A call for the media and Americans to stop publicizing and concentrating on looting

Robin D. G. Kelley is a Professor, in UCLA’s Department of African American Studies and a Distinguished Professor of History & Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History. His new op-ed in the New York Times asks a provocative question, and I doubt that anybody here is going to say “Yes, property is more valuable than black lives.” But I’m not sure that that sentiment is in fact the case—except, of course, for those Republicans and conservative news outlets who do use looting as an excuse to ignore the sudden but eloquent calls for the elimination of racism.

In fact, although Kelley concentrates on looting, and says that the media emphasizes it as a way to distract attention from the point of the demonstrations, there’s the issue of violence in general, which is the one I’ve concentrated on. There is violence by demonstrators against police and others, and there are plenty of cases of gratuitous violence by the cops. But there is also arson as well as looting.

Here’s the article:

Why looting? Here’s Kelley’s answer (and he notes, correctly, that many of the looters were white, for many whites joined in the protests and also participated in the violence that sometimes ensured):

“Why are they looting?”

It’s asked every time protests against police violence erupt into civil unrest.

We know the answers by now: Poverty, anger, age, rage and a sense of helplessness. For some, it is a form of political violence; for others, destructive opportunism. There appears to be no single motive. That white youth figured prominently among looters during the recent wave of unrest confounds easy explanations.

Often the catalyst is economic — grabbing necessities, stealing goods to sell, snatching luxury items few can afford or retaliating against merchants thought to be exploitative. Looting is theft; it violates the law. But stealing commodities isn’t senseless. Given that we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, looting should not surprise anyone.

Well, maybe we’re not surprised, but this comes close to conflating understanding the phenomenon with excusing it. So let me be clear: what happened to George Floyd was inexcusable, and from what I’ve seen of the video, barbarous and murderous. This has happened to other black people as well. What we need now are investigations of police departments to first determine (as Glenn Loury asks) whether the number of black people murdered in this way reflects racism on the part of the cops, an increased frequency of encounters between cops and black people because of a higher crime rate in poor and black neighborhoods (even with a fixed “kill rate”, this would result in proportionately more deaths of black than of whites at the hands of cops), or a combination of those factors. But in the meantime, black people in America, by and large, still live a life apart, and in my view a lot of that is the residuum of slavery.

Even if Floyd’s death reflects, say, a vicious cop rather than a racist one, it’s still time for black people to demonstrate that America commit itself to ending the lack of opportunity that keeps black people segregated, poor, and subject to bigotry and hostility. We need to channel more money into black and other minority neighborhoods, fix schools, and enact things like affirmative action to ensure that everyone in America has an equal shot at what’s called “the American dream”.

That is my view, and it’s also my view that violence is counterproductive in attaining these goals. Not just looting, but any kind of violence that will give the Right an excuse to not only crack down on protestors, but dismiss their concerns. In fact, you can see this happening on the Right, and it’s one reason why Trump suggested bringing the military into U.S. cities.  It is this reason, and my history of nonviolent views, that make me decry violence on the part of both demonstrators and police. The police will be, well, policed in coming years, but who will counsel nonviolence to the demonstrators. Not people like Kelley. In contrast, it’s very hard to use nonviolent protests as a reason to shut them down.

As his article draws to an end, Kelley, to my mind, undercuts his thesis with a tu quoque argument: American society and police have been violent, too. And that seems to say, “Well, the looters are just doing what everybody has done through history.” To wit:

Our country was built on looting — the looting of Indigenous lands and African labor. African-Americans, in fact, have much more experience being looted than looting. The long history of “race riots” in America — in Cincinnati; Philadelphia; Detroit; New York; Memphis; Wilmington, N.C.; Atlanta; New Orleans; Springfield, Ill.; East St. Louis; Chicago; and Tulsa, Okla. — more closely resembled anti-black pogroms than ghetto rebellions. White mobs, often backed by the police, not only looted and burned black homes and businesses but also maimed and killed black people.

Our bodies were loot. The forced extraction of our labor was loot. A system of governance that suppressed our wages, relieved us of property and excluded black people from equal schools and public accommodations is a form of looting. We can speak of the looting of black property through redlining, slum clearance and more recently predatory lending.

Police departments and municipal courts engage in their own form of looting by issuing and collecting excessive fines and fees from vulnerable communities. A 2017 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that “municipalities that rely heavily on revenue from fines and fees have a higher than average percentage of African-American and Latino populations.” And cities rely on tax revenues not only to fund the police but also to pay the ballooning costs to settle police misconduct cases. Chicago shelled out more than $100 million to settle police misconduct suits in 2018 alone.

This “you did it too” argument won’t work, because though much of what Kelley says here is right, wrongs committed by the government, especially wrongs that didn’t involve violence, do not justify violence on the other side. Violence is wrong, counterproductive, and plays into the hands of those who want America to remain stratified. That is why I decry violence at the same time that I applaud the rising calls to end inequity and racism. They are not incompatible goals; in fact, they go hand in hand.

 

54 Comments

  1. DrBrydon
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I would say people loot simply because they don’t care about the harm they are doing to others. Either they they don’t think about it, they don’t understand it, or they feel they are justified. I don’t feel any of that is excusable. Although he probably doesn’t mean it in this way, Kelley’s tu quoque argument is in line with Progressive behavior showing that rather than making a better world with less violence, they are really interested in turning the violence around upon their tormentors. The looting shows that they are not very discriminating in identifying them.

  2. mallardbrad
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Once again, you are correct, JAC. Violence & looting have no place in the process. And they are criminal. We cannot undo the past history, but we can formulate the future with non-violent resistance similar to Ghandi’s example.

  3. GBJames
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I’m wondering if you are a strict pacifist, PCC[e]. Is it your position that all violence is to be avoided? Or are you specifically only concerned about violence tied to protest movements? (Classic examples… WW II, etc.)

    Serious question, here.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      I am a pacifist in general, in war and peace, though there are some hard cases, which include “just wars”, of which I think WWII is one. I wrote a 50-page term paper on that in college, but I don’t have it any more.

      That said, I’m not sure what I would have done in WWII as I can’t see myself killing anybody. I might have been a non-arms-carrying medic.

      And I’m opposed to violence in general. I have hit somebody only once, and that was in self-defense when I was attacked in junior high school at a bus stop for being a “dirty Jew”. My words may be strong, but I don’t hit people or destroy property.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. It helps clarify things for me.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        I agree with your first point on the basis of “just war” theory.

        On the personal level, I think violence is justified only on the basis of self-defense or the defense against violence directed at a third-party (though I’ll concede, I’ve made a rare exception for throwing a fist at a lout who’s insulted or harassed a woman in my presence. But that’s more an atavistic, instinctive chivalric code than a fully formed justification for the use of violence. But, hey, screw it; I still say they had it comin’.)

        • EdwardM
          Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

          They likely did, and that kind of atavistic violence can be excused on account of hobgoblins and foolish consistencies. I’m of the opinion that a tendency to violence is part of who we humans are; we can’t undo our heritage. The trick is to channel it to where it is necessary and never when it is expedient. But some people really do deserve a punch in the nose.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

            Lucky for all concerned, I suppose, that while I’ve gotten in a good shot or two, nobody’s gonna mistake my fists for lethal weapons. 🙂

  4. Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting to note that people that decry the focus on the looting are following the Trump playbook. Their call for the media to downplay the looting because it detracts from their message is a bit like when Trump and pals blame increased testing for rises in COVID-19 numbers. Ok, they are putting it more eloquently than simply calling “fake news” but they can’t get people to ignore looting just because it doesn’t fit their narrative.

  5. eric
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    I’ve been close enough to eyewitness watch a couple of riots that involved looting. All of them, it seemed to me, involved a lot more economic opportunism than righteous anger. The looters tend to be a bit like antifa – a separate group from your run of the mill protestors. Some people hear there’s going to be a protest, they go down there with the full intent to use the cover of the protest as a chance to steal from the local stores.

    So, not only do I agree with PCC about tu quoque being a poor excuse, but I’d go further and say it’s somewhat of a non-sequitur given that (in my experience) the looters aren’t responding to a perceived injustice at all.

    In a recent post, PCC quoted Pinker on the Montreal riots. As I see it, looting during a protest is a similar situation to a police strike: the knowledge that they’ll almost certainly get away with a theft incentivizes some regular people who wouldn’t normally commit any crimes to do them.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I had similar thoughts. Talking about looting in particular, rather than the violence in general, the main motive for it is that people see an opportunity to get stuff that they want without paying for it.

      This is a universal human trait not limited to people of any particular colour or creed, as I think the protestors will find out if the police heed their demands to withdraw from their neighbourhoods.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Plenty of reasons and excuses are given attempting to explain the violence of protesters and we know that it is not justifiable. It just goes with the territory lots of times. Fixing all the racism is also in high demand with lots of things needing the fix but still a long way from accomplishing it. In the mean time we have the specific problem of violence in our country in general and violence in the police departments of our country. I think you have to take on these issues one at a time but cannot ignore any of them. Our country is a violent place because we want it to be. We have the guns to prove it and we are addicted to guns. The bigger and faster they expend bullets the better we like them. Until we do something about this addiction I think we are spinning wheels about the violence in the country. An overhaul of our policing goes right along with this need to get rid of our gun society.

  7. Nicholas K.
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    ” Chicago shelled out more than $100 million to settle police misconduct suits in 2018 alone.”

    This is the kind of looting that too often goes underreported.

    I have often wondered why this has not been seen and emphasized as more of a problem for taxpayers. Under what system is this considered sound fiscal policy and why haven’t more of our elected and unelected leaders shouted from the rooftops that this MUST end!

    I live in Chicago and watched the news coverage of the looitn well into the night. B

    But when people see what our cops are costing us (as scholls close and public transportatio is reduced), they just shrug. I don’t get it.

    • Florent
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      It’s the same as with politician’s salaries. They keep increasing, they have benefits, etc. People don’t mind, they shrug it off.

  8. Roo
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s an ‘either / or’ situation – either you think people’s lives are far more important than property so you keep quiet about it, or you don’t so you focus on riots and looting. In fact I’d say being worried about riots and looting has a direct correlation to worrying about people’s lives.

    First and foremost, these acts end up empowering the very people the protestors say they are protesting against (the police). I’ve noticed that things like #BlueFlu have been trending a fair bit recently. The police have something of a trump card in that they can always say “You don’t like the way we do things? Fine, handle it yourself.” Giving them a backdrop of riots in which to make this statement only makes it that much more powerful.

    Also, riot and looting almost always hurt the very people who the protestors are trying to help in the first place. Directly, when jobs and access to stores is lost, and indirectly, when property values go down and tax revenue for spending on social programs decreases when people flee to the suburbs.

  9. Nicholas K.
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    “Chicago shelled out more than $100 million to settle police misconduct suits in 2018 alone.”

    This kind of looting doesn’t get near the news coverage.

  10. rickflick
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Re: Kelly’s point about, ““municipalities that rely heavily on revenue from fines and fees have a higher than average percentage of African-American and Latino populations.”

    It seems to me that problem could be solved by federal and state support of local police. Fines should go to a general fund so there’s no incentive to shake down the people they are trying to serve.

    Same thing goes for education. Federal and State should fully fund a high, universal level of primary and secondary education so you don’t get an unacceptable level of inequality. Why is this so hard? What am I missing?

    • darrelle
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think you are missing a thing. Incentivizing the wrong thing seems to very frequently be a significant part of the problem. Even when we don’t screw it up from the get go over time it can happen, incrementally, as interests game the system for their advantage. By the time people are making big money on the incentive it then becomes very difficult to change because those people making the money have worked hard to make it so. Like corn.

      It also happens all the time when people base incentives on ancient ideological principles rather than what can actually be shown to work. Like setting up public school funding so that the better grade average a school’s students achieve the more funding it gets. Of course malice aforethought could explain this particular instance and is certainly not uncommon either.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        I agree.

  11. Peter Nonacs
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    The title of this post is about publicizing and focusing news coverage on looting. I think there is a legitimate point here. In the first days of the protest what we saw like 90% of the time on TV was the hundred or so people looting stores and not the 10,000 marching peacefully. Even now when looting and property destruction is virtually absent from demonstrations, Fox news continues to play tape from those first crazy days. It certainly is fair to call out the “If it bleeds, it leads” ethic of news coverage that misses the main point in order to highlight a smaller and more visually compelling sideshow.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      I watched NBC and CNN and, while they did cover the looting, they also took pains to show and tell viewers that many of the protestors were peaceful. I think they were very aware of the need to show that and not just the looting. On the other hand, they couldn’t ignore the looting. My impression from before it was even a controversy was that they were trying hard to be fair.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        It kind of boils down to the numbers as opposed to how much airtime they are given. It only takes one person to burn down a huge building. Looters may include a few hundred people over a few days of activity. I would hope someone is keeping a count of numbers of protesters vs looters and burners.

        • Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Probably someone is trying to do such a comparison but there’s so many different ways to do it. Is it number of protestors vs looters? What about protestors who loot? I think the MSM were good to mention both. However, I was surprised at the number of store windows broken in my area. I don’t know if every store was looted but the breakage was definitely spread over a large area. On the other hand, there were a lot of peaceful protestors. I’m guessing the sheer size of the whole thing made it fairly impossible for even the largest media outlet to cover all but a small fraction.

          • rickflick
            Posted June 19, 2020 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

            One person can break many windows. It’s hard to determine what the balance is based on damage done.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

  12. Pliny the in Between
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Law and Order.
    Law tends to benefit the privileged. And Order makes it seem like everything is just fine the way it is. A lot of the time, it removes any sense of urgency in redressing inequality in the Law. It also causes a fair percentage of the privileged to feign surprise at the level of pent-up frustration that’s actually out there when something does boil over into the streets.

    The underprivileged usually lack the power to change Law except in times of crisis. What they can reduce to ash is Order. For better or worse, people use the tools provided.

    • savage
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Nobody benefits more from the rule of law than vulnerable people. High-status people usually employ private security, whether they are robber barons or those millionaires in Sao Paulo who safely travel by helicopter to avoid getting mugged.

      It is also utterly wrong (and quite insulting) to imply that every poor and downtrodden person ought to be a vicious criminal in “response” to their bad lot.

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted June 20, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        I disagree with your assessment.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted June 21, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

          I also disagree with it. ‘Vicious criminal;’ – oh, dear. I think that our Hobbesian ‘savage’ should ask what the ‘rule of law’ consists in in many cases as opposed to supposing that ‘the rule of law’ is invariably a splendid thing – what if the laws are unjust? In the 18th & 19th centuries, starving labourers were hanged in Britain for stealing a sheep to feed their families. One clear problem in the States and elsewhere is a clear lack of political will to rectify inequities and a lack of political power on the part of this who would like to rectify them to do so. This is not helped by the huge power, financial and legal, that large corporations possess and the extraordinary power that the myths of neo-liberalism possess over powerful people’s minds – which of course they do largely because these myths benefit the powerful. But, one fears, ‘vicious criminals’ is not a description that ‘savage’ would apply to the Wall Street bankers who destroyed so many lives in the last great crash, and got away with it virtually scot-free.

  13. Posted June 19, 2020 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Basically, this argument reduces to “We have grievances, therefore we can loot.” Put all the lipstick you want on this pig.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      sub

    • rickflick
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      What a glorious expression. 🐷

  14. Posted June 19, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I abhor violence on the part of anyone, except in the case of necessity like WWII. As a nation, we use violence routinely to maintain our big business corporation’s perceived interests overseas regardless of environmental impact or the effect on the native population. This has sometimes led to unjust wars.

    In regards to racial issues at home, we have double standards. We closely monitor dark skinned communities, prevent them from having access to education, property and wealth light skinned communities have access to. And, we punish them excessively when they’ve had more than they can tolerate any longer. This has been done so long, it’s no wonder it may be like a gigantic boiling pot of water we put a lid on that subsequently explodes. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

    The underlying inequities should have been addressed and resolved long ago instead of trying to keep the lid on the pot.

  15. Max Blancke
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    There is no objective media that I am aware of.
    I guess the left leaning majority face a real dilemma these days. They likely want to convey the “mostly peaceful” message, but find broadcasting images of violence and horror very hard to resist. Really, that is sort of their business model.

    I guess it is related that yesterday I watched footage of a march. The reporter mentioned that “the march was 2.5 miles long, the distance that Ahmed Arbery jogged from his home to the place he was killed”

    I have nothing to add about his killing, but I am familiar with that area, and when the incident happened, I checked the map. His home was about 3 miles from the shooting site, but only by a straight line, which would cross a large river. By road, the distance is approximately 13 miles. That is an example of a journalist not even trying to do journalism.
    I wish we lived in a culture where when a journalist gives a number in their reporting, that the listener can assume that the number came from research, and was double checked at some point, before being typed into the teleprompter and broadcast.

    • max blancke
      Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      I might have misheard. CNN is reporting that marchers are marching a distance of 2.23 miles to commemorate the date of the killing.

      It may be that the local news misspoke, or I misheard. Nonetheless, the distance between the two sites has been misrepresented in a great deal of reporting.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        Maybe you could get in touch with them and get them to add, “as the crow flies”. 😁

        • Max Blancke
          Posted June 19, 2020 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          I understand it is sort of a minor detail, in light of an actual vigilante killing.
          But there seemed to be a weird insistence that Mr. Arbery jogged there regularly, from his house a few miles away.

          As I mentioned, I am familiar with the area, and that particular detail seemed very improbable to me. Not only is it 13 miles each way, but there is a very big pedestrian unfriendly bridge on the route.

          It seems unnecessary to add unlikely details to stories like this, as they really have little bearing on the disposition of the case.

          But the larger issue is that I am sure that many of us have seen news stories about areas where we have specific knowledge, and noticed glaring errors in the coverage. The implication is that such errors, omissions, or falsifications are likely to be a part of many of the stories where we don’t have expertise.

          • Posted June 19, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            So far no one has accused Arbery of committing a crime. His alleged murderers would certainly have said so if they thought that was the case.

            • rickflick
              Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

              Wrong place. Wrong time.

          • rickflick
            Posted June 19, 2020 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

            I think I understand where you’re coming from.

    • Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      If this is your best example of the MSM’s inaccuracy then I guess we’re pretty safe. Now do Fox News.

      • dd
        Posted June 19, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        The inaccuracy of mainstream (leftwing) media tends to fall under sins of ommissions, that of rightwing media (Fox,etc) sins of commissions.

        As example, take time to see how many outlets reported this:

        https://chicago.suntimes.com/2020/6/1/21275944/chicago-weekend-shootings-most-violent-weekend-2020-may-29-june-1

        • Posted June 19, 2020 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          I don’t at all buy any “both sides” arguments when it comes to mainstream vs right-wing media. It doesn’t bother me in the least that some outlets didn’t cover the violence in Chicago to your satisfaction. There’s lots of things they don’t cover. I don’t see a particular agenda behind their omissions. For sure it is easy to complain that they didn’t cover something. The MSM never claimed to cover everything. I do wish they would cover more but I don’t think its a result of left-right bias.

          On the other hand, the right traffic in conspiracy theories and present Trump’s point of view as if it was handed from heaven. They fail to call him on most of his outright lies. That’s far worse than anything covered or not covered in the MSM.

          • Posted June 21, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

            Omissions are often found reporting US’ involvements elsewhere. For example, they may report correctly that (say) Iran underwent a violent revolution into a theocracy in 1979, but will omit the greviances, some directed at the US establishment and political regime, of the revolutionaries. (Also will omit that there were secularists in the mix at first [until eliminated by the theocrats], but many were communists, both Soviet-style and otherwise.)

            • Filippo
              Posted June 21, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

              “Omissions are often found reporting US’ involvements elsewhere. For example, they may report correctly that (say) Iran underwent a violent revolution into a theocracy in 1979, but will omit the greviances . . . .”

              Among which would include U.S. involvement in overthrowing Mossadegh and installing the Shah in 1953.

  16. Posted June 19, 2020 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with the idea that governments that fund police and courts via fines and fees are doing “wrongs that didn’t involve violence.” They very much do involve violence. If you pay your fines and fees, but then can’t pay your rent, the sheriff will arrive to forcibly throw you out onto the street. Refusal to pay fines and fees can get you thrown in jail. Refusal to go meekly to jail gets you tased or clobbered. The threat of violence backs every rule the government imposes.

    When the rules in question are “don’t murder” or even “don’t pollute”, it’s clear that the threat of violence is justified by the violence, or risk of harm to others, being prevented. But when the rules are “don’t do drugs” or “don’t jaywalk even when there’s no traffic”? Not so much.

  17. Robert Van Orden
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I listened Sam Harris’ recent pod cast ‘Can We Pull Back From The Brink’. I enjoy his voice more then his writing. LOL

    While he didn’t focus on reparations, he did mention it in a way that forced me to reconsider my own position on the matter. Previously, reparations had always been a non-starter. I’ll at least listen now.

    My biggest reservation is that I don’t see how reparations can be done with out being a violation the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I would never agree to open ended reparations. I.e., I would never agree to a form of reparations that would require some future political resolution to end reparations. It would have to be either a one time deal, or the provisions of such reparations would have to sunset at some near term date. It would require a political resolution to continue them, otherwise it comes to an end.

    That’s a hill I’ll die on.

    Other then that, I’m open minded. But I want to see specifics from those that advocate for reparations. Anything I’ve seen so far has been generalities. If we’re speaking in generalities, I want to see the spirit of making an ‘investment’ and not something ‘punitive’.

  18. jedijan
    Posted June 19, 2020 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree with your stance on while supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement’s goals I will never support or agree with the violence, arson and looting. That is all counter-productive as far as I am concerned; inexcusable. What ever happened to the “Be the change you want to see?” I recently watched a dIsheartening video of a young black woman crying in a looted and trashed store, because there were no food supplies left for her to buy her children.

    An American that writes to me said that Americans feel America is a nation above other nations, not with other nations. I find that concept a bit strange to understand, especially in the current climate. We, in Australia, have held the same protests, with Police support, and without the violence and looting. We have racial problems to deal with also but most of our Police are decent and well respected.

    • Filippo
      Posted June 20, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      “An American that writes to me said that Americans feel America is a nation above other nations, not with other nations.”

      Hence the vaunted, sacred “American Exceptionalism.”

  19. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 20, 2020 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Your comment on the funding of education interests me. I’m not for one second claiming NZ is free of racism, including institutional racism, because it’s not. However, there’s a huge effort to ensure equality in the funding of education. All schools receive the same basic funding, then there are top-up funds. Schools in poor areas receive higher funds. Funding is also anonymously attached to each student. Students with disadvantages that are statistically more likely to see them have difficulty in education means the school they go to gets more funding. That not only includes obvious things like disability and parental income, but having a single parent or no parents, a parent in prison, unemployed parents, etc.

    My understanding of the US is that wealthy areas get more funding that poorer areas because education is funded from property taxes. That seems to me to be grossly unfair, and not just setting people up to fail, but ensuring they never have a chance to succeed. And there will always be those few who still manage to make it, and they will be pointed to as an excuse not to change the system.

    • rickflick
      Posted June 20, 2020 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

      “education is funded from property taxes”. As far as I know this is true, although there probably are many programs aimed at helping low income schools. The problem seems to be that the US has always had the feeling that in a free enterprise economy, the individual is fully responsible for rising above his/her condition. Especially for minorities. The myth of Horatio Alger. The poor kid who makes good on his own initiative. Sadly, only one in 1000 actually achieve this dream. It’s not based on reality. But it persists. Along with bias against the poor in general. They are the lazy ones who won’t work hard, etc. Many moons ago, I heard a Republican salesman repeat the biblical expression – the poor will always be with us – to absolve himself of any responsibility. So, there’s the American protestant ethic at work here too. These legacies are hard to out live.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 24, 2020 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        Very interesting. Thanks for the response Rick. I’d actually forgotten about the power of the Protestant work ethic in the US. We have it in other similar countries that are majority Protestant too (like us, Aus, GB, northern Europe), but not to the extent of the US. You guys remain overall more religious than the rest of us too, so I assume that makes a difference. The idea that people are poor because they don’t work hard enough is obviously demonstrably false, and it worries me that so many choose to believe it. We have plenty of those people here too, but there aren’t as many and they don’t get to dominate.

        • rickflick
          Posted June 24, 2020 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

          Religion poisons everything.


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