Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#Ferguson and naming white racism

Peter Coy has a good description of the structures of white racism in Ferguson MO and St. Louis county in Injustice in Ferguson, Long Before Michael Brown Bloomberg Businessweek 08/21/2014. It was the cover story on last week's print issue.

Although he doesn't call it white racism. In fact, the only time the word appears in the piece, he's talking about (white) racism in a form that it is no longer practiced:

Overt financial racism is mostly gone, but the legacy of that time lives on, suffocating present-day residents. "There's a very real sense in which resources for living a healthy, productive life aren't evenly distributed throughout the region," says Jason Purnell, a Washington University in St. Louis professor of public health. [my emphasis]
And "racist" appears once, and that in the middle of a paragraph in which a local NAACP leader is praising the local One Percenters:

Ferguson is not a crime-ridden economic disaster area like East St. Louis, Ill., on the other side of the Mississippi; it's lower-middle-income, with a healthy business district and a range of big, close-by employers, including Emerson Electric (EMR), Express Scripts (ESRX), the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Christian Hospital, and Mallinckrodt (MNK). It also benefits from a reasonably enlightened business community. John Gaskin III, a spokesman for the St. Louis County NAACP, is no pushover. He calls Missouri "the most racist state in the country." But he praises the leadership of Emerson, Boeing (BA), and others. Patrick Sly, who heads the Emerson Charitable Trust, "is one of the most genuine men that you could meet in this town," Gaskin says. And Danny Bradley, who runs Boeing’s diversity program for St. Louis, is "a gentleman." [my emphasis]
This is ironic because, as I said, the article does a good job of describing the structures of racism in and around Ferguson. For example:

The natural result is a county whose towns are highly stratified by both race and income. The wealthier southern part remains largely white. The northern section in the elbow of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, the home of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and Ferguson, is increasingly black. Some towns in the north have managed to maintain a stable racial mix. Often, though, as blacks move into a town, whites move out. The tax base shrinks, and blacks feel cheated that the amenities they came for quickly disappear, says Clarence Lang, a University of Kansas historian who has studied St. Louis. Class interacts with race. In Ferguson, investors who bought foreclosed homes are renting them to poorer people than the homeowners — both black and white — whom they're displacing. That's one reason Ferguson's median household income adjusted for inflation fell 25 percent from 2000 to 2012, to less than $36,000 a year. [my emphasis]
Chauncey DeVega, on the other hand, doesn't shy from being more explicit. As in The New York Times 'Niggerizes' Michael Brown: I Wonder How They Would Slur My Life and Memory? WARN 08/26/2014:

America's news rooms are predominantly white, the media is dominated by white men, and the American "public" as imagined by the corporate media elite is "naturally" white. Consequently, the white racial frame operates at every level of the corporate media to naturalize whiteness as good and normal while blackness is made into something grotesque, bad, maladaptive, and deviant.
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