The Baltimore Protests Aren’t Just About Race, They’re About Income Inequality

Protesters confront police during a demonstration in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 25, 2015, against the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. (AFP Photo/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

Protesters confront police during a demonstration in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 25, 2015, against the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.
(AFP Photo/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

Whenever a national conversation comes up about race as we are seeing currently with the Baltimore protests, there will inevitably be people who try to derail the dialogue and make the disingenuous claims that there’s an incredible amount of racism and prejudice aimed at white folks as well. These people will bring up anecdotal claims about how they have a cousin who was picked on for being white or how Al Sharpton hates white folks, despite not providing any evidence to support their claims. There will be the usual statements about how black Americans “need to get over slavery, it was abolished 150 years ago,” sometimes while complaining about the outcome of the war that freed slaves 150 years ago. Sound familiar?

During Ferguson and now the Baltimore protests, as well as during other cases of excessive force used by police, apologists for racism were quick to claim that the victims “deserved” what happened to them and often stated how they wish the cops would kill more “thugs.”

Through all of this, two central messages from apologists for white racism come through loud and clear: racism in America no longer exists – or it does exist and now white folks are the victim of racism. These people are usually conservatives and point to the looting of a 7-11 by a few people taking advantage of the unrest as representative of the protesters as a whole, but justify the wholesale looting of the American economy by vulture capitalists as “the free market at work.”

Racism in America still exists, and yes, there are people of all skin colors who hate people of other skin colors. One of the most racist people I’ve known while living in Louisiana was a black man who loved to talk about how he hated white men. When I first moved here, I had to find work wherever I could and I ended up working in a restaurant for about a year before finding something better. During that time, I and other employees were repeatedly insulted and verbally abused by this manager who drunkenly took out his anger on any white male he could. Yet, his hatred didn’t come from years of being taught to hate, it came from the fact he was a nasty alcoholic and his wife left him for another man who happened to be white as a result.

Pretending that hatred of white folks is an equal problem as the institutionalized racism against people of color in America is the ongoing narrative on the right. Conservative clickbait websites absolutely love to feature videos of people (usually black) attacking whites (especially women) and hold these up as proof that there’s a huge problem with hatred toward whites. To compare isolated incidents of prejudice toward whites to hundreds of years of slavery, lynchings, segregation and economic exclusion directed at people of color is completely idiotic – but that is what apologists for racism do.

While many wish to paint these Baltimore protests as being solely about race, they’re also about an economic system that favors the wealthiest of Americans – and Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos summed it up beautifully in recent remarks on Twitter. Here’s an excerpt:

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state. (Source)

If America wants to avoid further incidents like Ferguson or the current Baltimore protests, we need to not only address the issue of institutionalized racism, but the lack of jobs and opportunities for the residents of Baltimore as well as other citizens across the United States. Violence is not the answer, but then again, neither is the continuation of decades of trickle-down economics that have left cities like Ferguson, Detroit and Baltimore in ruins.


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