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Author Topic: Baltimore, "Black culture" and satire as a tool of enlightenment
Samprimary
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdSsBYO1oNI

Required viewing for anyone getting ready to offer their insight into such things!

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Mucus
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Obviously, its supposed to be satire.

But personally, I feel that there should be more attention paid to why some people feel that it's acceptable to riot after surfing competitions, or hockey games, or soccer games.
So that aspect kinda falls flat.

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JanitorBlade
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I want to know why some people think rioting and looting are ever OK.

Oh, nobody paid attention to you before you started breaking and stealing innocent people's things? You should try blowing yourself up instead, it's done wonders for other people's causes facing the same lack of interest!

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GaalDornick
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quote:
I want to know why some people think rioting and looting are ever OK.
I don't think there are people who rationally think rioting and looting are ever OK.

I'd bet deep down the people who engage in those things know they're doing it for their own benefit and not for a social cause.

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King of Men
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I opine that if you're going to use violence to protest police corruption, a riot is spectacularly inefficient. Get together five hundred men with guns, ideally rifles, and storm the police station. Shoot everyone you can get your hands on. Seize whatever weapons they have, free anyone in a holding cell, trash the paperwork and computers, torch the place. Leave before the National Guard arrives. That's the way to get your point across using violence.
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Dogbreath
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I think the point here is that in any given population of young men there will be a handful that engage in dangerous, irresponsible, or violent behavior, and that trying to establish some correlation between their said destructive behavior and their racial or cultural group so you can pompously and self-righteously criticize "black culture", rather than, you know, acknowledging that This Is Something Humans Do is pretty profoundly disingenuous and stupid.

It doesn't mean they're trying to say it's OK to riot and loot. It's a critique on some of the absurdly racist reporting on the issue.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I opine that if you're going to use violence to protest police corruption, a riot is spectacularly inefficient. Get together five hundred men with guns, ideally rifles, and storm the police station. Shoot everyone you can get your hands on. Seize whatever weapons they have, free anyone in a holding cell, trash the paperwork and computers, torch the place. Leave before the National Guard arrives. That's the way to get your point across using violence.

lol
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scifibum
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It's sad that a small minority engaging in violence and looting are used by some to attempt to discredit the legitimacy of the protests. In fact, there wouldn't be cover for those actions if there weren't a large majority who are there for other reasons. The legitimate issue that gets masses of people onto the streets seems to be a prerequisite for the bad actions of a few opportunists.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
Obviously, its supposed to be satire.

But personally, I feel that there should be more attention paid to why some people feel that it's acceptable to riot after surfing competitions, or hockey games, or soccer games.

So that aspect kinda falls flat.

Do you expect that there might be some general moral differences worth considering between

- a community engaging in a riot because of a sports win

versus

- a community engaging in a riot because of extraordinary events of police brutality against them, protected by its own systemic corruption?

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Mucus
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The former is more problematic, which as I reiterate seems to be a flaw in the piece. We're more convinced that white culture (whether it be the old white boys club in Wall Street as represented by Steve Cohen or rioting sports fans) needs a closer look than that black culture deserves a pass. If they had picked a less convincing example, then we might be more inclined to reject both criticisms to be consistent. But because it *is* convincing, we're more inclined to throw the white community under the bus which seems contrary to the intent of the piece I would have thought.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I opine that if you're going to use violence to protest police corruption, a riot is spectacularly inefficient. Get together five hundred men with guns, ideally rifles, and storm the police station. Shoot everyone you can get your hands on. Seize whatever weapons they have, free anyone in a holding cell, trash the paperwork and computers, torch the place. Leave before the National Guard arrives. That's the way to get your point across using violence.

Worked in Kiev, to be fair.
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Risuena
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quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:
I want to know why some people think rioting and looting are ever OK.

Well, here are some POVs from West Baltimore

quote:
It's not that Stewart is completely for the riots that erupted Monday after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died on April 19 after suffering a spinal injury while in police custody. But his personal experiences with the police and general hopelessness about the way people like he and Gray — who he says was a neighborhood acquaintance — are treated won't let him be too strongly against them, either.

"At the end of the day I don't condone them setting stores on fire," he said from his perch just blocks from where Gray lived, in the city's Gilmor Homes (locals call it "Gilmor Projects") public housing development, on a dark street with faded multicolored rowhouses. "But it got the point across. Do I condone what they did? Hell no. Am I okay with it? Yes, I am. Because at the end of the day, you mean to tell me it takes 3,000 people to go all around one town for the mayor and the president to say something about what goes on in Baltimore? It should have been happening for years."


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Destineer
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I think the people who are being violent are making a mistake, obviously. But it's unreasonable to expect people to act in accordance with the greater good when they've been so badly provoked. Not that it wouldn't be better if they made better decisions, but you can't blame them.

That's sort of how I feel about the way Palestinians handle their conflict with Israel a lot of the time, as well.

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Samprimary
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Some more to add to what Risuena added:

Coates on Nonviolence as Compliance -

quote:
The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build "a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds." Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city's police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and "nonviolent." These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question.

quote:
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. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.

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kmbboots
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How many of us were paying attention to the situation in Baltimore (and many other cities) before the riots? How often did the week of peaceful protests lead the national news? These people are invisible to most of us until stuff gets set on fire.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/features/king-challenge.aspx

quote:
Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena. They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions. It enables the most enraged and deprived Negro to take hold of consumer goods with the ease the white man does by using his purse. Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking. But most of all, alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, he is shocking it by abusing property rights. There are thus elements of emotional catharsis in the violent act. This may explain why most cities in which riots have occurred have not had a repetition, even though the causative conditions remain. It is also noteworthy that the amount of physical harm done to white people other than police is infinitesimal and in Detroit whites and Negroes looted in unity.

A profound judgment of today's riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, 'If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.'

The policymakers of the white society have caused the darkness; they create discrimination; they structured slums; and they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society. When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also demand that the white man abide by law in the ghettos. Day-in and day-out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; and he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions for civic services. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them but do not make them any more than a prisoner makes a prison. Let us say boldly that if the violations of law by the white man in the slums over the years were calculated and compared with the law-breaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the white man. These are often difficult things to say but I have come to see more and more that it is necessary to utter the truth in order to deal with the great problems that we face in our society. - Martin Luther King Jr.

That being said, there is evidence that the blame for the escalation from peaceful protest to riot can be laid at more than one doorstep.

http://www.citypaper.com/bcpnews-how-drunk-sports-fans-helped-spark-saturday-nights-violence-20150428,0,75331.story

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/how-baltimore-riots-began-mondawmin-purge

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Risuena
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Some more to add to what Risuena added:

Coates on Nonviolence as Compliance -

quote:
The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build "a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds." Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city's police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and "nonviolent." These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question.


To add to this, I was watching local Baltimore coverage of the violence on Monday night. At one point, a teenager was interviewed near one of the fires and he basically said, "They took away our schools and rec centers"

Additionally, it's hard to overstate how dire the circumstances are in Freddie Gray's neighborhood - even just compared to the rest of Baltimore.

quote:
Economically, Gray’s neighborhood and the adjacent Harlem Park were found to be a disaster zone, with an unemployment rate of one in five (nearly double that of Baltimore as a whole), almost a third of families living in poverty, and more than half of all households earning less than $25,000 a year. Abandoned lots and unsound housing conditions were exceedingly common, with almost a quarter of all the neighborhood’s buildings standing vacant (compared with 5 percent of buildings across all of Baltimore) and the rate of lead paint violations almost four times as high as it was citywide. (According to a lawsuit filed by the Gray family against their landlord, Gray and his two sisters were all found to have “damaging lead levels in their blood.”)

Those underlying conditions are bad enough, obviously. But the Health Department report doesn’t get truly shocking until you read about what actually happens in Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park. For starters, look at the juvenile arrest rate: Citywide, Baltimore saw 145.1 kids out of every thousand arrested between 2005 and 2009; in Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park, that number was 252.3. As the Baltimore Sun pointed out in an op-ed, that means a quarter of all 10-to-17-year-olds in Gray’s neighborhood were arrested at some point during the time period in question. (A separate study, published this past February, found that Sandtown-Winchester had sent more of its people to state prison than any other census tract in Maryland.)


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kmbboots
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People keep posting Freddie Gray's "rap sheet" to show how he, apparently, deserved what was done to him. (As if a list of petty possession charges should warrant paralyzation and death.) Not, mind you, his record of convictions, but his arrest record. To me, it shows police harassment rather than a bad kid. With the history of "rough rides" given by the Baltimore police, it is no wonder the kid ran.
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Samprimary
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The rough rides under O'malley were extremely conspicuously brutal and inexcusable for years. The dude was essentially practicing a version of Broken Windows Theory on steroids. In specific parts of Baltimore (aka, "the black parts") being a black male absolutely guaranteed most of you weekly or even daily harassment by police. Most of us, not having grown to accept the idea as commonplace and not having been taught by experience that it was beyond our power to escape, would not have ever been able to live with it.
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kmbboots
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No charges for death of Anthony Anderson while in police custody.

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. … The most sensational case in Baltimore involved Johnson, a 43-year-old plumber who was arrested for public urination. He was handcuffed and placed in a transport van in good health. He emerged a quadriplegic.

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JanitorBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
I think the people who are being violent are making a mistake, obviously. But it's unreasonable to expect people to act in accordance with the greater good when they've been so badly provoked.

No see that's precisely it. It's precisely when the greater good is so difficult to steer towards that we dig in even deeper. What value does good have if we only have to stick to it when it's priced low?

I feel like we already learned this lesson with the Boston Massacre. It didn't matter how passionately you hated the British presence in America. Assaulting sentries at their posts warranted a deadly response. If you wanted to raise any army to kick them out, fine.

If you want the resist police brutality, fine. If you want to set yourself on fire so people pay attention, fine. If you want to destroy and steal people's property to raise awareness, piss off, you don't get to force me or any other innocent to become part of your statement.

Besides your statement is no longer just, "The police are oppressive." It then becomes "The police are oppressive, and so am I."

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Samprimary
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No, I think it becomes more "The police are oppressive, but look that handful of people the police are repressing are acting not completely peacefully to this repression! This must now be more about what the black community is failing to do to police itself"

or really, to tie it back to the original post ... the sentiment of the satirical video, squared.

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Samprimary
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quote:
I'm in little position to pass judgment on the behavior of people so beaten down that they have little hope. I'm certainly not in a position to offer the tired white liberal tripe, asking black folks in places like Baltimore to sit quietly and trust the system, waiting for me and those like me to rescue them through legitimate democratic means. While rioting, looting, and lighting stuff on fire is certainly not a productive way to achieve equality and real civil rights, I won't lie to these people and tell them that by doing so, they're undermining progress that might have been made through legitimate protesting.

That's because I understand the unfortunate reality that powers this kind of destructive protesting. That is - these people are aware in a way I can never be aware, that whether they choose to jump on cars, sing Civil Rights hymns, hold signs, or stage peaceful letter writing campaigns to their local congressperson, the situation is going to stay mostly the same.

Why do you see destructive rioting and looting? It's not because people think it's the best way to get things done. It's because the people have finally come to realize that no matter what they do, nothing gets done. No matter how loud they scream, the system still crushes them under its weighty wheels.


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JanitorBlade
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There's no question in my mind that institutional racism is terrible, and it must stop. That the police have a huge problem with it. That the justice system has a huge problem with it. That even I have problems with it.

We should pay more attention to the people protesting peacefully. But if we can't agree on something easy like, "Looting is awful, and shouldn't happen."

How can we possibly deal with something like racism which is often an invisibly committed?

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kmbboots
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Honestly, you would rather oppressed people burned themselves to death than inflicted property damage? "I'm sorry you are being oppressed but if you want me to pay attention you must commit suicide in an excruciating way."

I may be being presumptuous, but I think I know you well enough to believe you don't really think that.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:
There's no question in my mind that institutional racism is terrible, and it must stop. That the police have a huge problem with it. That the justice system has a huge problem with it. That even I have problems with it.

We should pay more attention to the people protesting peacefully. But if we can't agree on something easy like, "Looting is awful, and shouldn't happen."

How can we possibly deal with something like racism which is often an invisibly committed?

My issue with your remarks isn't your stance on rioting, which is stupid, self destructive, and distracting from the issues that caused it in the first place, in the case of most riots. My criticism of your remarks has to do with the indignant, shocked disapproval I am reading in your tone, perhaps too much.

Step on a community long enough, give them a few big, hateful punctuation marks such as brutal police deaths or maiming, and eventually rioting will happen unless that downtrodden population is so effectively tyrannized that they never get the chance. There is also the problem of a week of nonviolent protest not working, which really helps crank the dial up a few more degrees.

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JanitorBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Honestly, you would rather oppressed people burned themselves to death than inflicted property damage? "I'm sorry you are being oppressed but if you want me to pay attention you must commit suicide in an excruciating way."

I may be being presumptuous, but I think I know you well enough to believe you don't really think that.

I would rather people not victimize the innocent to serve their own aims however righteous they may be.

Buddhists, and even the Falun Gong have self-immolated and it seems to get people's attention. I don't want anybody to kill themselves, but I respect that sort of action *far* more than committing violence against the innocent.

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Risuena
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quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:
We should pay more attention to the people protesting peacefully. But if we can't agree on something easy like, "Looting is awful, and shouldn't happen."

How can we possibly deal with something like racism which is often an invisibly committed?

That's the thing - we haven't been paying attention. In the case of Baltimore, these neighborhoods were destroyed in 1968 and never rebuilt. Nearly 50 years later, the residents of the neighborhoods have gotten tired of being ignored, being harrased, being brutalized. Can you blame them for rioting under those circumstances, especially when it's the first time anyone's paid attention during most of their lifetimes?

I have friends who have lived in Baltimore all their lives and have never even heard of the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, that's how forgotten and ignored these people are.

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JanitorBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:
There's no question in my mind that institutional racism is terrible, and it must stop. That the police have a huge problem with it. That the justice system has a huge problem with it. That even I have problems with it.

We should pay more attention to the people protesting peacefully. But if we can't agree on something easy like, "Looting is awful, and shouldn't happen."

How can we possibly deal with something like racism which is often an invisibly committed?

My issue with your remarks isn't your stance on rioting, which is stupid, self destructive, and distracting from the issues that caused it in the first place, in the case of most riots. My criticism of your remarks has to do with the indignant, shocked disapproval I am reading in your tone, perhaps too much.

Step on a community long enough, give them a few big, hateful punctuation marks such as brutal police deaths or maiming, and eventually rioting will happen unless that downtrodden population is so effectively tyrannized that they never get the chance. There is also the problem of a week of nonviolent protest not working, which really helps crank the dial up a few more degrees.

An action being understandable does not remove our obligation to respond to it correctly. I understand why my kid tried to smash in my car window because he woke up prematurely and was super tired/grumpy, but he's still getting punished for attempting it.

When the police commit acts of violence it's all about how scared they are and that people try to kill them. Is it OK then? So why is this OK now?

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scifibum
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quote:
When the police commit acts of violence it's all about how scared they are and that people try to kill them.
No, that's not why they toss people around in the backs of vans.

quote:
An action being understandable does not remove our obligation to respond to it correctly.
It does change what the correct response is, sometimes. If you poke a dog until it bites you, it's probably not a good candidate for putting down. The correct response is to stop poking it.

A crucial part of the correct response to the riots in Baltimore is to provide meaningful redress for the oppression some of them have endured. Until movement is made in that direction, tut-tutting isn't going to help.

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Elison R. Salazar
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I opine that if you're going to use violence to protest police corruption, a riot is spectacularly inefficient. Get together five hundred men with guns, ideally rifles, and storm the police station. Shoot everyone you can get your hands on. Seize whatever weapons they have, free anyone in a holding cell, trash the paperwork and computers, torch the place. Leave before the National Guard arrives. That's the way to get your point across using violence.

Actually the Black Panthers in California did the the more ideal version of protesting police brutality and systemic injustice, by doing what white people were doing and armed themselves with assault rifles while calmly observing police interactions with members of the black community in order to deter brutality.

It worked too well because the NRA and Gov. Ronald Reagon banned public carry of fire arms.

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Rakeesh
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That your first comparison was to go to a misbehaving child with yourself as the stern, correcting parent here...well. It's not a damming comparison or anything, but it's a bit problematic.

The statement about police brutality *is* very problematic. I disagree strongly that police brutality such as happens in Baltimore is because police fear for their lives. One of the most incendiary cases documented in the Baltimore Sun report involves a grandmother, 84 or 94? Well past 70 at least, who came away from cops with a broken arm.

They ain't scared of a literal little old lady, BB.

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Elison R. Salazar
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Even "peaceful protesting" like blocking traffic is met with violent police reprisals, there's not much communities can do but might as well go the whole way because the response is the same.
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JanitorBlade
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A dog biting a person who pokes it is not doing anything wrong. It's not the same thing. A dog that has been poked over and over and so now tries to attack all people is what we are talking about.
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JanitorBlade
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Rakeesh:
quote:
That your first comparison was to go to a misbehaving child with yourself as the stern, correcting parent here...well. It's not a damming comparison or anything, but it's a bit problematic.
I so knew somebody was going to go there. I already made the comparison to the Boston Massacre, nobody said anything there.


quote:
The statement about police brutality *is* very problematic. I disagree strongly that police brutality such as happens in Baltimore is because police fear for their lives. One of the most incendiary cases documented in the Baltimore Sun report involves a grandmother, 84 or 94? Well past 70 at least, who came away from cops with a broken arm.

They ain't scared of a literal little old lady, BB.

You are misunderstanding me. I don't buy it from the police, why should I buy it from civilians burning a store down?
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:

We should pay more attention to the people protesting peacefully.

And then when the country doesn't?
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Jon Boy
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Great moments in peaceful protest history: the appropriate way to get what you want!
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JanitorBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:

We should pay more attention to the people protesting peacefully.

And then when the country doesn't?
There are precedents for it.
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Rakeesh
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BB, don't have time now but your point about referring to one comparison and not the other is fair. Wanted to say that before I forgot.
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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Honestly, you would rather oppressed people burned themselves to death than inflicted property damage? "I'm sorry you are being oppressed but if you want me to pay attention you must commit suicide in an excruciating way."

I may be being presumptuous, but I think I know you well enough to believe you don't really think that.

I don't recommend self-immolation by any means but I have two issues with the rioting. The first being that I assume the people whose property is getting damaged are more likely to be victims of brutality and citizens of the bad neighborhoods versus the cops and public officials who looked the other way. I also doubt they were insured

The second, is that many of the people who are not inclined to side with the people rioting in the first place are now well aware that there are riots in Baltimore. They do not know why people are rioting, or about the rough rides programs or the settlements mentioned in the Atlantic article. There's a lot of talk about how it's everyone's job to educate themselves on these issues, but that's not what actually happens.

I'll just leave these two articles here.

http://gawker.com/baltimore-is-a-shithole-undisturbed-peace-at-the-mar-1700526944

http://www.rhinotimes.com/uncle-orson-reviews-everything-42%2c-baltimore%2c-fresh%2c-cause-of-all-nations.html

Not that I have more productive suggestions for convincing the people in these articles, because I don't.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
quote:
When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state ...

If its accepted that I'm acting as a representative of the US state, I have a few more announcements to make [Wink]
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Risuena
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This is a pretty compelling article to me - Is It An 'Uprising' Or A 'Riot'? Depends On Who's Watching

I pretty openly side with the protestors, but when I think about what is happening as an "uprising," I'm much more sympathetic towards it then when thinking about it as a "riot".

I think it's probably both - there are certainly people who are just there to cause trouble, commit violence, etc. But I'm sure there are awful lot of people who view this as an uprising and are out there to exert their rights.

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Mucus
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quote:
In the Sandtown neighborhood, many Asian-owned businesses were targeted for destruction. NPR's Nurith Aizenman visited a street close to the scene of Freddie Gray's arrest where Asian shop owners are assessing the damage.

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/30/403231749/baltimore-unrest-reveals-tensions-between-african-americans-and-asian-owned-busi

While it can make sense to some white people to advocate violence and sacrifices by Asian Americans in order to convince a different group of white people of a political message, it should not be forgotten that real people get screwed. If this unfolds anything like with the LA riots, many of these explicitly targeted Asian American businesses will never re-open and people will lose their livelihoods.

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theamazeeaz
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^^ That was one of the points I was trying to making about why the rioting was bad.
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JanitorBlade
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Police officers are being charged with murder and manslaughter.

I must admit that there is a very good chance these charges wouldn't have been filed if people hadn't been out in the streets.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
quote:
In the Sandtown neighborhood, many Asian-owned businesses were targeted for destruction. NPR's Nurith Aizenman visited a street close to the scene of Freddie Gray's arrest where Asian shop owners are assessing the damage.

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/30/403231749/baltimore-unrest-reveals-tensions-between-african-americans-and-asian-owned-busi

While it can make sense to some white people to advocate violence and sacrifices by Asian Americans in order to convince a different group of white people of a political message, it should not be forgotten that real people get screwed. If this unfolds anything like with the LA riots, many of these explicitly targeted Asian American businesses will never re-open and people will lose their livelihoods.

I heard that story. The audio of her being interviewed was awful:( if I'm thinking of the same one, she was taunted by someone for having been looted.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by JanitorBlade:
Police officers are being charged with murder and manslaughter.

I must admit that there is a very good chance these charges wouldn't have been filed if people hadn't been out in the streets.

Yeah the situation as it has played out has been a near perfect backdrop for that prosecutor's magnum force opener there.
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Elison R. Salazar
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quote:

About a year ago, I published “The Case for Reparations,” which I thought in many ways was incomplete. It was about housing and how wealth is built in this country and why certain people have wealth and certain other people do not have wealth, and the manifold implications of that, and the roots of that, through slavery, through Jim Crow, indeed through federal, state, and local policy.

The buzzword in that piece was “plunder.” If you want to understand the relationship between African Americans and the country that they inhabit, you must understand that one of the central features of that relationship is plunder—the taking from black people in order to empower other people. Obviously, enslavement, which lasted in this country for 250 years—the period of enslavement in this country is much longer than the period of freedom for black people—is the ultimate plunder. It is nothing but plunder; it is a total of your body, of your family, of your labor, of your everything—of your very essence.

And that plunder enriched this country such that in 1860, at the time of Civil War, the enslaved black population in this country—one-third of which constituted the amount of people living in the South—was worth something on the order of $3 billion, more than all the combined capacity of the nation. All the assets, all the banks, all the railroads, all the nascent factories and businesses in this country put together, were worth less than enslaved black people in this country. So plunder is not incidental to who we are; plunder is not incidental to what America is.

When you think about the period of Jim Crow and the stripping of black people’s right to vote, this is not the mere stripping of some sort of civic ceremony. It’s the stripping of your ability to have any sort of say in how your tax dollars are used. It’s this constant stripping, this taking away of rights that allowed us to enter into a situation that I talk about in “The Case for Reparations,” where—within the 20th century—you have programs being passed by which white families can accumulate masses of wealth through housing. The main group of people who are cut out of that are black people.

That’s federal policy. It’s not just a matter of private evil individuals. We get this picture of these white racists walking around with horns, you know, who use the “n-word” all the time, and I guess look like Cliven Bundy. That’s what we’re looking for, for a bunch of Cliven Bundys. But Cliven Bundy has never really been the threat; it’s the policy that’s the threat. And many of those people, are people who look like you and me—or maybe not quite like me—but who are like me in terms of they’re human beings. They’re mothers and fathers—good people, nice to their neighbors, but these are people who are responsible for policies in our country that leave us where we are.

Now, the reason why I say that piece was incomplete was because there is a methodology, a tool that has been used to make sure that black people are available for plunder. And a major tool in making that process happen has been the criminal justice system. It’s very, very important to understand. I read the governor in the New York Times today and he was saying in the paper that—you know, because it’s going to be a big day tomorrow—he was saying “violence will not be tolerated.” And I thought about that as a young man who’s from West Baltimore and grew up in West Baltimore and I thought about how violence was tolerated for all of my life here in West Baltimore.

When I was going to school, I thought about every little article that I wore when I walked out the house. I thought about who I was walking with. I thought about how many of them there were. I thought about what neighborhoods they were from. I thought about which route I was going to take to school. Once I got to school I thought about what I was going to do during the lunch hour—was I actually going to have lunch or was I going to go sit in the library. When school was dismissed I thought about what time I was going to leave school. I thought about whether I should stay after-school for class. I thought about whether I should take the bus up to my grandmother’s house. I thought about which way I should go home if I was going to go home. Every one of those choices was about the avoidance of violence, about the protection of my body. And so I don’t want to come off as if I’m sympathizing or saying that it is necessarily okay, to inflict violence just out of anger, no matter how legitimate that anger is.

But I have a problem when you begin the clock with the violence on Tuesday. Because the fact of the matter is that the lives of black people in this city, the lives of black people in this country have been violent for a long time. Violence is how enslavement actually happened. People will think of enslavement as like a summer camp, where you just have to work, where you just go and someone gives you food and lodging, but enslavement is violence, it is torture. Torture is how it was made possible. You can’t imagine enslavement without stripping away people’s kids and putting them up for sale. And the way you did that was, you threatened people with violence. Jim Crow was enforced through violence. That was the way things that got done. You didn’t politely ask somebody not to show up and vote. You stood in front of voting booths with guns, that’s what you did. And the state backed this; it was state-backed violence.

Violence is not even in our past. Violence continues today. I was reading a stat that the neighborhood where the “riots” popped-off earlier this week is in fact the most incarcerated portion of the state of Maryland. And this is not surprising. We live in a country where the incarceration rate is 750 per 100,000. Our nearest competitor is allegedly undemocratic Russia at 400 or 500 per 100,000. China has roughly a billion more people than America; America incarcerates 800,000 more people than China. And as bad as that national incarceration rate is, the incarceration rate for black men is somewhere around 4,000 per 100,000. So if you think the incarceration rate for America is bad, for black America it’s somewhere where there is no real historical parallel.

And incarceration is, even in and of itself, a kind of euphemism, a very nice word, for what actually happens when they cart you off and take you to jail for long periods of time. Jails are violent. To survive, you use violence. To be incarcerated in this country is to be subjected to the possibility of sexual assault, is to be subjected to possibility of violence from fellow inmates, to be subjected to violence from guards. And the saddest part of this is that this mirrors the kind of violence that I saw in my neighborhood as a young man in West Baltimore.

There’s a phrase I’ve been thinking about a lot recently by the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn has this great, great quote that I think about all the time: He says in his book The Gulag Archipelago, “Wherever the law is, crime can be found.” And I love this quote—it’s a beautifully written sentence—because it hints at, though it does not say, the human agency in law and what we call people. And so, certain things are violence, and certain things are not. Certain things are the acts committed by thugs, and certain things are the acts committed by the law. And in terms of rendering black people illegitimate, in terms of putting black people in certain boxes where things can be done to them, the vocabulary is very, very important—the law is very, very important—in terms of where we draw the line.

My words, particularly here at Johns Hopkins, and since I’m here at Johns Hopkins—and I’m not out in West Baltimore and I’m not on North Avenue and I’m not at Mondawmin Mall—my words for Johns Hopkins is that you are enrolled in this. You are part of this. You are a great institution here in this city. And I know that the president of Johns Hopkins didn’t ask for this. None of us individuals asked for this. Nobody asked to be part of it. But when you are an American, you’re born into this. And there are young black people who folks on TV are dismissing as thugs and all sorts of other words (I know the mayor apologized, I want to acknowledge that), but people who are being dismissed as thugs—these people live lives of incomprehensible violence.

And I know this! This is not theory here. I’m telling you about what my daily routine was, but I went to school with some kids who I can’t even imagine what the violence was like. It was just beyond anything. You know, I had a safe home, I had people who loved me and took care of me. I can’t imagine how crazy it actually can get.

So when we label these people those sorts of things—when we decide we’re going to pay attention to them when they pick up a rock, and we’re going to call them “violent” when they act out in anger—we’re making a statement. Again, being here in a seat of power, being here at Johns Hopkins—where I’m happy to be, thank you for hosting me—it’s a very influential institution! You’re a part of that! There are powerful people here sitting in the audience who can talk to folks and say, “Maybe we need to change our vocabulary a little bit.” What are we doing to actually mitigate the amount of violence that is in the daily lives of these young people? Let’s not begin the conversation with the “riot,” let’s back up a little bit. Let’s talk about the daily everyday violence that folks live under.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/ta-nehisi-coates-johns-hopkins-baltimore/391904/
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Dogbreath
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Thank you for sharing that, Elison.
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Elison R. Salazar
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When the Stars Are Right even *I* can positively contribute to a thread (Though it is a crosspost from SA).
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Lyrhawn
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I tend to side more with the protesters/rioters/uprisingers/black Baltimoreans, whatever you want to call them, than I do with the law and order folks on this one.

I guess I just don't understand the argument people like BlackBlade are making.

How long are they supposed to wait until they start throwing rocks? A year? Five years? The civil rights movement ended its zenith almost 50 years ago for two main reasons: 1. They'd gotten as far as they could get by asking nicely. 2. Their most powerful leaders were all assassinated.

So it's been decades...when exactly are we expecting the needle to move, and how long can you reasonably expect someone to keep asking nicely before they start demanding? Remember Freedom NOW was the cry in the late 60s when they were tired of asking and started demanding.

In many ways, the situation for blacks in America has really only deteriorated since the end of the Model Cities program when Johnson left office.

So how long is long enough?

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