If you follow the news through a certain group of Web sites (Huffington Post, Salon, Vox, etc. — even the New York Times)... If you run in circles where everyone is college-educated and progressive... Then events such as Ferguson and Baltimore fit a precise narrative.
Police are murdering unarmed black men in great numbers and getting away with it. The elites have turned their backs on African-Americans. Rioting is a rational response to despair. "Thug" is another word for n*gger. The war on drugs is a war on the underclass. Incarceration rates of black men are immorally high. Whites don't get it, none of it, from their position of privilege.
And some of this is even true.
Unfortunately, this is a rare case where there is equivalency between progressives and the right-wing. Both are operating in their distinct echo-chambers, their bubbles. For progressives, asking for a more nuanced and factual approach to understanding these problems risks losing friends and being labeled a racist.
The right-wing bubble sees things very differently. These are criminals, and the ones who aren't still live an adversarial gangsta lifestyle. They are "takers." Why do they have children they can't afford or support? Why are they on the street in the middle of the day, loudly taking up the sidewalk, instead of working? Why don't they obey police orders? Look how successful Asians are. Look how many blacks have advanced, even if it's through affirmative action.
James Howard Kunstler, hardly a rightie, wrote this after Ferguson:
The basic questions of race relations in America remain too painful to ask and too hard to answer. For instance, are we hard-wired to self-segregate? There certainly was a great wish that this were not so. Has it been disproven or overcome in the 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education? Do we have different standards of behavior for different races? Does that work?
The case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, can’t inspire a whole lot of confidence about working anything out. We’re finding out that a culture of opposition produces confrontation, often just for its own sake, because there seems to be nothing better to do. Is it the opening round of broader discontent and conflict? Black America surely faces an existential crisis, but not the one imagined in the condescending news media — of somehow getting non-black America to be more just and generous. The truth is, we’ve already been through that and there is nothing left to do. We’re out of “affirmative actions” of all kinds. “Diversity” chatter didn’t make anything better. Have we completely discarded the idea of a common culture along with uniform standards of behavior? If not, we’re in for more violence and anarchy.
SO...many white American are not thinking what appears in the media, whatever they say. Their minds are not being changed but hardened. Yet in 2012, they made up 72 percent of those who voted. Fifty nine percent voted for Mitt Romney, hardly Mister Excitement. All voters who labeled themselves conservative were 10 points higher than those who labeled themselves liberal. The congressional elections in off-years have proven disastrous for liberals, with long-term consequences.
I would love a deeper dive into the police shootings and the whys, including context (e.g., are more unarmed black men per capita being shot today than in 1960, and if so, why?). More discussion of class, as well as race. Unpacking the many ways that the poor have been shortchanged, from moving employment centers far from center cities without public transportation to ill-conceived trade agreements that sent jobs offshore. Not protesting in downtowns but out where the toffs live in comfort. I'd love all this.
But what concerns me is the number of white Americans that will go into 1968 "law and order" mode. Or simply keep silent, keep voting right, and moving farther out into all-white or same-class suburbs or exurbs.
The liberals who believe the "uprising" in Baltimore is the start of a grand revolution for justice need to widen their circle of acquaintances.