Democrats have tried to tackle race inequality before and they were shut down by Conservatives in the Republican Party, some of whom are racists who never got over losing the Civil War and who nursed their racial myths, hated Northern liberals, and felt that the generals who lost the Civil War were heroes. There are Americans who seem to think that wiping out Americans of African Descent, brought here by their own ancestors into slavery, is justified; that they should be terrorized and killed, either separately or in groups until they leave. (America is their country; where would they go?) At least a campaign to decimate this population appears to be true if you keep track of black deaths at the hands of white folks and the police. In 2020 a law was just introduced by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker that would make lynching illegal. Do you know any white folks who were ever lynched?
In the 60’s the nation was made aware of the dissatisfaction of our fellow citizens with black and brown skin. The Black Panthers showed America what it could be like if black Americans decided to get really angry and militant. Citizen demonstrations by black Americans arose in a number of American cities and neighborhoods. Perhaps you heard about the demonstrations in Watts which turned destructive and were labeled as “riots.” Race “riots” were effective in that they scared legislators into thinking about laws that could be passed and actions that could be taken. Solutions split into two camps. One group, mostly composed of liberals, agreed that our treatment of our black neighbors had been appalling and that what was needed was an investment of time and money and opportunity focused on lifting up black folks in our inner cities for the most part. Of course, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so bigger cities got more resources. During the administration of LBJ programs to educate and offer good health care and encourage entrepreneurship in our cities proliferated.
Republican legislators were frightened by the violence enough to try these lefty ideas although they hated them and never let Democrats forget that they felt this approach was wrong. Even then Republicans had no faith that the government could solve societal or economic problems. But what they really believed is that Black Americans were lazy and flawed and that they were incapable of adopting the behaviors of successful white folks. They were uneducable and had no work ethic. They were simply a bunch of drunks and criminals and any money spent on such programs would be wasted money. They sabotaged these programs with one hand while they voted for them with the other. They added rules and restrictions that made taking part in many of these programs embarrassing or difficult. The government built housing but only in certain neighborhoods where poverty practically guaranteed that the building would be substandard and overcrowded. There was optimism on the left and the self-fulfilling prophecy of predictions of failure on the right; in fact, Conservatives Republicans made sure that failure was built in so they could say ‘I told you so.’
Then the right came back in the 80’s and 90’s and claimed that these programs had been abject failures; that they had no effect on lifting up inner city black folks. The self-fulfilling prophecy ‘bombs’ built into the programs had muffled their effectiveness. But it was not true that no one was lifted up. The number of Americans of African Descent in the middle class grew. Head Start programs did help children do better in school. Small businesses did spring up, but without any nurturing from above they often failed and added to the burden of hopelessness. Home ownership improved for a few, but because of redlining many people were imprisoned in their inner city neighborhoods without the resources to find housing in diverse, upscale neighborhoods or they owned homes that were undervalued. Real estate is at the base of much generational wealth. Such wealth could only be found in the inner cities residents felt by becoming a professional athlete, a musician, or engaging in some form of criminal or gang activity. Imagine if these were the only choices white children had?
As the programs failed and some in the inner cities turned to gangs for power and family loyalty, criminal activity increased in our inner cities. Guns appeared on our city streets. Families in these neighborhoods who hoped for a better future for their children found that their children got sucked into gangs, each with a pitifully small turf of city territory that they had to protect and defend against intrusion by other gangs. Did anyone get rich? A few gang leaders flashed cash and fancy cars, but it did not trickle down to the regular troops. Gangs have ended up being a sort of pyramid scheme. Conservatives began to slip the words ‘law and order’ into every conversation. What they meant is that we need our police forces to declare war on these behaviors and put these criminals, big and small, young and old, but only black or brown or poor, into jail cells. Getting them off the streets will solve the problems. They were successful at busting gangs, using old mafia laws, like RICO laws to convict in the courts. “Being nice to them won’t work”, Republican said. “We told you so. Put the fear of the law in them. Let them live out their lives in prison.” It became a kind of exile right here in America. Racists avoided having to find a nation or an island to ship people of color off to. Did it work? Did our inner cities become oases of civil society, the arts and opportunities to advance economically. No ‘law and order’ did not work. No, although our cities contain many creative and positive elements we could not exactly grant them oasis status.
So, here we are once again, trying to find out how to rid ourselves of our racism and of the damage it does to black and brown Americans and to the ideals America was supposed to stand for. And we are divided in exactly the same ways we have always been. Democrats still say that opportunity, that welcoming Americans of African Descent into diverse communities with great schools and lots of adult mentoring for any children who struggle educationally is the only correct pathway out of racial discrimination and inequality. Once we recover from the economic setbacks of the coronavirus, reparations to make up for the lack of chances to build up generational wealth, for the land robbed from black folks, for the lives destroyed or ended, would definitely be in order.
But Democrats are not in control and the current administration, right down to the lowliest new Republican representative or senator believes that ‘law and order,’ the baton and the tear gas, the hoses and the rubber bullets, the dogs and the real bullets are the only language that black and brown Americans will understand. They see no injustice here. All they see is people flaunting the rule of law and the power brokers. They still refuse to accept that their own hatred and fear caused the tragic suppression of black and brown people in America. Until Republicans are voted out, and Conservatives are ignored to become a circular echo chamber pontificating only to each other, until then, we cannot do the things that need to be done; pass the laws that need to be passed, spend the resources that need to be spent and try, just try to humbly apologize for what has been done and what has not been done. And then we have other shortcomings to make up for as well. Do not let that ‘law and order’ cry win the day. Vote in the Democrats and since we are a big tent party we will find ways to lose racism forever and to try, once again, to live up to the uncompromised ideals of the American republic/democracy. If the Democrats lose in 2020 you get Trump’s Troops and apparently the entire military might of the United States in our streets. Republicans cannot and will not change the way they think; their atavistic attitudes.