Archive for August, 2021

Black Rebellion, Militarized Police Violence, and White Vigilantes

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

America on Fire; The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960’s, Elizabeth Hinton, 2021
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There have been histories covering black rebellions since 1619 such as Missed Opportunities and Four hundred souls : a community history of African America, 1619-2019, as well as the New York Times published 1619 Project. This book is an American history from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the present. Hinton insists that the violent events covered here be called Rebellions and not riots or demonstrations or mob behavior.
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The militarization of the police:

(Police) Officers threw grenades filled with either chloroacetophenone (CN), the tear gas most commonly used to quell rebellion or 0-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) or “super” tear gas… The chemical weapon (CS) proved effective in pursuing the Vietcong through underground bunkers and tunnels, and in putting down rebellions in black neighborhoods. The use of tear gas in US overseas interventions correlated directly with its use at home. by 1969, the Department of Justice had facilitated the low-cost sale of more than 70,000 gas masks to local law enforcement, along with other surplus military equipment including body armor, armored vehicles and (assault) rifles.

During the 1990s, the Taser was introduced to law enforcement use as an alternative to deadly force. As of 2011, more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States used the Taser. Police now routinely use rubber bullets and pepper spray adding to their “non-lethal” arsenals.

The rise of new white vigilante groups:

Ignoring the Mayor (Stenzel of Cairo Illinois), they formed the Committee of Ten Million The job of the vigilante group would be to carry out the heavy-handed response the Mayor seemed unwilling to delivery. Similar groups had been coming together since the civil rights movement first gained momentum in the 1950s. Unlike many of the lynch mobs that had terrorized Black communities from Reconstruction to the middle of the next century. these new white supremacist groups attracted a more genteel class. The founders of the Committee of Ten Million included Peyton Berbling, the wealthy, chain smoking, white haired lawyer in his early seventies who had served as district attorney and would return to the post in 1968. Larry Potts, the dapper pastor of Cairo Baptist Church; the prominent local businessman Tom Madra; the lumber dealer Bob Cunningham. Like the Citizen’s Councils of America that could be found across the South, the Committee of Ten Million used intimidation and violence to counter the freedom movement, relying not only on brute force but also their political and economic power.

In 1969 another white vigilante force emerged in York Pennsylvania.

In York and Cairo, Black people lived in the areas most susceptible to flooding, and those that didn’t make it into public housing lived in deteriorating tenements by white slum landlords. the mayors were unresponsive to ongoing demonstrations for jobs and better living conditions, and reluctant to solicit federal War on Poverty funds that might have helped to address these problems.

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White Flight
York and Cairo were distinguished by the close alliance between law enforcement and white power vigilante groups. York uprisings in the late 1960s were the most severe of the era. The Cairo rebellion lasted longer than any of the era. The white men in power both politically and economically saw no reason to change the institutions that systematically locked Black people out of jobs, decent housing, and educational opportunities. The extreme reactions of the white power groups effectively killed the town of Cairo, once a Mississippi river boat stop, today only 2,000 residents remain, 2/3 of them Black. In 1950 the population of Cairo was over 12,000. White flight was occurring all over America, particularly in smaller communities. The result of these policies was often white flight to the suburbs. Cairo was effectively dead and Harrisburg lost 22% of its population.

By 1970 the (Cairo United) Front had created a food distribution network with the Urban League and other sympathetic supporters in Chicago, who would send tons of canned goods, household items, clothing, and toys…The United Front offered Cairo residents free legal aid services and (limited) medical care. It established a day care center, a pig farm, a factory that made prefabricated housing, a women’s clothing store, and a grocery store all based on the principles of collective ownership…At the center of the United Front’s activities during the ongoing conflict in Cairo was its boycott of white merchants.

Reverend J.J.Cobb of Cairo: “The way we see it from where we stand, is that every time we strive to do something to help ourselves there are more policemen armed with guns, more ammunition is bought to put a stop to the drive to better the conditions of the Negro.”

Charles A. O’Brien, deputy attorney general of California issued a rare statement during a hearing in 1970:

A major key to conquering this problem is to stop making the policeman the scapegoat for all of societies ills. We cannot continue to solve all our problems by passing new criminal laws. The policeman today bears the brunt of the failures of government. Poverty, inequality, disease, ignorance, and the alienation of youth were not caused by the policeman, but he is the agent who most often comes face to face with these problems. He is the one who has to put the lid back on. We must demand that the other segments of government do more–social agencies, educational institutions, college administrators, public law offices. All of these other agencies on which we spend billions must be asked to do more, to bear more of the burden, to act more creatively, to assume more responsibly.

Policing schools and the school-to-prison pipeline.
One of the most profound and negative effects of this focus on law enforcement was sending police into the public schools instead of addressing the lack of Black and other minority teachers, the white biased curriculum, outright discrimination against Black students like preventing Black students from taking elected office or joining cheer leading teams.

Yet, in Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), Cairo, and across the country, officials at all levels ultimately pursued the punitive path. After the violence of the late 1960s and early 1970s, policymakers attempted to relieve police-community tensions by pacifying the over-policed and unruly community. The strategy of managing the problems caused by systemic racism with crime control measures left Harrisburg economically stagnant, segregated, and with a failing school system.

Local, state, and federal agencies had “joined a vicious circle of racial discrimination and economic depression.”

Miami 1980 The most violent Rebellion.
In 1980, the white Kulp brothers, newly arrived in Miami from Pennsylvania, with a girlfriend drove into the heart of Liberty City where both boys were killed after a brick shattered their windshield and their car crashed hitting a 75 year old man and pinning a young Black girl into a wall. Both brothers were killed by a mob of Black witnesses, but a Black taxi driver drove the white girlfriend out of Liberty City. Thus started the 1980 Miami rebellion, seemingly coming out of nowhere and yet the most violent seen since 1964.

…by the mid 1970s this (Blacks locked out of political power) had changed, with levels of Black political leadership resembling those of the Reconstruction era “seven magic years”…The formation of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971…Black elected officials began campaigns to bring job training programs, welfare provisions, health care, and social services to their constituents. It seemed that the Black freedom struggle had shifted from direct action to formal politics…But (in Miami) Black owned business spiraled into a sharp decline…Black residents owned 25 percent of all gas stations in Dade county in 1960. By 1979 that figure had dwindled to 9 percent, while Cuban and South and Central American-owned stations quadrupled from 12 to 48 percent. Between 1968 and 1979, Latinx applicants received $47.3 million (in SBA grants), or about 47 percent of the total SBA grants in Miami, while Black applicants were awarded a paltry $6.5 million.

The average income of Latinx owned businesses in places like Little Havana were double those of Black owned businesses. Then, in 1980, the Mariel BoatLift brought another 125,000 Cubans to the Miami area. Black jobs became even more scarce with this new influx of favored laborers. Between 1977 and 1981 another 70,000 Haitians arrived in Miami, after fleeing the dictatorship of Jean Claude Duvalier. They were treated even worse than existing Blacks already living in Miami. 90 percent of Federal relief sent to Miami after 1980 Black rebellion went to white, Cuban, and other Latin owners who opened businesses in non Black communities. President Carter sent $6 million to Miami for a job training program. Black participants never found work. The devastation to Liberty City and Overtown were so extensive that residents had to travel up to 30 miles to shop. Two years after the Rebellion 70 percent of residents were out of work. The acquittal by an all white jury of Officer Alvarez for killing a Black man in 1984 set off another conflagration in Liberty City, Overtown, and Coconut Grove. In 1989 a Colombian born officer Lozano killed a Black motorcyclist who then crashed killing his Black passenger setting off a four day rebellion in Overtown. Officer Lozano was convicted of manslaughter in 1990 but his conviction was overturned in 1991 because the original jurors were ruled to have voted for conviction because of the fear of setting off riots.

LA, Rodney King Rebellion, and the Gangs
The Rodney King beating in 1991 by four white police officers which was captured on video set off a five day rebellion killing more than 50 people and causing more than $1 Billion in property damage.
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in 1992 warring Crip and Blood gangs understood the rebellion not as a moment of wanton destruction, but as an opportunity to transform themselves and their community. By moving to end the violence, the gangs hoped to win political influence and to control scarce resources on their own terms.

Much of the impetus for this effort originated in the Amer-I-Can program, run by former NFL star Jim Brown. Most of the young men who would organized the truce in 1992 were trained in the program. With the Black Panthers and other radical organizations were no longer viewed as a major threat by the early 1970s, law enforcement turned its attention to street gangs, many of which had been operating for decades. In 1992, the reported number of gang related homicides in Los Angeles County peaked at 803, a 77 percent increase in four years. Two decades of police gang control measures had failed. The Reagan “War on Drugs” in 1984 lead to mass incarceration on a scale seen nowhere else in the world.

Yet as the 1992 rebellion raged and the city burned, members of the Crips and the Bloods in Watts set out to bring internal warfare to an end, and to face common external enemy–systemic racism, embodied most immediately by the police–as a united front.

On April 26 and 28 1992, gang treaties were agreed to and the next day the four officers who beat Rodney King on video walked free. What really got the gangs attention was the killing of a Black ninth grader by a Korean store owner over a $1.79 orange juice. Federal, state and local law enforcement saw the 1992 rebellion as an opportunity to target “gangs” and “illegal immigrants”, exactly the opposite of the Crips and Bloods vision of ending the violence.

When the rebellion started…,graffiti in Watts already announced the (Crips and Bloods) truce agreed to the day before. The uprising had the effect of cementing it. Unity parties in Imperial Courts and Nickerson Gardens went on as the surrounding areas burned. On May 3, the day before the rebellion ended, the Pirus Bloods in the Hacienda Village housing project entered the accord, meaning that there would be peace throughout Watts going forward.

Property damage was light and the police alone were responsible for the three deaths in Watts. The gangs proposed that unarmed gang members would be trained to accompany any police officer on duty in Watts in a program that would institutionalize the Black Panthers’ Community Alert Program of the 1960s. The treaty was still in effect in 1997 four years later.

Gang probation officer Jim Galipeau: “The only tragedy of the truce was that society needed to reward the gang members who created it, yet didn’t do a damn thing.”

The Bloods and the Crips had asked for a mere six million dollars to transform policing in South Central. “Give us the hammer and the nails, and we will rebuild the city” their 1992 proposal had begged.

About the only positive outcome, other than a dramatic drop in violence, was the creation of a gang intervention program where gang members were employed by the city to defuse violence.

Cincinnati and the Failed Federal and ACLU efforts to reform the police, and Cincinnati Gentrification
By 2000, white flight reversed into massive gentrification programs, most exemplified by booming white enterprises in Cincinnati. The inequality and social injustice of bad schools and lack of jobs created a tinder box that was lit by a police killing in 2001, resulting in a multi day rebellion. This time, the violence got the attention of Federal policy makers interested in police reform. The ACLU and the Cincinnati Black Front sued the Cincinnati police over the killing that set off the rebellion. A Collaborative Agreement was negotiated in 2002 and it was signed by the city one year after the start of the rebellion. Separately the Department of Justice entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the city and the Cincinnati Police Department. A federal monitor Saul Green, and a small team of Justice Department investigators would remain in Cincinnati for five years to assure that the Agreement was implemented and maintained. When the city failed to comply with the Agreement it was extended for another two years. In 2006 the police department effectively threw the Agreement out the window implementing “Operation Vortex” targeting areas where “gentrification” was planned and Blacks and other poor needed to be removed before “renovations” could start.
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Rebellions, both peaceful and violent happened across America throughout the Obama years.

Both strains of Black protest have served important purposes historically. Any success of the nonviolent, direct political action of the civil rights movement depended on the threat of violent, direct political action. As Martin Luther King Jr. himself recognized, the power of mass nonviolence arose in part from its capacity to suggest the coercive power of violent resistance should demands not be met.

Rebellions of 2020 were all started nonviolently and became violent only after police provocation or violence.

New Coalition based Rebellions start in 2020

Rebellions throughout America, from those in the 1960s to Cincinnati in 2001, mainly involved Black protestors, yet the most sustained collective violence in 2020 did not emanate from Black ghettos. In a reversal that would have been unthinkable not so long ago, it came from majority-white cities and suburban communities. Most of the looting in 2020 took place in upscale neighborhoods, and it targeted high-end retailers like Gucci and Tiffany&Co. on Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills…Confrontations between protestors and police were most intense and protracted in cities like Portland and Seattle, among the whitest cities in America…An estimated 95 percent of counties where protests took place were majority white, and three-quarters of these counties were 75 percent white.

The 2020 demonstrations revealed that racial justice champions, environmental activists, LGBTQ-rights advocates, and labor unions appear to be stitching together a new coalition…In Cincinnati…,left wing activist groups now called for a redistribution and redirection of resources away from police departments and prison systems and toward programs that would improve mental health services, address climate change, and provide better housing, education, and job opportunities for all Americans…in 2020 some public officials and police officers participated in the demonstrations to express support for the anti-racist cause.

The American History of Missed Opportunities

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

From Here to Equality, Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, William A Darity jr & Kristen Mullen, 2020

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This important, well researched, and very readable book makes the case for reparations due to African Americans after more than 400 years of racially discriminatory, officially sanctioned policies in America. It is a history with an emphasis on turns not taken or taken wrongly and the impacts of these actions on the inequality of African American wealth and income. Much of their case for reparations rests on undeniable facts and statistics. And ultimately this is a story of unstoppable and unaccountable capitalism in search of cheap (or free) labor.

From 1619 to the 1660s, the majority of blacks in the colonies were contract servants not slaves. They could accumulate land, vote, testify in court, and mingle with whites as relative equals.

Black people overwhelmingly were the objects of enslavement. While there was an extended period of white immigrant indentured servitude during the colonial period, their numbers were dwarfed by coerced immigrants from the African continent. Even at the height of importation of white indentures, while 216,000 whites came to British North America as bonded laborers, 300,000 Africans were forcibly imported to the colonies. By the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the practice of white indentureship was in sharp decline. On the other hand, in 1790 there were close to 700,000 enslaved blacks in the United States, a number that grew to 4 million by the start of the Civil War.

For a very brief period during the colonial era, black and while laborers were treated equally and their wages and their punishments for comparable offenses were undifferentiated. County court records from the period reveal that some slaves owned personal property and were allowed to contract for their services; others were able to procure freedom for themselves and their families. In England throughout the sixteenth century, the status of “slave” was not a life sentence…nor was it determined by phenotype. But as the demand for manpower grew in the colonies, so too, did the legal strictures on enslaved people, transforming them comprehensively into human chattel devoid of individual rights…In addition to solving the colonial labor shortage problems, enslavement of Africans enabled European mercantilists policymakers–and British mercantilists in particular–to maintain a regime of low wages in the home economy. The exportation of too large a fraction of the domestic labor force would put upward pressure on the cost of hiring labor at home.

Black phenotype also made it easier to recognize and capture slaves if they escaped. White indentured laborers couldn’t be so easily identified.

A British High Court decision in 1772 de facto ended the practice of slavery in England proper. A major motivator in the American independence movement was fear that Slavery would end throughout the British dominion. Slave owner Thomas Jefferson could decry the slave trade, call for independence from England, and uphold slavery, all without irony.

The Declaration of Independence could have been a document of universal rights. To the extent that black people are construed as fully human, championing liberty and freedom for some…while condemning blacks to eternal servitude is problematic. Republicanism affirmed the ascendancy of the colonial aristocracy while maintaining a fine line of control over the masses of poor whites, providing opportunity for some of them to obtain land and own slaves while assuring even the most impoverished whites that they could exercise dominance over blacks.

At least a third of the signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. The Constitution of 1787 specified that the slave trade would end in 1808, though illegal slave trade continued. Elsewhere in the Americas, as independent nations came into existence, outlawing the slave trade and outlawing slavery went hand in hand. The Constitution required 2/3 of slave populations be counted for congressional apportionment and presidential elections and decreed 2 senators for each state. The Constitution has minority rule embedded within it. The mere existence of slaves as countable bodies allowed the slave states to control elections and enact slave protecting legislation like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. They even invented the filibuster which today can block any majority Senate action with only 40 senators.

The American Revolution was fought, in large part, by a colonial elite to preserve their right to human property. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was fought, in large part, by the enslaved to liberate themselves from slavery.

Pease and Pease estimated that between 1830 and 1860 approximately 60,000 blacks left the south and resettled in the north, and an additional 20,000 to 40,000 blacks migrated to Canada. They estimated the number of blacks living in intentional black communities during the forty year period before the Civil War at 3,500 to 5,000 persons.

When Abraham Lincoln came into office, he hoped to end slavery through programs of compensated emancipation where slave owners would be paid compensation for the freeing of their slaves. Most slave owners preferred to hold on to their slave property to such an extent that Southern States seceded from the union, leading to the Civil War. Lincoln does not seem to have given much thought to what would happen to 4 million freed slaves other than the vague idea that they would migrate to Haiti or Liberia. A small number did migrate, but the vast majority wanted to be recognized as full citizens with all the privileges and rights of citizenship. To accomplish this goal they would need education, employment, the vote, and land.

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White supremacist Andrew Johnson of Tennessee became President on Lincoln’s assassination. He universally pardoned all Confederate participants allowing the southern elites to return to power and to reacquire property seized by the Union during the war. He thwarted all efforts to transfer or sell confiscated lands to blacks. The “seven magic years” of reconstruction saw some black voting rights in Republican controlled states. As southern democrats regained political control black voting rights all but disappeared. The withdrawal of Federal troops from the south left blacks without any protection since whites did everything they could to prevent blacks from arming themselves. Whites burned black schools and intimidated or killed any teachers in these schools. Johnson was impeached in 1868 but was not removed from office. Grant became President in 1869 but his lack of political skill and bad judgement continued the absence of Federal action in the southern states. A South Carolina Representative reported that 53,000 had been killed by white terrorists since the end of the war; 1766 on average each year. The white supremacist south began to rewrite history immediately after the end of the Civil War, coining the term the “Lost Cause” and erecting thousands of monuments to southern political and military “heroes”. They even incorporated the confederate battle flag into their new state flags. Once in power again, southern white Democratic leaders began enacting Black Codes to reestablish black slavery in all but name throughout the south. Whites again controlled most of the land for which they required “Labor”. Labor contracts were far worse than indentured servitude because the laborer could only escape the contract upon death. Blacks could be arrested at will to provide free labor. Union Col. Samuel Russell Thomas testified before Congress:
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Wherever I go– the street, the shop, the house, or the steamboat–I hear the people talk in such a way as to indicate that they are yet unable to conceive of the Negro as possessing any rights at all. Men who are honorable in their dealings with their white neighbors will cheat a Negro without feeling a single twinge of their honor. To kill a Negro they do not deem murder; to debauch a Negro woman they do not think fornication; to take property away from a Negro they do not consider robbery…they still have an ingrained feeling that the blacks at large belong to the whites at large, and whenever opportunity serves, they treat the colored people just as their profit, caprice or passion may dictate.

Federally owned land was (and still is) huge, with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 adding 827,00 square miles or 529 million acres. Land confiscated from the Confederacy during the Civil War made additional tracks of land available, approximately 850,000 acres. 40 acres and a mule would have required the Federal government to earmark 40 million acres for 1 million families of former slaves. This never happened. Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads and distributed 270 million acres. Most of the Confederate confiscated land was sold at auction to white, many northern, speculators. These new capitalist absentee landowners, needing farmers, instituted share cropping and “labor contracts” for poor farmers both white and black. A few blacks were able to acquire small blocks of land or houses.

By 1910 blacks had managed to amass 15 million acres with 218,000 owners or farmers. By 1997 black farm ownership had diminished to 2.7 million acres. “The land African Americans lost over the 20th century was taken in some form, and not sold freely.”

The disregard for black lives evidenced by antiblack riots, lynchings, neighborhood devastation, and inferior education in the process that Douglas Blackmon has called “black reenslavement”.

(Jennifer) Mueller provides evidence that the source of This transfer transfers to whites is in publicly provided assets, including 246 million acres of land, an area approximating that of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia combined. These occurred under the auspices of the Homestead Acts (1860s-1930s).

Blacks were largely excluded from the the benefits of the Homestead Acts; mere 4,000 to 5,500 African American claimants ever received federal land patents from the Southern Homestead Act enacted in 1866…white Southern Homestead Act claimants numbered around 28,000. Gifts of Southern Homestead and Homestead Act land enriched more that 1.6 million white families–both native born and immigrant. By the year 2000, the number of adult descendants of these original land grant recipients was 46 million people, about a quarter of the U.S. adult population.

At the end of WWII, the GI Bill guaranteed home, business, farm loans, and educational opportunities to returning veterans. Of 3,229 GI Bill related loans made in Mississippi in 1947, only two were offered to black veterans.

The article by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the June 2014 issue of the Atlantic resurrected the national conversation over reparations for black Americans. One of the most impressive aspects of Coate’s article is his insistence that the events and conditions during the antibellum period are far from the only basis for reparations.

This book is devoted heavily to documenting the damages done to blacks post Emancipation. Turning to details of reparations, the authors give a number of alternate ways that damages could be calculated with a number of these studies showing damages on the order of more than $17 trillion.

…since today’s differential in wealth captures the cumulative effects of racism on living black descendants of American slavery, we propose mobilizing national resources to eradicate the racial wealth gap. The magnitude of ongoing shortfalls in wealth for blacks vis-a-vis whites provides the most sensible foundation for the complete monetary portion of the bill for reparations.

To qualify for reparations, the authors suggest two criterion;

First, U. S. citizens would need to establish that they had at least one ancestor who was enslaved in the United States after the formation of the republic. Second, they would have to prove that they self-identified as “black” “Negro”, “Afro-American”, or “African American” at least twelve years before the enactment of the reparations program or the establishment of a congressional or presidential commission “to study and develop reparations for African Americans”.

How do you change the minds of millions of white supremacists whose fixed attitudes toward black people were described so well by Union Col. Samuel Russell Thomas? Must the U.S. wait til white supremacists are in such a minority as in South Africa that they can no longer control or defeat any efforts to address race based income and wealth inequality?