for change, so why are we supposed to think they don’t? Is it because they are just “talking points?” Have we failed to empower them to turn their power into change? Do not let it go back to normal.
Join Your Movement – Pick a System – Change It
Live-Long Learning Choices
- Watch: Eugene Jarecki’si “The House I Live In” and Ava DuVernay’s 13th (here) and stay on that path for a while.
- CNN put “The First Time I Realized I was Black” together. Must watch them all.
- Vox on the four times of the six on the planet when reparations were paid to people victimized by the racism and bigotry
Did this already? Then go to 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice. She said it is a work in progress and will continue to work on its development.
One last thing. If you believe in the power of working-class greatness, remember the super-power revealed the 2020 pandemic – a national strike for health and justice can get health and justice because if a little bug can bring capital to its knees and put some in your pocket, that bug is telling you something. Encourage everyone to have three to six months of savings to cover the basic, essential costs of living. This is a very difficult thing, but it is doable and smart for many reasons.