AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Listen to it in its entirety:
On 20 December 2014, host Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio spoke with author and historian Edward Baptist about the continuing legacy of slavery and the ongoing sanitization and downright falsification of its history in the United States.
This conversation was timely when it took place, as protests over police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and all around the country had been escalating. Since neither the regular police murder of unarmed black men and women in the United States nor the white supremacist system that drives and condones it has ended, this conversation remains timely now, six months later, with the world’s eyes on Baltimore.
The conversations around lethal racist policing and the growing rebellion against it have continued to evolve over these six months, with some promising turns. While deeper investigations into the racial, institutional and economic history of Ferguson were not completely absent from media coverage of the police murder of Michael Brown, it seemed to happen primarily at a low frequency on the fringes of the discourse. The same could be said of alternative analyses of rioting as a legitimate response to state violence. But both of these avenues of thought have factored much more prominently in the coverage of Freddie Gray’s horrific beating murder by Baltimore cops and the ensuing uprising there.
Indeed, they have combined in a way. The relatively recent history of Baltimore’s economic abandonment has been used as further evidence of the hypocrisy of people who complain about broken windows but not broken spines. As the argument goes, they never complained about the broken windows, the broken homes, the broken communities that de-industrialization, white flight, the War on Drugs, and austerity produced in Baltimore. Just the ones broken by black rioters.
Good point. Yes, a crucial backdrop for the ongoing racial unrest in Baltimore and the rest of the United States is the economic suffering wrought by neoliberalism over the last half-century. But this system of violent racialized economic exploitation has been a feature of capitalism for much longer than that.