August 19, 2019 | Read more »
In the 1960s, America was burning - from New York to Los Angeles and places in between: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Rochester, Newark, and elsewhere.
The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, AKA the Kerner Commission, released its report on February 29, 1968 finding that the riots resulted from black frustration at lack of economic opportunity. The report berated federal and state governments for failed housing, education and social-service policies.
The report also aimed some of its sharpest criticism at the mainstream media. "The press has too long basked in a white world looking out of it, if at all, with white men's eyes and white perspective." The report's most famous passage warned, "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal."
Since then, the purchasing power of the minimum wage peaked in the late 1960s at $9.22 an hour in 2012 dollars. Bill Clinton delivered on his promise to "end welfare as we have come to know it." The educational system has gone from
bad to worse, from teaching to testing. Racist policies were ensconced in law and policy: "Stop and Frisk," "Broken Windows Policing," "Stand Your Ground," and voting requirements to combat non-existent fraud that diminishes access to the polls.
In New York City, low-level marijuana arrests were up IO-fold and more than four out of five of those arrested were black and Latino. Mass incarceration and other means of keeping non-whites disenfranchised keeps them out of the job market, out of neighborhoods, and out of the voting booth.
One thing that's different now: in the 60s, when "stuff' happened there was no proof; now, there's nearly a cell phone in every pocket, and a camera in every cell phone to provide graphic evidence of wrong doing.
The present system serves the interests of the prison-industrial complex, big pharma, politicians, et al. Abetter educated populace earning a living wage would benefit everyone with more brain power, more buying power, and higher tax revenues. If federal, state, city,and local governments choose not to do this, then there has to be another operative here: "It's not enough for whites to win, people of color have to lose." Even if whites have to cut their nose to spite their face.
I've been accused of being a "conspiracy theorist" because I think the system is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
Do you really think we don't know how to educate people? (In NYC, the four-year high school graduation rate was 64.2% in the 2013-14 school year, but only 38% of graduates were considered college ready.)
Do you think America has to have the greatest rate of incarceration on the planet? (The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of its prisoners.)
Do you wonder why 52 countries have lower firearm-related death rates?
Or why the US is the only developed country without national universal health care?
Or why 33 countries have lower infant mortality rates?
Or why the us ranks 29th in income equality out of 34 OEDe countries? (The wealthiest 160,000 families own as much wealth as the poorest 145 million families; 22% of all children (39% of black children) in the US live in families that are considered officially poor.)
We have the means to make things right. But we don't.
I take that to mean that those in power like it like that, demonstrating that "every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets." Do not wonder why what's happening in Ferguson and Baltimore and elsewhere is happening. Wonder why it didn't happen sooner, or more often, or in more places. "Current events" are only the tip of the iceberg.
This is not a rationale for rioting. We are closer to our highest nature when we liberate ourselves and others from political, social,economic, and religious oppression and from all other forms of injustice; when we transform systems and structures that oppress into ones that empower.
Politicians and poverty pimps who want to tinker around the edges, spout pious platitudes, throw money at the symptoms, offer cheap grace, and leave the system essentially intact exacerbate rather than ameliorate the problem.
For those who want to do justice and love mercy, keep on keepin' on.