Any topic (writer’s choice)

    For your week 7 discussion, please read the following two essays and answer the questions that follow.

    1) The Case Against Riots

    Ross Douthat

    In the origin myth of post-1960s liberalism, all the defeats that the Democratic Party suffered in the years of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were owed to the partys heroic support for civil rights, which rectified a great injustice but opened the way for the Republicans to build majorities on racial backlash.
    Like most myths, this story contains pieces of the truth. The battle over civil rights did accelerate the regional realignment of the parties; racial backlash did help the G.O.P. make gains in the once-Democratic South. But what ultimately doomed the old liberal majority wasnt just support for civil rights; that was on the ballot in 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the heart of the old Confederacy but Lyndon Johnson won everywhere else. Rather, liberalism unraveled amid the subsequent nationwide wave of crime, unrest and disorder, which liberal mandarins and liberal machine politicians alike were unable to successfully manage or contain.
    The riots of the 60s, from Watts to Washington, D.C., were only part of this story; the wider surge of murder, battery and theft probably mattered as much to realignment. But there is a striking pattern of evidence, teased out in the research of the Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow (Links to an external site.), showing how peaceful civil rights protests helped Democrats win white votes, and then violence pushed white voters toward Republicans.
    Looking at data from the civil rights era, Wasow argues that proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines enough to tip the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Nixon. More broadly, in news coverage and public opinion from those years, nonviolent protests (especially in the face of segregationist violence) increased support for civil rights, while violent protests tipped public opinion away from the protesters, and toward a stronger desire for what Nixon called law and order, and Wasow calls social control.
    Some of this research was published in the spring of 2015, when the protests-turned-riots in Ferguson and Baltimore attracted left-wing and radical defenders. Back then, the center-left writer Jonathan Chait cited Wasows findings in an essay (Links to an external site.) accusing the pro-riot radicals of being politically delusional: The physical damage inflicted upon poor urban neighborhoods by rioting, he wrote, does not have the compensating virtue of easing the way for more progressive policies; instead, it compounds the damage by promoting a regressive backlash.
    In response, the more left-wing columnist Ryan Cooper argued that (Links to an external site.), in effect, that was then and this is now: Maybe riots weakened liberalism in the past, but the riots of 2015 were more localized and therefore less threatening, the America of 2015 was less white and therefore less easily threatened, and the Republicans of 2015 were talking about prison reform, not Willie Horton.
    I would submit that subsequent events vindicated Chait, and that in hindsight the riots of 2015 as well as the late Obama-era crime spike, and a cluster of high-profile cop killings in 2016 helped create a late-1960s backlash moment in miniature. Republicans didnt abandon prison reform; indeed, they eventually helped pass a criminal-justice reform bill. But they stopped talking about that issue, or talking like civil libertarians in general, and they nominated a figure for president who sounded like Nixon on a good day and George Wallace on the rest. Which meant that 18 months after the Baltimore riots, the violences major legacy was a still-wounded city (Links to an external site.) and the presidency of Donald Trump.
    You cant take this as proof that rioting never works, that it never succeeds in calling attention to an injustice that a more peaceful protest might incline the comfortable to downplay or ignore. But the political history of both the 1960s and the 2010s suggests a strong presumption against the political effectiveness of looting or vandalism or arson, to go along with the direct costs (Links to an external site.) for the communities where riots are most likely to break out.
    For radicals, this presumption doesnt require shedding tears for the insurers of, say, a ransacked Minneapolis Target. It just requires recognizing that most spasms of robbery or arson arent the revolution but often a ritual reaffirmation of the status quo a period of misrule that doesnt try to establish an alternative order or permanently change any hierarchies, as a true revolution would, but instead leaves the lower orders poorer and the well-insured upper classes more or less restored.
    For liberals, meanwhile, or anyone committed to reform without revolution, recognizing how the politics of riots usually play out imposes a special burden to forestall and contain them and when that isnt possible, to clearly distinguish the higher cause from the chaos trailing in its wake.
    My suspicion is that this will be more easily accomplished in 2020 than it was in 2016 or 1968. Across his presidency Trump has been more a Wallace than a Nixon, less law and order than the law for thee but not for me, and his obvious disregard for civic peace makes it hard for him to campaign as its custodian. At the same time, the manifest injustice of George Floyds treatment by the Minneapolis police has imposed a limit on Trumps demagoguery; even the president claimed to be honoring Floyds memory in the same breath that he attacked the rioters. And unlike four years ago, in 2020 Trumps waning re-election hopes probably depend on winning a higher-than-usual number of black and Latino men, which mean that the politics of racial backlash are more fraught for his strategists than one might usually expect.
    Meanwhile Joe Biden, as a moderate Democrat with a law-and-order past who won his partys nomination with strong African-American support, is arguably better positioned than some Democratic politicians to balance outrage over racial injustice with a message of peace, nonviolence, calm. Biden probably wont go to war with the parts of his coalition that are inclined to portray riots as necessary uprisings (Links to an external site.) or cathartic wealth-redistribution (Links to an external site.), but he has a primary seasons worth of experience ignoring them. So if Minneapolis is the beginning of a season of protest, he may find it much easier to balance moral outrage with reassurance than a nominee more beholden to the left.
    And in striking that balance he would carry on, rather than betray, the legacy of the most successful civil rights activists. Martin Luther King Jr. became more politically radical in his last years, but his opposition to rioting was a constant. Every time a riot develops, he warned (Links to an external site.) just months before his death, it helps George Wallace.
    If we are headed for a long, hot, virus-shadowed summer, those are words that a liberalism that doesnt want to help Donald Trump would do well to keep in mind.

    2) Dont understand the protests? What youre seeing is people pushed to the edge

    By KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR
    What was your first reaction when you saw the video of the white cop kneeling on George Floyds neck while Floyd croaked, I cant breathe?

    If youre white, you probably muttered a horrified, Oh, my God while shaking your head at the cruel injustice. If youre black, you probably leapt to your feet, cursed, maybe threw something (certainly wanted to throw something), while shouting, Not @#$%! again! Then you remember the two white vigilantes accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through their neighborhood in February, and how if it wasnt for that video emerging a few weeks ago, they would have gotten away with it. And how those Minneapolis cops claimed Floyd was resisting arrest but a stores video showed he wasnt. And how the cop on Floyds neck wasnt an enraged redneck stereotype, but a sworn officer who looked calm and entitled and devoid of pity: the banality of evil incarnate.

    Maybe you also are thinking about the Karen in Central Park who called 911 claiming the black man who asked her to put a leash on her dog was threatening her. Or the black Yale University grad student napping in the common room of her dorm who was reported by a white student. Because you realize its not just a supposed black criminal who is targeted, its the whole spectrum of black faces from Yonkers to Yale.

    You start to wonder if it should be all black people who wear body cams, not the cops.

    What do you see when you see angry black protesters amassing outside police stations with raised fists? If youre white, you may be thinking, They certainly arent social distancing. Then you notice the black faces looting Target and you think, Well, that just hurts their cause. Then you see the police station on fire and you wag a finger saying, Thats putting the cause backward.

    Youre not wrong but youre not right, either. The black community is used to the institutional racism inherent in education, the justice system and jobs. And even though we do all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness write articulate and insightful pieces in the Atlantic, explain the continued devastation on CNN, support candidates who promise change the needle hardly budges.

    But COVID-19 has been slamming the consequences of all that home as we die at a significantly higher rate than whites, are the first to lose our jobs, and watch helplessly as Republicans try to keep us from voting. Just as the slimy underbelly of institutional racism is being exposed, it feels like hunting season is open on blacks. If there was any doubt, President Trumps recent tweets confirm the national zeitgeist as he calls protesters thugs and looters fair game to be shot.

    Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I dont want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible even if youre choking on it until you let the sun in. Then you see its everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because its always still in the air.

    So, maybe the black communitys main concern right now isnt whether protesters are standing three or six feet apart or whether a few desperate souls steal some T-shirts or even set a police station on fire, but whether their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers will be murdered by cops or wannabe cops just for going on a walk, a jog, a drive. Or whether being black means sheltering at home for the rest of their lives because the racism virus infecting the country is more deadly than COVID-19.
    What you should see when you see black protesters in the age of Trump and coronavirus is people pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe.

    Worst of all, is that we are expected to justify our outraged behavior every time the cauldron bubbles over. Almost 70 years ago, Langston Hughes asked in his poem Harlem: What happens to a dream deferred? / Maybe it sags / like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?

    Fifty years ago, Marvin Gaye sang in Inner City Blues: Make me wanna holler / The way they do my life. And today, despite the impassioned speeches of well-meaning leaders, white and black, they want to silence our voice, steal our breath.

    So what you see when you see black protesters depends on whether youre living in that burning building or watching it on TV with a bowl of corn chips in your lap waiting for NCIS to start.

    What I want to see is not a rush to judgment, but a rush to justice.

    ——————–

    Questions

    Write a 500-word response in which your answer the following questions:

    1) What is Douthat’s point in his essay?  Please provide a quote that comes closes to presenting his position.

    2) What is Jabbar’s point in his essay?  Please provide a quote that comes closes to presenting his position.

    3) Which writer’s position do you agree with?  Provide TWO reasons to support your position and TWO reasons why you disagree with the other writer.

    Your original response is due by midnight this Sunday and your two peer responses are due by midnight next Sunday

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