Featured Post

New book available! David Kaiser, A Life in History

Mount Greylock Books LLC has published my autobiography as an historian,  A Life in History.   Long-time readers who want to find out how th...

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Where We Are Going

The nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd are bringing a particular era of race relations in the United States to a climax.  The police in America kill near three people a day, or 1000 a  year, year in and year out.  The plurality of them are white, but the percentages of black and Hispanic victims are higher than their percentages in the population.  I did some investigation some months ago of a database the Guardian compiled of all the shootings in 2016, but I think I only made it through about 100 of them.  Three kinds of situations seemed to bring most of them about.  Domestic violence calls--including calls to report a mentally ill person severely acting out--were one.  The second involved some kind of crime in progress, including a traffic violation--more commonly a moving violation such as speeding.  The third involved attempts to serve a warrant.  In all of these cases, the shooting took place after the suspect either threatened the police with some kind of weapon (according to them, anyway) or refused to obey them in some other way, including simply by fleeing.  I came away thinking that police training and tactics seemed to be the biggest problem that needed to be addressed if we wanted to reduce such shootings.  It is interesting and depressing to note that another 50 Americans have been killed by police since George Floyd's death on May 26, according to the database in the Washington Post, but we have heard little or nothing about the vast majority of those cases.  Police budgets are being cut in cities around the country, and many have proposed cutting back the role of the police or even eliminating them altogether.  Those cuts and proposals will cause a great deal of controversy and I certainly can't predict what their ultimate outcome will be.  I hope all this may lead to more attention to other problems in our criminal justice system, such as the way high bail forces defendants to plead guilty.  That is happening in some jurisdictions and it could spread to others.

Two other things not directly related to police behavior, however, are happening.  First, the pressure to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces seems finally to have become overwhelming.  Some have already been forcibly taken down, and many, if not most, of the others soon will be.  This will include some of the statues in the US Capitol, of which each state has provided two for over a century.  It was rather astonishing even in the decades after the Civil War that states such as Mississippi would choose to send statues of men who defied the government of which the Capitol was a key role, but they did.  At least one state, Arkansas, is already replacing its statues, and I hope others do too.  I also think that the military installations named after Confederate generals will be renamed.  That issue has divided President Trump even from his own party, and I think there's a good chance that he will have to abandon his opposition.  These are very welcome developments, finally confirming, 155 years after Appomattox, that the right side won the war.  

Meanwhile, institutions such as media outlets and corporations are adopting a principle that has ruled colleges and universities for some time. That principle holds that much of the injustice of racism consists in the emotional harm it inflicts upon its targets, and that white people must therefore defer to nonwhites when they protest that any policy, symbol, or even published idea strikes them as racist.  An editor at the op-ed page of the New York Times lost his job because black reporters on the paper felt that a column he published by a U.S. Senator, a coming man within the Republican Party, put them at physical risk, because it called for the deployment of troops in American cities. A number of other jobs have been lost because of tweets or remarks deemed insensitive.  HBO Max has dropped Gone From the Wind from is lineup because it includes racial stereotypes and a relatively positive view of slavery.  I have done a number of posts here over the years about the postmodern ideology which such steps represent, and now is not the time to repeat them. The consequences of this development will emerge in months and years to come.

While all this is happening, our most powerful economic institutions such as the big banks and our new super-retailers are gaining even more power relative to their competitors, escaping scot free, so far, from the consequences of one of the most severe economic downturns in American history.  The problem that the whole bottom half of our income distribution faces--regardless of race--will only get worse.  The Republican Party will try to ignore it, while many within the Democratic Party will continue to treat it primarily as a problem of racism--which in my opinion it is not.  

The rapidity with which one issue comes out of nowhere to dominate cable news, only to disappear in favor of another, is one of the characteristics of our time.  In the last six months we have lived through the impeachment crisis, the climax of the Democratic primary campaign, the pandemic, the economic crisis, and now, the crisis over race and police behavior.  We still have no idea how bad our economic crisis is, and it could easily take center stage again before the election. So could the pandemic.  Both the pandemic and the racial crisis have established Donald Trump as an irresponsible outlier even among many in his own party, and the chances of his re-election appear to be dropping.  That is very welcome.  I  hope a new President will be able to find a common purpose in one or more of the crises that we now face.


Bozon said...

Great post. Wide ranging. Here is another perspective on a couple of topics.
While It does not jive with your views that well, it hits some other aspects of the issues addressed:
I do not believe that the anti police brutality and anti white racial police brutality protests will have significant lasting positive effects on either the police in general or for domestic race relations.

One reason is that political structures and institutions will not change in that direction soon or together, if at all; there may also be a backlash in the opposite direction, if disorder increases.

Another reason has to do with America's tendency to project and identify its domestic race relations with global racial characteristics and trends, and with economics of global inequality (a drum West liberal media constantly beat), and with the long European past, none of which bodes well, given that Asian, Muslim, African negro, and Hindu racisms each are, if anything, consolidating, both economically religiously and xenophobically, not only each against the others under various kinds of pressures of globalization, but also especially against the post colonial white world in particular as a putative rogue civilization, which they all think they are justified in blaming for all their woes throughout history today.

Identifying the virus pandemic as a racism pandemic, where for example China blamed the US (while having taken extraordinary amounts of aid and knowhow for dangerous virology research) for introducing the virus, fuels the fires of all races of color's deeply misguided sense of revenge against Western civilization, as the cause since 1500 of their nevertheless ages old backwardness and poverty.

My own view is that global face relations, within which American race relations should be viewed, are deteriorating rapidly and have recently been exacerbated by US race tension events and rhetoric, and that the circumstances causing that are all only likely to keep getting worse.

This will have a long term negative impact on American race relations, which Americans tend to see largely in their own vacuum, especially in light of demands for reparations for colonialism itself going back to before 1500, and implicating also especially the Islamic world as a co perpetrator in both Africa and India.

The avalanche of migrants of color into largely white Europe, which Europe is unable to stop, from the Middle East and Africa, and Hindus already there, has already made Europe a powder keg of racial and religious and political tensions ready to go off.

Russia may have its own special problems, but I am not too familiar with them, except to note that highly populous China looms along an enormous border with it.

All the best

Energyflow said...

I certainly see this as a sort or waking up to certain engrained behaviour of the police, who have gotten too many rights against the population due to union lobbying anfd militarization. Hopefully this trend will reverse. Small and medium enterprises bankruptcies taken in stride while large zombie, overindebted, companies are bailed out is a time bomb for democracy as is the virtue mongering(not my phrase) whereby a witch hunt ensues for countervailing talk against the most radical BLM narratives. Mamny ethical journalists are losing their jobs for asking questions that journalists should ask. IOW like everything else recently everyone is a lemming, following the pack over the cliff at stampede pace irrationally, regardless of current news topic. Next week or month something else will replace this. This is the crisis stage feel I suppose. How else could the Holocaust, French revolution have happened except for mass hysteria? Next they will burn down CNN or City Hall or the White House and not just local businesses and NYT and co will clap loudest their approval. The more radical the better. Be careful what you wish for. Trump looks bad today. Tomorrow they will comb through your writings in committee and delist your writings, cancel your pension, blog, etc. Where are we headed if there is no open discussion possible?