Capitalism, Slavery, and Resistance

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.
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Statement from a Comrade and Baltimore Native About the Uprising There

by Josh Baltimore for SIC
29 April 2015

Im heading home in two days.

There is something very important happening not only in Baltimore, but across black America. As of now there have been no reported deaths at the hands of protesters in a city where 250 people are killed a year, nearly all of those homicide victims being black. In spite of the fires and the looting, the young people of Baltimore are still showing a greater restraint in their conflicts with police and store-owners than they have shown in their conflicts amongst each other. I say this because for years it has been my family too that has done some of the killing and much of the dying.

Why is it that the current uprising has, in spite of its violence, not tilted toward a shooting war between whites and blacks, cops and kids, landlords and tenants, bosses and workers, given the fact that the shooting war between young black men across the region is invariant? Because young black people still value the lives of their structural enemies more than they value their own. The engineering of what is possibly the most efficient self-cannibalizing social organism in history – the nightly shootouts, the stabbings, the overdoses – is a project that has been centuries in the making.Continue Reading

Concerning Violence

The following is an excerpt from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, reprinted yesterday on the great blog Middle East Revised. Its relevance is plainly not only to the Middle East.

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National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon. At whatever level we study it — relationships between individuals, new names for sports clubs, the human admixture at cocktail parties, in the police, on the directing boards of national or private banks — decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men.

Without any period of transition, there is a total, complete, and absolute substitution. It is true that we could equally well stress the rise of a new nation, the setting up of a new state, its diplomatic relations, and its economic and political trends. But we have precisely chosen to speak of that kind of tabula rasa which characterizes at the outset all decolonization. Its unusual importance is that it constitutes, from the very first day, the minimum demands of the colonized.

To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up. The extraordinary importance of this change is that it is willed, called for, demanded. The need for this change exists in its crude state, impetuous and compelling, in the consciousness and in the lives of the men and women who are colonized. But the possibility of this change is equally experienced in the form of a terrifying future in the consciousness of another ‘species’ of men and women: the colonizers.Continue Reading

Police Violence from Ferguson to Rio

Transcribed from the 13 December 2014 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

 

“The police will argue that they have to be heavy-handed with criminals because they’re under attack, because it’s a ‘war.’ But they won’t admit that they’re creating a climate of terror.”

Chuck Mertz: We’re speaking with our irregular correspondent in Rio de Janeiro, Brian Mier. He is social media director for the Brazilian National Urban Reform Forum and a freelance writer and producer. Yesterday he posted the article The Police and the Massacre of Afro-Brazilian Youth.

Good morning, Brian.

Brian Mier: Hey, how’s it going?

CM: Very well, sir. You write about a new Brazilian documentary called Point Blank. It tells the story of the past twenty years of massacres committed by the Rio de Janeiro military police. These chacinas are frequently committed in retribution for a killed police officer, and traditionally involve coming into a poor neighborhood and killing random Afro-Brazilian youth.

Can you explain the hierarchy of the police forces in Brazil?

BM: If you think it’s bad in Chicago, imagine having multiple police forces operating in every city. First there is the traditional civil police in Brazil that investigates robberies and homicides and things like that. Then there’s military police, which has been around for a very long time, but they were given extra powers during the military dictatorship. And when the dictatorship ended, nobody removed their special powers.

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The Racism/Austerity Feedback Loop

Transcribed from the 24 January 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

 

“Roma are among the poorest citizens in Bulgaria. But somehow, paradoxically, they are considered the most privileged, because of their supposed “privileged” access to welfare.”

Chuck Mertz: We’ve been discussing neoliberalism, austerity and race on This is Hell! for a while now. But what happens when austerity actually fuels more racism? Here to tell us what austerity means for racism against Bulgaria’s Roma: Jana Tsoneva.

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Riots gegen den Rassismus des 21. Jahrhunderts

Aus aktuellem Anlass stellen wir hier die Übersetzung der Broschüre: “Ferguson: Mike Brown & die Riots gegen den Rassismus des 21. Jahrhunderts” ein. Sie stammt aus dem autonomen Blättchen Nr. 19 und behandelt Hintergründe und den Ablauf der Proteste und Aufstände im August diesen Jahres.

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Rassistische Spannungen in Missouri

Die rassistischen Spannung und Trennung sind konstant in der Geschichte Missouris. 1820 wurde der Missouri-Kompromiss verabschiedet, der Missouri als Sklavenstaat anerkannte, um das „Gleichgewicht der Macht“ zwischen Sklaven- und freien Staaten im Kongress zu bewahren. St. Louis war eines der Haupt-Auktions-Zentren, wo Geschäftsleute und Einzelpersonen Sklaven kaufen und leihen konnten. Im frühen 20. Jahrhundert stieg, aufgrund seines Industriezentrums und dem Reiz von Fabrikjobs die Afrikanisch-Amerikanische Immigration nach St. Louis an. Es kam zu Ressentiments und Spannungen von Weißen gegen die schwarzen Migrant_innen. Schließlich kochten die Spannungen im Sommer 1917 über, als weiße Mobs begannen, Feuer in den Häusern der schwarzen Siedlungen zu legen.Continue Reading

The Nadir of Race Relations in America

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Transcribed from the 23 August 2014 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

 

“Kenilworth was founded in 1889 by Joseph Sears, and he had four great principles that he put in its founding documents: no alleys; no fences; large, architect-designed houses; and no Jews or Negroes. The first three expired after twenty years, but the fourth one never expired.”

Chuck Mertz: Sociologist James W. Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. He wrote the 2005 book Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, and his second edition of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your History Textbook Got Wrong was just published.

Good morning, Jim.

James Loewen: Hi! Glad to be with you.

CM: It’s great to have you on the show.

Oddly enough, I just found out our correspondent in Rio de Janeiro used to visit Ferguson when he was a kid, because his grandmother lived there. I asked him if he was surprised that this happened in Ferguson, and he said he was, because when he was a kid, thirty years ago, it was an all-white town. But he found out from a relative that at one point they put a wall right through Ferguson, separating the black side from the white side, and saying that after sundown blacks weren’t safe.

You weren’t certain if Ferguson was actually a sundown town. Why don’t you tell people what a sundown town is, and why that’s important.

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