Fault Lines in the Plutocracy and the Police Harassment State

nypd stop and friskWhen you are speaking out against injustice, in the United States of America, it is easy to get discouraged. The unprecedented concentration of great wealth in the US today has resulted in policies being adopted by both major parties which protect those who profit from an increasingly hierarchical social order and mete out harsh punishment to those who protest or are deemed unassimilable.

But despite the growing linkages between corporate, government, and police power, the current economic crisis is generating a legitimacy crisis for the ruling elite, first exposed by the Occupy movement, but now visible in a number of areas where policies beneficial to the elite have resulted in policies that enrage large sections of the population and might, in time, inspire broad based resistance.

A Broken Criminal Justice System

One of those areas is criminal justice. We all know that the United States now has 25 percent of the world prisoners and that there are eight times as many Black men in jail as there were in 1980. Some of this is due to the racially targeted application of draconian drug laws. But increasingly, it has been exacerbated by the emergence of a smothering form of zero-tolerance policing that has made all young people of color targets for interrogation, harassment, arrest, and in the most extreme instances actual murder.

In gentrifying cities like New York, Chicago, and Oakland , police harassment greets young people of color wherever they turn, from the schools they attend, to the neighborhoods they live in, to downtown business districts, to the public transportation systems they use. Seen as necessary to maintain public order in the face of astronomical unemployment rates among the target population, made more galling by growing concentration of the wealthy in the center city, “stop and frisk” policies, guided by open racial profiling, have become an infuriating burden on communities of color, promoting marches, rallies, lobbying campaigns and lawsuits.

The tolerance for such policies is disappearing fast- but governments cling to them because they are the only way of assuring order in the face of a toxic combination of growing poverty and growing in equality. One way or another, this policy is going to be overturned, peacefully or otherwise. Activists need to keep the pressure up here on every front.

Testing Out of Control

Another area is testing in the schools. As educational policy has become a major sphere of activism by corporate leaders, bringing an unlikely alliance of liberals like Gates and Bloomberg with conservatives like the Waltons and the Koch brothers, one of the results has been a push for teacher accountability in every school district in the nation, requiring teacher evaluation to be based on student test scores. This has led to a profusion of high-stakes tests in schools at a level that has left many students, teachers and parents traumatized.

With incredible rapidity, whole school communities have become transformed into engines of test preparation, erasing all forms of creative teaching, crowding out the arts, recess, and school trips, and even eliminating sports and afterschool programs to help pay for the tests.

Worse yet, the tests themselves, made by for-profit companies like Pearson, are so poorly designed and arbitrarily scored as to render the whole exercise absurd, all the more so because students promotions, and teachers and principals careers, will be based on their results.

mark naisonThis test mania has generated the beginnings of a national parents revolt on the part of people who refuse to let their children be humiliated, intimidated, and made to hate schools. But rather than back off, the Ed Reformers keep expanding the scope of testing and evaluation, even demanding that kindergarten students be tested and asked to rate teacher performance. This is going to backfire — big time! Massive test resistance, first by parents, then by older students, is going to sweep through many school districts

Foreclosure Crisis

Finally, we have the foreclosure crisis. There are now millions of foreclosed and abandoned private homes in the United States, and thousands of abandoned and foreclosed multiple dwellings. This is occurring at a time when millions of Americans are homeless, sleeping in cars, or living in unacceptably crowded conditions in group apartments or single family homes now housing multiple families.

The contrast between the homelessness and crowding and the unused empty space is becoming a major public embarrassment, and increasingly an important political issue. Occupy groups around the country, and organizations like Take Back the Land and Organizing 4 Occupation are quietly putting families in these foreclosed homes and figuring out ways to secure their rights to the property.

This movement is likely to grow quickly in coming years, not only among community groups working with homeless families, but with young college graduates without steadily employment who will be forming residential communes in these abandoned spaces.

Police action is always a possibility here, but if there are enough people who engage in these tactics, and if they have legal defense teams at their disposal who can make the occupations legitimate, this may turn into a major solution to the nation’s growing housing crisis

mark naisonE[/cd]ach of these arenas of struggle may, in their early stages, seem daunting to activists, as the opposition is very powerful and very ruthless, but when you view them all in combination, you see that economic and political elites in this country are unable to manage all the crises their policies have created and that a resistance is building which may ultimately challenge the very foundations of their rule.

Mark Naison
With A Brooklyn Accent 

Posted: Tuesday, 22 May 2012

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