December 28, 2015

BALTIMORE AND THE RIOT IDEOLOGY, REBORN. At City Journal, Fred Siegel writes:

Mayor Rawlings-Blake called in Al Sharpton and fired police chief Anthony Batts, who had tried to upgrade the police department but became the fall guy for the mayor’s failings. Baltimore today is demarcated by white enclaves and by those African-American areas defined by the gangsta rap culture where, in a parody of the segregated South, honor is all and disrespect requires the “satisfaction” of personally delivered revenge. But while the streets have been ceded to thugs in those neighborhoods, it’s not politically acceptable in Baltimore to describe rioters in such terms. At the height of the protests, when the mayor announced that the National Guard would be deployed and a citywide curfew imposed, she also referred to the rioters as “thugs.” She was then forced to apologize for her candor, reclassifying the miscreants as “misguided young people.”

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, the crews and the gangsta rappers singing about the need to “Fuck the Police” are preferable to the cops. The cops, complains Coates, “lord over” young black men with “the moral authority of a protection racket.” There is a touch of truth in this. But, Coates goes on, the problem with the police “is not that they are fascist pigs but that our country is ruled by majoritarian pigs.” The solution, he implies, is a black population released from the ideals of the American dream and from the “false morality” of white Americans. For Coates, blacks can only be freed from racism after whites have been emancipated from capitalism.

A man, a city, a movement, and a moment have met: West Baltimore has, for the time being, been liberated from American morality. Let’s judge Coates’s vision on how that plays out.

Read the whole thing. If you’d like a sneak preview as to how “Coates’s vision” might play out, those last two paragraphs sound eerily reminiscent of some of the passages from Zev Chafets’ brilliant 1990 book Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit, including this quote from Arthur Johnson (1925-2011), at the time of Chafet’s book, the president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP and a vice-president at Wayne State University:

“Detroit has helped nurture a new black mentality,” Johnson said, pounding his desk for emphasis. “More than any other city, blacks here make an issue of where you live. If you’re with us, you’ll find a place in the city.”Whites often say, in their own defense, that many middle-class blacks also leave the city at the first opportunity. I mentioned this to Johnson, but he waved it away. “The majority of the black middle class is here. We are engaged in the most determined, feverish effort to save Detroit. Why? Because Detroit is special. It’s the first major city in the United States to have taken on the symbols of a black city. It has elected a strong, powerful black mayor, powerful in both his personality and his office. Detroit, more than anywhere else, has gathered power and put it in black hands.”

* * * * *

But [Coleman Young, Detroit’s Democrat mayor from 1974 to 1994] has done more than broaden access to the pork barrel. Under him, Detroit has become not merely an American city that happens to have a black majority, but a black metropolis, the first major Third World city in the United States. The trappings are all there— showcase projects, black-fisted symbols, an external enemy and the cult of personality. Detroit has even developed a quasi-official ideology that regards the pre– Young era as a time of white colonialism, ended by the 1967 insurrection and its aftermath. An official city publication describes the police department as having been “a hostile white army, entrusted by white authorities with the job of keeping nonwhites penned up in ghettoes.”

* * * * * * * *

[Ron] Hewitt is the planner for America’s sixth largest city, once the symbol of the country’s industrial power. But the old myths of the Arsenal of Democracy mean little to him. “As a people we have more soul, we are more spiritual than others,” he said. “Our technology will be tempered by that soul. If white folks could leave us alone and give us the resources, we could solve our own problems.”

That’s worked out perfectly fine for all concerned, right?

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