Thursday, 30 April 2015

We Have Been Here Before: Racism and Baltimore

There is violence in the city of Baltimore. There has been violence for quite some time now.

I do not refer to black people protesting. I refer to that which they protest: racist police violence, racist corporate policies which left them unemployed and others which have left them homeless, racist housing policies which have ghettoised them, racist economic policies which have impoverished them, racist political policies which have effectively stripped them of a meaningful vote, etc.

 Emile Badger covered the history of the racist disenfranchisement of black people in Baltimore, a pattern which, as the author pointed out, was repeated in other major American cities.
The long, painful and repetitive history of how Baltimore became Baltimore
Emile Badger, Washington Post
29 April 2015

Just a few years ago, Wells Fargo agreed to pay millions of dollars to Baltimore and its residents to settle a landmark lawsuit brought by the city claiming the bank unfairly steered minorities who wanted to own homes into subprime mortgages. Before that, there was the crack epidemic of the 1990s and the rise of mass incarceration and the decline of good industrial jobs in the 1980s.

And before that? From 1951 to 1971, 80 to 90 percent of the 25,000 families displaced in Baltimore to build new highways, schools and housing projects were black. Their neighborhoods, already disinvested and deemed dispensable, were sliced into pieces, the parks where their children played bulldozed.

And before that — now if we go way back — there was redlining, the earlier corollary to subprime lending in which banks refused to lend at all in neighborhoods that federally backed officials had identified as having "undesirable racial concentrations."

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University's Center on Society and Health have found that Baltimore neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s still have lower rates of homeownership and college attainment and higher rates of poverty and segregation today — as well as worse health outcomes.
An article at TheRoot covers the way that all of this systemic racism converged in Baltimore.
Angry About the Riots? Then Be Angry About the State-Sanctioned Killing That Caused Them
Kirsten West Savali, TheRoot
29 April 2015
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, whose tenure includes the controversial closing of neighborhood recreational centers and the pending closure of beloved schools, also called some of the protesters thugs and tweeted, “We will not let these deplorable and cowardly acts of violence ruin #OurCity.” She has had very little to say about the deplorable and cowardly acts that left Freddie Gray dead or about the viciousness of the Baltimore Police Department at large.

This is systemic racism at work. It doesn’t matter that there’s a black president, a black attorney general, a black police commissioner or a black mayor. Black youths expressing pain and rage, fear and disbelief, are characterized as criminals, and the cops who left Freddie Gray nearly decapitated are on taxpayer-paid vacations.
After decades of this violence, after the prominent murder of yet another black man at the hands of cops, and in the wake of strategically racist police maneuvers aimed at artificially aggregating and isolating black youth in the middle of the city, black people finally erupted into protest. Regarding my claim that black youth were intentionally gathered in Baltimore, Mother Jones has covered the buildup very well.
Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn't Start the Way You Think
Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin, Mother Joones
28 April 2015
When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.
This was intentional. It was racist. It had an entirely predictable result, one which has drawn the usual white support for cops and the usual calls for black non-violence. Few realise that such calls rest on a heavy amount of privilege and are racist. An article by Najia Tameez of MuslimGirl and another by Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Nation spell this out for us.
On Privilege, Struggle, and the Hypocrisy of Calling for Non-Violence
Najia Tameez, MuslimGirl
28 April 2015
Struggle does not come without a price. Struggle is not overcome without sacrifice. But, for far too long, the price has been human dignity. For far too long, the price has been the spilled blood of Brown, but primarily Black, peoples. So, excuse me if I am not overly concerned with damaged property, a minimal sacrifice in the fight against hundreds of years of injustice. Watching the riots in Baltimore unfold causes me no anger — rather, it causes me to mourn for our broken systems and the thousands of lives lost, either through death or destruction, to a system that is meant to protect them. ... In Baltimore, city officials are calling for non-violence while the city itself is brutally beating and killing its citizens. This is hypocrisy. Reprimanding the oppressed for reacting “violently” to a violent system is hypocrisy. Reprimanding people whose very lives are at jeopardy for no other reason then the color of their skin, because of some damaged property, is ludicrous.

Nonviolence as Compliance
Ta-Nehisi Coated
27 April 2015
I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today's riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution.

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.
It isn't even as though peaceful protest has been effective in the past. An excellent cartoon appearing in The Nib illustrates - literally.
Great Moments in Peaceful Protest History
Matt Lubchanksy, The Nib
29 April 2015
[one of several panels is displayed here]
Those of us who would quote Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr at our black siblings are also called out on Everyday Feminism. MLK, Jr was a complex person who addressed different situations at different times in different ways.
10 Things All White Folks Need to Consider about the #BaltimoreUprising
Jamie Utt, Everyday Feminism
29 April 015
There is not a statistical measure that exists by which White people are oppressed while people of Color are privileged. ... The Rev. Dr. King was a radical revolutionary who called for a complete overturning of the racist, capitalist system in which we live.
I myself will stop typing here. However, I am leaving you all with some more reading materials and a video at the end as a prize for all who finish reading it all. (No cheating!) The first two readings deal with the subprime mortgage crisis. As one can see, it was aimed directly at black people. The third is a somewhat academic apprisal of the history of resistence in the black Muslim community and the obstacles faced by black Muslims.
Bank Accused of Pushing Mortgage Deals on Blacks
Michael Powell, New York Times
06 June 2009
As she describes it, Beth Jacobson and her fellow loan officers at Wells Fargo Bank “rode the stagecoach from hell” for a decade, systematically singling out blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages. These loans, Baltimore officials have claimed in a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo, tipped hundreds of homeowners into foreclosure and cost the city tens of millions of dollars in taxes and city services. ... Loan officers, she said, pushed customers who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime mortgages.

The toll taken by such policies, Baltimore officials argue, is terrible. Data released by the city as part of the suit last week show that more than half the properties subject to foreclosure on a Wells Fargo loan from 2005 to 2008 now stand vacant. And 71 percent of those are in predominantly black neighborhoods. ... City and state officials across the nation have investigated and sometimes sued Wells Fargo over its practices. The Illinois attorney general has investigated whether Wells Fargo Financial violated fair lending and civil rights laws by steering black and Latino homeowners into high-interest loans. New York’s attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, raised similar questions about the lending practices of Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, among other banks.

The New York Times, in a recent analysis of mortgage lending in New York City, found that black households making more than $68,000 a year were nearly five times as likely to hold high-interest subprime mortgages as whites of similar or even lower incomes. (The disparity was greater for Wells Fargo borrowers, as 2 percent of whites in that income group hold subprime loans and 16.1 percent of blacks.)

“They referred to subprime loans made in minority communities as ghetto loans and minority customers as ‘those people have bad credit’, ‘those people don’t pay their bills’ and ‘mud people,’ ” Mr. Paschal said in his affidavit. He said a bank office in Silver Spring, Md., had an “affinity group marketing” section, which hired blacks to call on African-American churches. “The company put ‘bounties’ on minority borrowers,” Mr. Paschal said. “By this I mean that loan officers received cash incentives to aggressively market subprime loans in minority communities.”

More Than Reform For Subprime Hurt
Laura Flandders, The Nation
28 April 2010
Millions of underpaid Americans have lost their homes, their nest eggs, and many of them, their incomes. Their legitimate desire to own a home and have some equity was twisted and turned against them, especially if they lived in minority communities. The subprime rip-off is resulting in the largest transfer of wealth out of minority America ever, estimated now at close to $1 trillion.
Towards a Black Muslim Ontology of Resistance
Muna Mire, The New Inquiry
29 April 2015
The Nation of Islam and other Black Muslim resistance movements that came out of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s might dominate our sense of its place in history, but Islam has been central to Black resistance and liberation movements for much longer than that. Muslim slaves and freedpeople in Georgia and South Carolina maintained their traditions at great risk to themselves in places like Sapelo Island and St. Simons Island – self-contained majority-Black enclaves with large, centralized plantation infrastructures.

Part of the covenant of the American Dream is an agreement non-Black immigrants enter into when they land on U.S. shores. It’s an implicit contract with explicit aims: when you come to America, you’d better not ally yourself in any way with Black people or Blackness if you expect to get ahead. Black people are bad news. For Arabs and South Asians who make up a significant portion of the U.S. Muslim community, this manifests in a model-minority ethos that uses Black Americans as an example of what not to do and who not to affiliate with.

Because Black Muslims are not perceived as Muslim, they face rogue Islamophobic violence less often—but when that violence comes, their deaths do not garner as much outrage or mobilize Muslims in the same ways. Around the same time three young Arab Muslims were murdered in their Chapel Hill home, a Somali Muslim man was shot through the door of his apartment in Fort McMurray, Alberta. While Deah, Yusor, and Razan’s deaths trended worldwide, Mustafa Mattan’s murder was barely a passing blip outside of the Somali community.

But when you add the identity marker of “Muslim” to that of “Black,” something very different happens: erasure. Black Muslims are invisible to their faith communities and to wider society, for Muslims, unlike Black people, must actively legitimize their identities as Muslims—through practicing faith, maintaining proximity to a community, or a cultural inheritance. The hypervisibility of Blackness makes one’s identity as a Muslim impossible precisely because Blackness precludes Muslimness in the cultural imaginary. So to occupy both subject positions is to experience the downward thrust of cognitive dissonance: you will always be too Black to be a true Muslim, but you must live with all of the pain that America inflicts on both Black people and Muslims.

Racism Is Real • BRAVE NEW FILMS
The #BaltimoreUprising is a symptom of a much larger problem! LIKE our page Brave New Films (Y)Something is wrong when thousands of resumes are mailed to employers with identical information and black-sounding names are 50% less likely to get a call back. Something is wrong when black people are charged prices roughly $700 higher than white people when buying cars. Something is wrong when black drivers are twice as likely to get pulled over by the police and black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than their white counterparts. Something is wrong when black people are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white people.And something is wrong when we continue to NOT do anything about it! Please SHARE & sign the pledge to challenge racism whenever it rears it's ugly head! #Baltimore #BlackLivesMatter #BaltimoreRiots
Posted by Brave New Films on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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