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“Pretending To Care About Inequality”: Indisputable Proof That Republicans Are Warriors For The Aristocracy

It’s been quite interesting to see Republicans embrace the notion that wealth inequality (or any inequality) is something to worry their pretty little heads about. Over the winter we heard numerous reports of various GOP luminaries expressing serious concern that average Americans were getting the short end of the stick while the wealthy few reaped all the rewards. Ted Cruz might as well have put on a blond wig and called himself “Elizabeth” when he railed against it after the State of the Union:

“We’re facing right now a divided America when it comes to the economy. It is true that the top 1 percent are doing great under Barack Obama. Today, the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our national income than any year since 1928,”

And here we thought that was supposed to be a good thing. Aren’t they the “job producers”? That’s how weird the GOP’s messaging has gotten lately. Mitt “47 Percent” Romney clutched his very expensive opera-length pearls, wailing that “under President Obama, the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty than ever before.” Rand Paul channeled his heretofore unknown inner Bernie Sanders, proclaiming that “income inequality has worsened under this administration. And tonight, President Obama offers more of the same policies — policies that have allowed the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer.” It seemed to many observers at the time that this was a very odd choice of issue for potential Republican presidential aspirants to take up, since every item in the domestic GOP agenda would make wealth inequality even worse. This certainly wasn’t something they lost any sleep over before now.

As Brendan Nyhan at the New York Times explained in February, this sort of thing is called “issue-trespassing,” where one party attempts to co-opt an advantage of the other by pretending to care about something nobody thinks they care about. In this case, the GOP seemed to be admitting that their reputation as the party of the 1 percent wasn’t helpful to their cause, so they decided to try to shift the blame to President Obama. Nyhan points out that data suggests this rarely ever works, because people rely on party stereotypes no matter how hard those parties try to co-opt the rhetoric of the other side for their own use.

Certainly, it’s hard to see how anyone can possibly believe that the Republican Party, which fetishizes low taxes for the rich above all other priorities, truly cares about wealth inequality; but perhaps this is one of those times when the mere pretense of caring signals that they understand how badly their reputation of callous disregard for everyday Americans’ economic security has hurt them.

In any case, this shallow attempt at appearing to give a damn was short-lived. This week the GOP is voting, as they always do, to ensure that the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune won’t be faced with the terrible responsibility of having to pay taxes on their inheritances. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post pointed out just how successful these protectors of the progeny of the one percenters have been in recent years:

It had long been a conservative ideal, and the essence of the American Dream, to believe that everybody should have an equal shot at success. But in their current bid to end the estate tax, Republicans could create a permanent elite of trust-fund babies. The estate tax was a meaningful check on a permanent aristocracy as recently as 2001, when there were taxes on the portion of estates above $675,000; even then there were plenty of ways for the rich to shelter money for their heirs. As the son of a schoolteacher and a cabinetmaker, I’d like to see the estate tax exemptions lowered — so that taxes encourage enterprise and entre­pre­neur­ship while keeping to a minimum the number of Americans born who will never have to work a day in their lives. The current exemption of $5.4 million (the current estate tax has an effective rate averaging under 17 percent, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center) does little to prevent a permanent aristocracy from growing — and abolishing it entirely turns democracy into kleptocracy.

No, that wasn’t a mistaken cut and paste from the World Socialist Website. That really was Dana Milbank writing in the Washington Post, which is a testament to just how outlandish these Republicans have become. When mainstream columnists start using words like aristocracy and kleptocracy you know that something’s in the air.

This is nothing new, of course. The conservative project has always been fundamentally about aristocracy. Sure, they love to wax on about freedom and liberty but the freedom and liberty they care about is the freedom to attain property and pass it on to their heirs. Everything else is secondary. What’s more interesting is the way they are able to make ordinary people who will never benefit from this scheme — in fact, they will suffer  – agitate for it as if it meant the bread on their own table and the roof over their own heads.

Paul Waldman tackled this phenomenon in a piece for the American Prospect a while back. He concluded that voters didn’t understand that the tax only kicks in for very high amounts, and that most people instinctively think it should be okay to bequeath your fortune to your kids — regardless that the consequences of vastly wealthy people doing this are fundamentally un-American.

Waldman mentioned this silly notion as well:

Americans tend to think that no matter what their current situation, eventually, they’re going to be rich. Most of us are wrong about that, but that’s what we think. It’s practically our patriotic duty to believe it. So most everyone thinks that this tax will apply to their estate upon their death, no matter how modest that estate might be at the moment.

I will never forget hearing a caller tell Rush Limbaugh one day that he was happy for his CEO to make a lot of money because that meant the company was doing well and would probably give him a raise someday. Rush, needless to say, sagely agreed with his assessment, although he sounded a bit distracted. (I believe it was around the time he had negotiated his several-hundred-million dollar contract, so he was likely engaged in counting his fortune.)

This is one of the main keys to the perpetuation of the aristocratic project: Convincing average people to support “their betters” with the promise that they will themselves benefit. In the old aristocracy, this used to be a simple pledge of fealty to ones noble house, but American conservatives have “democratized” it to make the serfs and peasants believe that they too will be nobles one day if only they agree to allow the rich to keep every last penny of their wealth. It’s a very sweet scam.

Unfortunately for the conservatives, inequality is becoming impossible to ignore and the people are starting to wake up to what is happening. The confusion on the right about how to handle it is a sign that it’s verging out of their control. And again, as Nyhan pointed out in his NYT piece, simply paying lip service to a democratic, egalitarian concern is probably not going to be enough to give them cover when the Republican stereotype of being servants of the rich is so deeply embedded in our political culture. (Thanks Mitt!) Voting for the Paris Hilton tax exemption bill certainly won’t help.

On the other hand, it could be worse. The former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now saying outright that democracy isn’t working and is calling for benevolent dictatorships. It’s convenient that the United Kingdom maintained their monarchy isn’t it? It will be so much easier than building one from the ground up.

 

By: Heather Digby Parton, Contributing Writer, Salon, April 16, 2015

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Aristocracy, Inequality, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Demand For Respect Really Means”: The NYPD Freakout Isn’t Just About Race, It’s About Inequality, Too

The recent war of words between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the president of the city’s Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, is framed by tragedy. Specifically, the tragedies of Eric Garner’s death and the subsequent non-indictment of officer Daniel Pantaleo, and by the deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, recently murdered by a mentally ill man, who imagined that he was seeking revenge on behalf of Garner and Michael Brown. In this context, de Blasio’s repeated suggestion that black citizens attract significantly more attention than white citizens doand with a far greater chance of tragic deaths at the hands of the policehas been read by Lynch and others as a sign of great disrespect.

Respect is the price the rich are supposed to pay for their protection. Making sense of this transaction, though, requires us to stop seeing this as chiefly a matter of cops versus the community, or even as a story dominated, in some simple way, by race or color.  We need to understand the function of the police in contemporary urban life, in an age marked by declining routes to social mobility, and to recognize the intersecting roles of race and class in the larger story.

As a negotiator, Lynch is a bomb-thrower. Writing in a New York Post editorial, he suggested that the NYPD had been “scapegoated for centuries of racial issues” and celebrated “extraordinary achievements in reducing crime in all communities and protecting the lives and property of New Yorkers of all races.” Speaking to PBA delegates in Queens, Lynch said that de Blasio appeared more interested in “running a fucking revolution” than in leading a city through this crisis. “If we won’t get support when we do our jobs, if we’re going to get hurt for doing what’s right then we’re going to do it the way they want it,” he said. “Let me be perfectly clear. We will use extreme discretion in every encounter.” He added, “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies? Extreme discretion. The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

Respect is at the center of this argument. Listening to Lynch, one hears that cops are now nearly criminals, indistinguishable from the real dangerous elements. One hears that citizens should be immediately obedient and pliant when confronted by law enforcement. One hears that the policing of poor communities of color requires a very different siege mentality, with newer, bigger weapons and strong-armed, protective tactics. And one hears, finally, that the rank-and-file of the NYPD have been betrayed by the wealthy, that the city is not grateful enough to those who have made its recent and historic prosperity possible.

Uniformed officers have responded by disrespecting these imagined “enemies,” turning their backs on de Blasio as he visited a hospital where the officers died and then later as he attended funeral services for one of them. Unofficial “contracts” have been circulating, in which active police officers request de Blasio’s absence at their own funerals, should the very worst happen. And officers have followed Lynch’s call to use “discretion”: Since the double-murder, traffic tickets and summonses for minor offensesa vital part of “broken windows” theory of policingare down 94 percent over the same period in 2013.

The PBAa union in some ways, a fraternal organization in othershas pushed back against NYC mayors for several decades now, focusing on issues that are strikingly familiar this winter. In 1992, after rumors circulated in Washington Heights that a police officer had shot and killed an unarmed man, neighborhood residents staged massive protests. After then-Mayor David Dinkins proposed a new review board for all police shootings, the PBA organized a sweeping protest that included a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, a traffic stoppage not unlike recent community protests against the non-indictments in Ferguson and Staten Island. Dinkins, who was black, was seen as an advocate for greater civilian oversight of the police, and was imaginedlike de Blasioto be more sympathetic to the families of “criminals” than to the police.  Rudolph Giuliani, then campaigning for his own mayoralty, accused Dinkins of “ceded[ing] neighborhoods to the forces of lawlessness.” Only a few months after massive riots in Los Angeles, NYPD officers took to the streets as protesters, numbering in the thousands according to the New York Times, and demanding new automatic handguns and an end to public critique.  Chanting  “No Justice, No Police,” many wore t-shirts that read: “The Mayor’s On Crack.”

Much of the recent press coverage of racial profiling has sought to illuminate the issue through granular details. Some have pointed to the composition of the police department, assuming that a more representative force would enjoy better community relations. According to The Washington Post’s recent consolidation of census data, de Blasio’s NYPD is 46 percent whitepolicing a city that is 34 percent white. Others have looked at specific rules and regulations, or training procedures, that might explain the crisis of policing racially diverse cityscapes.

Respect is an abstract thing, though. The city has always needed a multi-ethnic police force to serve as a social engine, absorbing new immigrants and roughly reflecting the communitya diverse force whose basic purpose has been to ensure that the lives of the truly rich are protected, that property values are safeguarded, that commerce can proceed. The wage for this service isn’t just a modest bit of social mobilitya few lace curtains, an extra bathroom, a nicer neighborhoodbut also this intangible thing called respect, with its peculiar class inflections. Put simply, joining the police force is a well-trod route to gaining respect from the city establishment. In exchange for that respectand even for their occasional valorization as “heroes”the rank-and-file are supposed to use maximum force on even the smallest challenges to the status quo.

And no challenges are too small. The city has enjoyed a renaissance as a consequence of the “broken windows” policy, which suggests that cutting down on petty crime in poor neighborhoods will catch a greater number of serious criminalsan approach that shifts the focus of policing onto black and brown bodies, naturalizes crime as a feature of minority communities, and justifies the excessive use of force.

The last few decades, in the U.S. but especially in New York City, have been marked by at least two distinctive and contradictory trends: a vast and growing divide between the truly rich and the truly poor; and a series of repeating crises related to race and policing. But they are not unconnected. The new NYPD battling for what they define as workplace rights and lobbying hard, as well, for the intangible and much-desired benefits of respect. But such respect is only awarded to the working-class and racially diverse force for its role in the city’s ongoing war against crimea war with casualties disproportionately drawn from the poor and the desperate and the racially marginal.

To see this just as a black/white thing, or to think about it only as a matter of cops and communities, is to miss the awful backdrop. To truly understand what is happening in New York, we need to look harder at class. This is a story about rich people in a minority-majority city, policed by a force that is now similarly minority-majoritybut a force that, per the city’s orders, defines criminality in terms that impact black and brown peoples most of all. It is a story about who, exactly, is being protected and served. And it is about the wagesliteral and, as W.E.B. Du Bois once put it, psychologicaldemanded for the protection of some but not all, and at the expense of others.

 

By: Matthew Pratt Guterl, The New Republic, December 30, 2014

January 1, 2015 Posted by | Bill de Blasio, Inequality, NYPD | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Why We Can’t Educate Racism Away”: At Its Root, Racism Is A Structural Problem

How prejudiced are Americans? The internet knows. Whether it’s racism, sexism, cissexism, transphobia, classism, sizeism, or ableism, online residents are watching out for it and pointing it out at tremendous volume. Whole tumblrs are dedicated to meticulously cataloging the prejudiced histories of famous people.

While often useful and necessary, this strategy comes up short. The idea is that by “calling out” individual acts of oppression, we can raise awareness about the myriad subtle ways that prejudice manifests itself. The citizenry, better educated, will adjust its behaviors.

The problem is that white people, our dominant and most privileged socioeconomic group, tend to resist these critiques. In the case of racism, they are the ones who benefit from prejudice, and they squirm out of this stigma in increasingly interesting ways. How? These days, by loudly agreeing with those critiques, thereby signaling that they are meant for other, bad white people.

Think of the guy in critical theory class who embraces radical feminist authors extra-fervently in a bid to escape his own implication in the patriarchy. This bit of political jujitsu is rather “like buying an indulgence,” as Reihan Salam put it at Slate.

One might respond that the answer is improved self-knowledge, greater humility, and more self-flagellation on the part of the privileged (see: #CrimingWhileWhite). Sure. But the problem is that there is no possible demonstration of prejudice and privilege that cannot also be appropriated by white people in the service of demonstrating the purity of their own views, resulting in an endless vortex of uncomfortable, obnoxious earnestness. Being a Not-Racist these days is getting very subtle indeed.

But there’s another approach that is both simpler and far more difficult. Instead of focusing on individual guilt and innocence, the socioeconomic structure that undergirds racism can get equal or greater billing. If educating the privileged has reached a point of diminishing returns, then attacking racist outcomes with structural policy can make that education unnecessary.

Now, it should be noted that any individual instance of calling out prejudice is surely harmless and heartfelt. It should further be noted that many if not most anti-prejudice activists share these structural goals. The problem is a question of emphasis. Prejudiced words tend to get 10 times more attention than racist acts and structures. For example, Donald Sterling was hounded mercilessly for his racist comments, but largely ignored for his concretely racist actions as a landlord.

And the problems America faces go far beyond one rotten rich person. There’s the prison-industrial complex. The stupendous wealth and income gap between black and white. The fact that the police randomly gun down unarmed black men and boys on a regular basis. That’s just for starters — and it’s getting worse, not better.

Working on those problems is going to take a massive nationwide policy effort. Prison and sentencing reform, ending the drug war, overhauling American policing, and implementing quota-based affirmative action would be a good start. In particular, there is a good case for class to take center stage in any anti-prejudice effort. Nearly all racist oppression is heavily mediated through economic structures and worsened by endemic poverty.

More importantly, income differences and poverty are easy problems to fix policy-wise. (Fixing American police is a hellish problem and I have no idea where to start.) But a lack of money can be bridged with simple income transfers, from the rich to the poor.

All of this is very hard lift politically, of course. But substantive politics is the best way to get past people’s nearly infinite capacity for self-exculpation. If the root of racism is in our structures, then structural policy should be the solution.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, December 25, 2014

December 27, 2014 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Inequality, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is It Bad Enough Yet?”: “True Citizenship” In The Words Of Jefferson, Is “People Continually Protesting”

The police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.

You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.

This in part explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that, in their scale, racial diversity, anger and largely nonviolent nature, are unusual if not unique. I was in four cities recently — New York, Washington, Berkeley and Oakland — and there were actions every night in each of them. Meanwhile, workers walked off the job in 190 cities on Dec. 4.

The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined; and “income mobility” now describes how the rich get richer while the poor … actually get poorer.

The progress of the last 40 years has been mostly cultural, culminating, the last couple of years, in the broad legalization of same-sex marriage. But by many other measures, especially economic, things have gotten worse, thanks to the establishment of neo-liberal principles — anti-unionism, deregulation, market fundamentalism and intensified, unconscionable greed — that began with Richard Nixon and picked up steam under Ronald Reagan. Too many are suffering now because too few were fighting then.

What makes this an exciting time is that we are beginning to see links among issues that we have overlooked for far too long.

In 1970, after spending a year in New York absorbed by concerns seemingly as disparate as ending the war, supporting the rights of Black Panthers to get fair trials (and avoid being murdered) and understanding the role of men in the women’s movement, I — and others — had conversations like this: “Let’s make people understand that all of those issues, plus poverty and racism and the environment and more, are all part of the same picture, and that fixing things means citizens have to regain power and work in their own interests.”

Of course we failed, as others did before and since. But these same things can be said now, and they’re being said by people of all colors. When underpaid workers begin their strikes by saying “I can’t breathe,” or by holding their hands over their heads and chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” they’re recognizing that their struggle is the same as that of African-Americans demanding dignity, respect and indeed safety on their own streets.

And of course it’s the same struggle: “It’s the same people,” says Saru Jayaraman, the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “Young people working in fast food are the same people as those who are the victims of police brutality. So the Walmart folks are talking about #blacklivesmatter and the #blacklivesmatter folks are talking about taking on capital.”

The N.A.A.C.P.’s Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, captures the national yearning this reflects. “I believe that deep within our being as a nation there is a longing for a moral movement that plows deep into our souls,” he writes. “We are flowing together because we recognize that the intersectionality of all of these movements is our opportunity to fundamentally redirect America.” (The full text of Dr. Barber’s email is on my blog.)

“All of these movements”? Yes: The demands of the fast-food workers movement — $15 minimum wage and a union — have helped to unite movements among airport workers, hospital workers, retail workers and more.

There are already results. Two years ago, there was talk of raising the minimum wage to $10; now $15 per hour is seen as the bare minimum. Seattle and San Francisco have already mandated this, Chicago’s City Council voted to gradually increase to a $13 minimum by 2019, Oakland will move to $12.25 in March and a proposal is being considered in Los Angeles. (And although the amounts were woefully inadequate, four red states voted to approve minimum wage increases last month, showing that the concept resonates across party lines.)

Meanwhile, the credibility of those who argue that employers “can’t afford” to raise pay — McDonald’s paid its C.E.O. $9.5 million last year — is nil. For one thing, there are examples of profitable businesses that treat their employees decently, and even countries where fast-food workers can make ends meet. And for another, underpaying workers simply shifts the cost of supporting them onto public coffers. As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says, “In essence, taxpayers are subsidizing the wealthiest family in America.” That would be the Waltons. (Incredibly, many Republicans still want the working poor to pay more taxes.)

Then, of course, there are the matters of justice and morality. It simply isn’t right to pay people a sub-living wage with no potential for more, and as the comedian Chris Rock says, employers would pay even less if they could get away with it.

The #blacklivesmatter movement — there’s no better description — is already having an impact as well. Don’t think for a second we’d be having a national debate about police brutality (one that includes many on the right), or a White House plan to examine and fix law enforcement, without demonstrations in the streets.

The initial Obama plan is encouraging but lacking, and that’s all the more reason to keep demonstrating. (What good are body cameras, by the way? The videotape of Rodney King’s beating was seen around the world yet resulted in acquittals; Eric Garner’s choking death, viewed millions of times online, didn’t even lead to a trial, even though police chokeholds are banned in New York City.) Besides, as Sanders says, “Even if every cop were a constitutional lawyer and a great person, if you have 30 percent unemployment among African-American young people you still have a huge problem.”

I have spent a great deal of time talking about the food movement and its potential, because to truly change the food system you really have to change just about everything: good nutrition stems from access to good food; access to good food isn’t going to happen without economic justice; that isn’t going to happen without taxing the superrich; and so on. The same is true of other issues: You can’t fix climate change or the environment without stopping the unlimited exploitation of natural and human resources (see Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”). Same with social well-being.

Everything affects everything. It’s all tied together, and the starting place hardly matters: A just and righteous system will have a positive impact on everything we care about, just as an unjust, exploitative system makes everything worse.

Increasingly, it seems, there’s an appetite and even unity to take on the billionaire class. Let’s recognize that if we are seeing positive change now, it’s in part because elected officials respond to pressure, and let’s remember that that pressure must be maintained no matter who is in office. Even if Bernie Sanders were to become president, the need for pressure would continue.

“True citizenship,” says Jayaraman of Berkeley — echoing Jefferson — “is people continually protesting.” Precisely.

 

By: Mark Bittman, Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, December 13, 2014

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Citizenship, Criminal Justice System, Inequality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Common Victims”: Movements For Racial Justice And Economic Justice Could Converge To Form A Powerhouse For Change

What happens to a dream deferred?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?

That was the poet Langston Hughes, in 1951. In that year, more than half a century ago, the most basic dreams of African Americans were deferred. Segregation was mandatory in the old South. Discrimination was legal everywhere in America, whether in housing, education, or employment. Blacks were not just separated, but isolated, marginalized, restricted to the worst jobs and most dilapidated neighborhoods, the most dismal schools.

For many, the racism just sagged, like a heavy load. It destroyed hope that hard work would be rewarded. The deferred dreams of that era seldom produced explosions, because the state had a very efficient system of terror. Blacks who resisted were likely to be lynched, jailed, or otherwise destroyed.

It is a testament to sheer grit, tenacity and courage that large numbers of blacks managed to get educations, raise families, start businesses, and enter professions at all—and demand inclusion in civic life.

The next 20 years were almost miraculous. From the small beginnings of local bus boycotts and sit-ins came the transformation of civil rights laws, finally giving African Americans full civic and legal equality, a hundred years after Lincoln.

The progress of the 1960s reflected a combination of the courage of the civil rights movements, the alliance with decent whites, and the leadership of an accidental president. Lyndon Johnson was able to prick the conscience of just enough of white America, to cajole and pressure just enough legislators, and to make a startling alliance between the White House and the radicals in the streets.

If you have never read or watched LBJ’s “We Shall Overcome” speech, you have missed a key moment in American history.

It helped that the economy was booming, so that economic progress for blacks did not equate to explicit sacrifices for whites (though whites did have to give up their role as a privileged caste). It helped that there were still liberal Republicans in that era, without whom none of the great civil rights laws could have passed.

So here we are, approaching Christmas 2014. Racism still taints the American dream. And unlike, say, in 1964 when there was a sense of a movement on the march with history on its side, it is hard to summon up optimism.

It is one thing when the government decrees that blacks can’t vote, can’t patronize restaurants, can’t apply for good jobs. That sort of racism shames everyone.

But when cops brutalize young black men, and prosecutors wink, and grand juries refuse to indict, that sort of racism is deeper in the social fabric and much harder to explicitly root out. It is encouraging to see outraged citizens on the march again, heartening that the marches includes whites as well as blacks and other groups.

Yet what sort of movement, what sort of policies, what sort of majority support in the country can we imagine that will fix what is broken?

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio, whose bi-racial son Dante sports an Afro, has spoken of the need to “literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” That comment provoked outrage from the police.

Sunday, speaking on the ABC News program This Week DeBlasio threaded his way between outrage and support for law enforcement, declaring:

We have to retrain police forces in how to work with communities differently. We have to work on things like body cameras that would provide different level of transparency and accountability. This is something systemic. And we bluntly have to talk about the historic racial dynamics underlie this.

There have, in fact, been moments when thoroughly racist local police departments have been made over to discard their worst racist practices. The Los Angeles Police Department, after decades of strife and civic reform, is better than it once was. But it took a consent agreement with the Justice Department and five years of direct federal supervision.

President Obama, who did manage to summon up some outrage in the Trayvon Martin murder (“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”), has been relatively circumspect, appealing both for reform and for order. He is not close to calling for federal supervision of local police.

Obama is no LBJ. And in fairness to Obama, in the absence of stronger public demands, the federal government is not well-positioned to remake local grand juries and police departments.

We have gone utterly backwards since the 1960s, a time when the Justice Department and the courts vigorously interceded to protect the right to vote. Now, the right to vote is being taken away and rightwing courts are tying the Justice Department’s hands.

We need a broad movement once again, to force government’s hand. As Dr. King appreciated in the last year of his life, it needs to be a movement for economic justice as well as civil rights, a multi-racial movement. Only when there is common appreciation that whites and blacks are common victims of an economic system that delivers all the gains to the top do we have a prayer of mobilizing the whole nation to demand action.

 

By: Robert Kuttner, Co-Editor, The American Prospect, December 10, 2014

December 11, 2014 Posted by | Civil Rights Act, Inequality, Racism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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