Artificial Agent, aka Martijn, from answers-in-reason.com, discusses Black Lives matter in what is going to be at least a 2 parter. Tonight we discuss what racism is and start to get into systemic racism.
AA & Black Lives Matter
While I had preferred to jump right into the BLM platform, it makes more sense to first review the concept of racism, seeing as the platform of BLM refers to racism quite a lot but doesn’t explicitly tell us what racism is. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really seem necessary outside of a philosophical context, where we have to attempt to be clear as can be when it comes to these kinds of things.
The most cogent theory about racism I have read so far, is in my opinion that of Falguni Sheth. Which, due to it being a book of 270 pages, I will have to streamline a bit.
Concisely, Sheth argues that in order for racism to be a thing, certain people first have to undergo a process of ‘othering’. Othering, being the process in which tangible or easily identifiable character traits belonging to a group of people are taken, and coupled to one or more ways in which these traits can be damaging to society. For instance; Muslim -> Islam -> radicals -> terrorism, or; handicapped -> healthcare -> modifications to buildings -> disproportionate use of taxmoney. These are then broadcast, typically implied, and the rest of society will associate negative things with these people and be less willing to associate themselves with these people.
How does systemic racism work?
According to Sheth, these prejudices that arise, are then taken through the public sphere into politics, where certain laws are then made to curtail the negative influences these people are supposedly having. This is what gives rise to legislation that disproportionately affects people of otherised -now racialised- communities. And so we get to systemically racist societies.
It is important to note, here, that this process thus far doesn’t have to be a conscious one. We can, for instance, be worried about the amount of violence in Islamic countries, show that on the evening news and show very little positive coverage of Muslims. And that will get the othering process going. Especially when we fail to also show the acts of violence perpetrated by the majority population or other populations. We then arrive at the same point as above, where likely good intentioned lawmakers make laws that seek to curtail any threat.
However, we have also seen plenty of deliberate suppression of racialised folks as well. Less good intentioned.
So how does systemic racism work? Well, the best example of this can be found in our allied country and good friends, the USA. after they had abolished slavery, we saw Jim Crow laws. Here, both public and private resources were separated in ‘whites only’ and, often inferior quality, ‘blacks only’ resources. Even housing, at this time, was predominantly separated in this way. At the same time, there were anti-miscegenation laws, prohibiting the mingling of black and white people in meaningful ways.
After Jim Crow, there was redlining, which prohibited black people from purchasing property in any significant way. Considering that in most modern Western countries, most wealth comes from property and inheritance, this set back the pursuit of equality for black people even farther. So much so, that at this time, black people disproportionately live in rental homes, in low-income housing. These areas are typically food deserts or food swamps (places where food is unavailable or only fast food is available, respectively). This, combined with the fact that most public schools are funded with property tax, makes for underfunded schools and a lack of opportunity. This is how systemic racism works, along with the fact that poverty stricken people are disproportionately likely to end up in crime, and the story goes on.
Of course, all this does make black people more policeable, and therefore more likely to be the victims of police shootings. However, this is an effect from legislation that, though not always intended to, affects black people negatively disproportionately as compared to white people.
The platform of BLM
The platform of BLM is geared to exactly this, but tries to eliminate the most immediate threat first; police brutality. This is why they protest mostly and most prominently in the wake of police shootings or, as they say, government sanctioned violence towards black people.
BLM originated after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old boy, and the acquittal of his shooter, George Zimmerman. It is a way to make a fist towards these injustices and seeks to get equal rights for black people everywhere. BLM is a global initiative, and as such fights this fight in a lot of different countries. And while they prioritize equal rights for black people, they attempt to also find places for women’s rights, queer rights and the rights of other minorities within their movement.
One of the big criticisms of BLM is that they are Marxist organization. This is a complicated thing, actually. Because, there are certain ideas within the BLM movement, that certainly originate from Marxist philosophies. Things like equal opportunity, equal funding for public schools and other, similar ideas that seek to end the aforementioned poverty disparity. However, there are but few people within the movement that advocate Marixst philosophy as a whole. They don’t tend to advocate shared ownership of the means of production, they do not advocate for or consider history to be class warfare. They do not advocate any kind of syndicalism related policies, or anything that goes beyond a decrease in income and wealth disparity. So while some members might happily or even proudly say they are Marxist, this should be taken with a grain of salt. That is not to say, of course, that any kind of criticism of the BLM movement’s affinity with some Marxist-sourced policies is out of place. However, just saying they are Marxist, is not in any way an argument against BLM.
Defund the police
Another big issue is the now famous slogan “defund the police”. This phrase sounds very confronting and worrying. After all, we will still need law enforcement even when fully equal rights and opportunity are achieved. Crime will not stop, of course.
However, the idea behind “defunding the police” isn’t to defund them all the way to $0. That would be abolishing the police, rather they propose to lower the police budget, so that police can specialise in more serious affairs. A graph shown in the NYTimes, tells us that police calls only concern violent crimes 4% of the time. Some other factors here, are medical or other calls, proactive calls (in which a crime hasn’t yet been committed), property crime, “other crime”, traffic incidents and between 37 and 32% noncriminal. The suggestion here, then, is to leave the police for actual criminal calls, or even only violent crime calls, and to use the leftover money to fund other institutions to take on the situations in which police aren’t necessary after this specialization. Not only will this eventually, likely, be cheaper. It would also mean that we don’t need people with guns policing people who don’t need to be policed with guns.
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