Readers’ Forum—Lou Hinman

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We all know things that we can’t “prove”.  I know, for example, that the killings and beatings of unarmed black men by the police and prison guards are not “the appearance” of racism, nor are they exceptions, mistakes, or isolated incidents.  They are part of a racist culture, and they terrorize entire communities.  Furthermore, they are meant to do this, and the bi-partisan political establishment — the ultimate enablers of the police — want us to be afraid.

I was part way through Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond when I came across the op-ed “Why Don’t You Just Call the Cops?” that Desmond co-wrote with Andrew Papachristos in the New York Times.

They showed, by a statistical analysis of 911 calls, that there was a drastic reduction of such calls to the police from the black community in Milwaukee in the period following a front-page story covering the savage and unprovoked beating of a black man by on- and off-duty Milwaukee policemen in 2004.  The police chief of Milwaukee, Edward Flynn, dismissed their findings — attributing the decline to a glitch in the 911 system.  But Desmond and Papachristos showed that it was not all 911 calls that declined — only 911 calls to the police!

Desmond and Papachristos are in the tradition of courageous activist intellectuals and writers like Franz Fanon and Jean-Paul Sartre (The Wretched of the Earth), Rosa Luxemburg (The Accumulation of Capital), Otto René Castillo (Apolitical Intellectuals), Émile Zola (J’Accuse), and Fred Newman (philosopher and independent political activist), who have used their scientific training, their analytic skills, and their literary gifts (always at some personal risk) to expose the fallacies, obfuscations, and outright lies of the political establishment and their official apologists and “explainers”.

As for Evicted, it exposes how slum housing (whose value should have long since been depreciated to zero in any reasonable system of accounting) is a source of large profits for the banks that hold the mortgages, and how the poorest Americans are kept in a state of poverty, dependence, and insecurity by paying most of whatever income they have to keep a decaying roof over their heads.

It also shows how some of the more  privileged and enterprising members of poor communities are coopted into this exploitative system, becoming small-time landlords themselves, while they fulfill a larger purpose as enforcers for the banks.

Evicted also suggests how, in lieu of decent affordable housing and jobs at living wages, government subsidies for the poor (the “safety net”) keep the poor marginal and powerless, and simultaneously subsidize the landlords and banks that profit from their misery.  (If you want to learn more about this in horrifying detail, be sure to see Daniel Hatcher’s important new study, The Poverty Industry.) 

But probably the most important thing to say about Evicted is that for those of us who have never been without a place to sleep at night, it paints a vivid picture of what such a life is like for the human beings who live it.

Lou Hinman is an independent activist living in New York City.

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Politics for the People Conference Call

With Matthew Desmond

Sunday, October 23rd at 7 pm EST

Call In Number: 641 715-3605

Access code 767775#

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1 Comment

  1. I know of this article. I did not really read it. The faith in the police is lost, when rogue cops are not punished for their misconduct, when they are caught, and there is evidence to support such actions. The faith in the police are lost, when a “racist” justice system through the actions of prosecutors, and the grand juries, will not indict such officers. The faith is police is lost when the Media takes the crime, and changes the narrative to criminalize the character of the victim, and justify the actions of the offending officer(s), despite the fact that there are witness that have seen differently, and their voices are suppressed, because their stories do not fit the propaganda that the Media wants to portray. The faith in the police is lost when the Internet has exposed how corrupt they really are in a system that serves and protects some, while it oppresses, and persecutes others. The faith in the police is lost when some of their numbers enact systems of intimidation, and control like an organized gang, that controls parts of a neighborhood for criminal activities, and the unsuspecting victim(s) of these actions will be terrified of that “blue uniform” that intercepts them just because they can. It does not matter if a person is minding their own business, and is doing anything wrong, or bothering anybody. The faith in the police is lost when their presence is viewed as an occupation, instead of a presence that insures civility and justice for the average American Citizen. The faith in the police is lost when there is an active nationwide genocide against mostly, unarmed black men, and there is no justice to be had. The faith in the police is lost when the “blackness” of skin–regardless of “the level of shade of that blackness”, is under a state of “pre-criminalization”, whether that person knows it not. The reinforcement of this perceived pre-criminalization is the 1996 Hillary Clinton remark of “Super Predators” during her speech. This set the stage, and laid that groundwork for a generation of Black Americans to be locked away in a prison industrialized system that has greatly profited from all this, and has contributed to the massive social depravation of black communities in American Society across the Nation. Yet–if you take the past Media reports of the Democratic Primary at face value. Hillary Clinton owns 80 percent or more of the Black vote. The disease of political ignorance, and knowledge of self, greatly infects the Black Consciousness in the United States of America.

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