Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Race Riots

Here is one thing I definitely think should be a part of rank-and-file Democrats re-thinking how they look at our country: the 1960s race riots.

Here's my thesis: the race riots, that were in response to a number of African American civil rights issues, in the context of the times basically made sense and were justified. Faced with the problems they faced and the resistance they faced, in the rare circumstances African Americans encountered at the time, those few riots were reasonable attempts at provoking solutions, and were perhaps even a necessary part of fixing the problem. Far from looking on them with shame or feeling they should be swept under the rug, we should just matter-of-factly accept that the problems we faced as a nation were pretty big, and that the riots (which didn't exactly result in rich people having their land taken away from them, or mass beheadings, like riots during the French Revolution or other historical riots did) were a pretty natural thing to happen and even a logical thing for people to do.

Some people would resist this idea. First of all, I have to say that although someone might show up and claim, "Oh yeah? Well in such-and-such a place a white woman got raped in a riot in the '60s!" or "An old man got shot in the back by a kid during one of those riots!" (I've never heard that either of these things happened, but even if they in fact didn't, that wouldn't stop people from claiming they had) as if one or two events totally change the worth or quality of huge-scale historical events such as these, my point is not meant to justify every individual event that may have happened during those riots, but just the riots themselves. And I've got to say, if you want to judge the '60s riots by the standard of whether they were wanton or sadistic destruction of a city, you won't find evidence of such cruelty from the 1960s riots, which were really a last-ditch response to needless cruelty-- remember, this was back when instead of racial profiling that was to any extent legitimate, cops would commonly just nab some lone black guy and harass him or even beat him up.

I think that a lot of law-and-order types, including the FBI, see / saw the riots a lot differently than I do, and even saw (or even still see) them and African American people as actually a national security threat to the United States. This is sort of a dumb response, when you consider all the suffering and unfairness African American people used to face. But these law-and-order people who think this are just racist (if you start to see their actions that way, it really helps explain a lot of how the FBI treated African Americans during the 1960s, and a lot of phenomena, like our corrupt national news media, that you see today) and can barely help putting stupid conclusions on everything. They probably thought hippie peace rallies were big threats to the country too, instead of just gathering to speak, since their rich masters (who were just intentionally trying to manipulate the cops) told them that that was what the weird-looking long-haired people were up to. Unfortunately, there are many conservatives in this country (Tony Blankly, probably, for one) who think that a bunch of people who gather to chant slogans and peacefully hold up signs constitutes a "mob" that should have tear-gas fired into it by police (this is the kind of education they get from their fathers, fathers' acuqaintances and relatives at the country club, and peers in the private schools, so they just don't know better) and this is something we just have to acknowledge to ourselves. So anyway, the point is, many people are smarter than a cop, and just because a cop says some opinion on something, doesn't mean that what's going on is what the cop says it is, especially when what the cop is talking about is something far beyond his ken.

Some people I think are just horrified and ashamed by the riots. For them, the answer is always peace and talk. But that is not always satisfactory when you watch the generations pass as you grow older, having fought and fought to get into law school and having been beaten up by the cops for no crime, and slurred by them and others. People may look at India, and resort to their view of Indians as intelligent people that is prejudicedly-overbroad, and say "The Indians did this with non-violence. So why couldn't we have done this with non-violence?" as if all the Indians are so smart that the answer they reach to a problem should work, by magic, at all times and in all places. But the fact is that in the Indian colonies of Britain, the Indians were a majority of the population (certainly a lot more than the number of British soldiers present), and the Empire really needed their cooperation to get any work done and make the colony worthwhile. The Indians could do a lot of persuading just by the threat of refusing to cooperate with the British. But in the United States, the African Americans were in a totally different situation because they made up a minority of the population. Also, they were not through their labor holding up some huge portion of the economy, like some valuable import trade, that put lots of money into the hands of rich, white capitalists. Instead, lots of white Americans probably would have been completely happy to eradicate all the blacks in America.

I think there are also a lot of people who realize that, while a lot was done on the non-violent and protest front in the civil rights movement in 1960s America, probably a big part of the reason we got the gains we got then was because the United States was scared of African American unrest. I think that is the case, too, and probably is the strongest reason to stop looking so harshly on the riots: they were justified by necessity because too many white people were too callous or too ignorant to listen otherwise. If this is all the case, then people should stop feeling ashamed of the riots, and stop using them as a reason to look down on African Americans as a race, and start looking at them as a necessary and even praise-worthy part of the civil rights movement, a logical decision made by people who exercised the right amount of spine the situation they were in actually called for.