Commentary Franklin Jones, Ph.D.
Social upheavals and their suppressions have been a routine fixture in the American landscape. They have been characterized differently by those who supported them and those who did not. The ones most likely to be explained in a less than favorable light are those that appear to be a direct challenge to the power structure and particularly those emanating from the African American community. Will the struggle for police accountability and justice intensified by the murder of George Floyd change the way rebellions against the political system are viewed in the United States? Is there anything about this rebellion that gives hope to those arguing for systemic change to this political system?
The conditions ascribed by those marching for justice are not new. So why are they receiving the amount of coverage they are receiving today? Is it because they have been shown to be more dire the exposure in the coronavirus pandemic? What are health conditions of the community which allows the virus to be more deadly? What are economic structures that place African Americans in a position more likely to be exposed to the virus?
Does it have anything to do with the changing demographics of the United States in general and specific states and localities? Population shifts are creating more areas where minorities may be able to win control of governing units. Is there a major shift in the thinking of among generations about race relations in the United States? Is there a real threat of organized groups seeking to create new power arrangements?
Perhaps it could be the fractures in the white community that seems poised to address the growing tide of fascism. When coupled with an understanding of the roles of racism and capitalism in the development of this society the fractures are likely to expand thus threatening the notion of a homogeneous white community as the essence of the American way.
Since the law and order campaigns adopted after the urban rebellions of the 1960s, we have seen the militarization of local and state police. They have received training and equipment useful in urban warfare. Legislative units and courts have provided protection to those forces when their actions appear to violate human and civil rights. Will an attack on these protections negatively impact the power of the police to serve those interests that direct this society?
For African Americans and other disaffected people in the United States to receive equal opportunities and treatment the society, including the political system, must be fundamentally changed.
We can never understate the ability of the governing structure to respond to civil unrest. It goes beyond military suppression. We are likely to see concessions in the areas of limiting qualified immunity, greater transparency in the reporting of police conduct, increased bias training, minor shifts in funding priorities, and bringing those to trial who have been captured on video violating human rights. Such violations as murder will be presented as vile individual acts that can be condemned by all of society. Attempts will be made to exploit the differences in the agendas both in the African American community and between others who oppose the regime. Allies in the corporate media will seek to frame the narrative in such a way that the call for systemic change becomes a greater danger than the conditions under which the oppressed face. An appeal to white nationalism will always remain as a bulwark against societal change.
The duality of concessions and suppressions as seen in the past has proven to be a useful tool in avoiding a change in the way economic and political power is distributed in the greater society. Because this social upheaval is deeper and broader than the last one it seems situated to provide a plateau where future organizing can strengthen the struggle against racism and capitalist exploitation.