Baltimore – The scandal is not that we are killed, but that they force us to live like that
19th of April 2015, Fredie Gray is dead, another dead from police brutality. Baltimore erupts a week later. Big demonstrations, shops being burned and looted, followed by severe clashes with the police, which result in the call of the national guard to bring back the city in “order”.
What is the link with the past? Doesn’t it resemble the story that we have heard in LA the 65? Or all around US after the death of Martin Luther King? Or later in LA again at 92? Or even last year in Missouri, with the death of Michael Brown? Which are the differences in these cases? Does black life matter?
To the last question the answer is yes, but it matters as much as the life of disposable people matter. The society of the consumption, just consumes them.
For the other questions, a passage from a text describing the riots of 65 in LA, it may help us:
“The Watts riot was not a racial conflict: the rioters left alone the whites who were in their path, attacking only the white policemen, while on the other hand black solidarity did not extend to black store-owners or even to black car-drivers. Martin Luther King himself had to admit that the revolt went beyond the limits of his specialty. Speaking in Paris, he said: “This was not a race riot. It was a class riot.”
Ok this is not anything new, but has anything changed from the past? An answer can be found by just observing some pictures: In the riots of 65 or 92 we were observing people expropriating stores, and somebody could blame them, for being obsessed consumerists, by expropriating new TVs, sound systems, etc. But now things seem different. The image of a guy raising the toilet paper that he has taken, cannot be misunderstood. People rioting, have needs that they need to serve. The financial crisis but also the neoliberal policies that have been followed over the last decades have sharpened the class differences and brought them to the extremes.
Baltimore finds itself among the poorest cities in the US. In the region of the riots one out of two citizens is unemployed, one out of three lives under the standard of poverty and one out of three houses is uninhabited, due to the financial crisis which started from the real estate sector.
Of course the dominant ideology use the classical ways to blame the rioters, like young delinquents, who do not care for anything but just to create chaos allover. Although the vocabulary used can be updated: the new term “Thugs” was introduceded for those that they chose to get out on the streets, and struggle against the death of another citizen among others. A human struggle against an inhuman life.
They are promised that, with patience, they will join in America’s prosperity, but they come to see that this prosperity is not a fixed state but an endless ladder. The higher they climb, the farther they get from the top, because they start off disadvantaged, because they are less qualified and thus more numerous among the unemployed, and finally because the hierarchy that crushes them is not based on economic buying power alone: they are also treated as inherently inferior in every area of daily life by the customs and prejudices of a society in which all human power is based on buying power.
What these people are really daring to demand is the right to have a real life, they ask for life and not for survival and in the final analysis this requires nothing less than the total subversion of this society.