The Summer Of 2014 And The Return Of The Politics Of Racism

August 26, 2014 Nemes Politics

Image: @ ryanjreilly/twitter

This summertime in street politics has been long and violent. But in the middle of the mayhem, there has been a stable signal. It is becoming possible to spot a subtle, tidal shift in the attentions of the post-Occupy American left, far from the subject of economic inequality and to the trouble of race.

In retrospect, it is possible to pick up that change happening before Memorial Day. Highbrow conversation was then controlled by acclaim for Ta-Nehisi Coatess essay in The Atlantic, which made the case that the country had a moral obligation to pay reparations to African-Americans and defined the financial expense of a long history of discriminatory policies. MSNBC invested much of the summer informing stories about Republican attacks on ballot rights and efforts to impeach the first black president. The police-choking death of Eric Garner on Staten Island raised the possibility that not even a progressive political regime committed to curbing policies like stop and frisk can end racial prejudice and brutality in law enforcement. In the background has been Gaza, a badly brilliant analog of what an extreme form of antagonism between a state and its racial minorities might resemble. And now there is Ferguson.

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The previous 72 hours in Ferguson have assisted to clarify exactly what those presentations are about. The protests appear to be growing at as soon as even more violent and more political. On Sunday night, from within crowds, men fired guns at authorities and tossed Molotov cocktails. A group of armed men were apparently determined by police knowledge sources to be holed up, menacingly, in a barbecue joint. A different cadre of men attacked a cops command center. Nobody appears able to state exactly who these men were, whether they were the core of the protests or something small barnacled on to them. But their actions were so targeted that it appeared to make more sense to explain them in political terms than to dismiss them as looters, gangsters, or opportunists. There is a small group of people who can not be specified as protestors/demonstrators, the St. Louis alderman Antonio French tweeted on Monday morning, after the violence in Ferguson escalated Sunday night. They are more like fighters/rebels/insurgents.

At the same time, the degree of political rhetoric, both from within Ferguson and surrounding it, has intensified, too. Al Sharpton showed up, therefore did the New Black Panther Party, and both appeared intent not on fanning the flames of the crowd however in rerouting them. The scholar Jelani Cobb, walking through Ferguson, saw how quickly discussion seemed to shift from an outrage over Michael Browns shooting fatality to underlying social characteristics the disenfranchisement of felons, the way law enforcement fell heaviest on African-Americans.

It has actually been stated frequently during the previous week that the images from Ferguson have resembled those in the developing world from Gaza, or Egypt. To me, theyve looked much morea lot more like the riots in American inner cities in the late 60s. There is the intrusion of mad racial politics into quotidian industrial settings: Key occasions in Ferguson have actually taken locationoccurred in the parking lot of a convenience storea corner store and in a McDonalds. There is the unyieldingly racial support for the cops: The Guardian saw a little pro-police demo, where about 125 people held up indications of support for Darren Wilson, all however among them white. There is the overwhelmed figure of the guv Jay Nixon, grasping blindly for some point of progressive compromise. There are those unbelievable pictures.

Even more than anything, however, there is the way in which this certain authorities shooting of a young black man obtained an unique momentum, and nationwide, and even international, value. (Protestors in Gaza tweeted pointers for dealing with tear gas to Ferguson, a declaration of some type of comradeship.) Part maybe even most of this was the callous response of the local cops, who adopted both the garb and the posture of an occupying army. But I think part of it, too, pertained to the context this summer season. At high, medium, and low levels of political elegance, the left was currently circling around the specific problems that surfaced in Ferguson.

It was typical, on the first anniversary of the Occupy objections, to wonder what had actually happened to all the energies of the left and how they had actually dissipated so swiftly. Now it just appears that we could have been searching in the wrong location. By making the targets of its anger so narrow (bankers, and the political leaders who abetted them), the Occupy movement expanded its appeal far beyond the street. Middle-class concerns, like student financial obligation and gentrification, were consisted of under its banner, and the two terrific champs of the inequality motion, Elizabeth Warren and Expense de Blasio, stand for (quite actually) 2 of the most affluent political constituencies on the planeton earth.

However the core of the inequality problem constantly lay in the pockets of deep poverty. The middle course struggled with financial stagnation, but it suffered much less than the really bad. To be stuck in Levittown from generation to generation is not necessarily excellent, however it is much even worse to be stuck in East Baltimore. Maybe it indicates something that it was Occupy Oakland that discovered those tweets from Gaza to Ferguson and coallated them, turning them into a story, and possibly not. But either meansin any case, there is a logic to this progression. When you begin believingconsidering inequality and social stagnation, it makes good sense that you will certainly quickly beginbegin to believethink of the poorest communities, and the forces that keep individuals trapped there. And that typically suggests institutional bigotry.

This isn’t the only way to see exactly what is taking place in Ferguson. However it might assist to clarify a few of exactly what is happening now. French ended his string of tweets about the fighters/rebels/insurgents yesterday with a tweet that functioned both as an anguished plea and a type of fight cry. This thing has the prospective to more escalate. Black leadership in STL has a possibility to avoid that. We have to reach out to these guys today. Something big has actually appeared in Ferguson, caught up in the dual escalations of explicit political talk and violence. The issue for French and other progressives on the scene is ways to extract one from the other, how to keep the political signal, which had taken a long time to become noticeable, from vanishing back into sound.

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