From Harlem to Baltimore: The Cycle of Race Riots in American Ghettos

For much of American history, race-related rioting has been a common occurrence in large cities around the country, and especially in Northern cities. In “Race, Space, and Riots,” author Janet T. Abu-Lughod covers six different race-related riots that occurred between the 1960s and the 1990s, examining them in-depth to discuss possible causes and results of the riots, as well as to compare and contrast them. Unsurprisingly, many of her findings can be found in more recent race-related riots, and in particular, in the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Both in the cases presented by Abu-Lughod and the more recent cases in Ferguson and Baltimore, the riots, while often triggered by instances of police violence against African-Americans, often had underlying causes that societal and governmental parties have seemingly failed to address, therefore resulting in the circular trend that made Ferguson and Baltimore possible so many decades after Watts or Bed-Stuyvesant.

At first glance, the cause of nearly all race-related riots seems to be a simple variation of Breakdown Theory, in which police violence is perpetrated against an African-American (usually male, as incidents involving African-American women tend to receive less attention), usually resulting in death, and in response, the nearby community retaliates in anger and frustration. This appeared to be the case in then Harlem riots in 1964, where the “trigger was an altercation . . . that escalated . . . after an off-duty white policeman shot and killed the youth” (Abu-Lughod, 2007, 24). However, an entire riot cannot be summed up so easily, and in truth, 1960s riots “were not just about police brutality,” usually occurring “in the context of an economic recession whose effects appeared first in black areas” (Abu-Lughod, 2007, 25). In this, the riots of the 60s, while perhaps set off by police violence, were often a culmination of poor conditions, with goals larger than mere accountability and police reform.

In the incidents explored in Abu-Lughod’s book, all of the riots took place in “’ghettos’” that “exploded in anger and frustration in the 1960s,” with the ghettos of course being impoverished and usually overpopulated city areas of segregated African-American communities (Abu-Lughod, 2007, 23). This statement touches upon the fact that each of these incidents of non-routine collective action occurred not within a vacuum, but within a situation of decades upon decades of inequality, segregation, and poor economic standing, wherein attempts to peacefully resolve these issues were often met with excuses and assertations of impossibility. While Abu-Lughod does not necessarily claim that the main cause of the riots in the 60s and 90s was segregation and economic inequality, it is made clear that they were major contributing factors.

Despite this, responses to the riots in both understanding their causes and attempting to prevent further violence mostly failed to consider these aspects. Even when the federally funded Kerner Report recommended housing reform, these recommendations went “unfunded until concern receded, along with the violence, lapsing into . . . neglect until the problem resurfaced a generation later” (Abu-Lughod, 2007, 7). Then, of course, it resurfaced the generation after that, with the potential to continue on in a cycle unless these larger issues are resolved. In the case of Chicago, the city “remained as residentially segregated as it had been before the 1968 riot,” even despite attempts to address the segregation (Abu-Lughod, 2007, 28). Again and again, the response to race related riots was the same, with onlookers and media outlets asking “not why African Americans were confined to “ghettos” but why “they” were burning down their own communities,” entirely ignoring the factors that led to the riots, as if seeing them as simple examples of Breakdown Theory (Abu-Lughod, 2007, 3). Just as issues of segregation and economic inequality have persisted alongside police brutality, this type of viewpoint of riots has carried on to more recent events.

Often when today’s media talks about the events of Ferguson and Baltimore, it focuses both on the killings of Mike Brown and Freddie Gray that preceded these riots, as well as the issue of African-Americans in each place destroying property in their own communities, treating the riots as sudden outbursts of anger, and usually ignoring the long, ongoing histories of racial inequalities in each location. In the Washington Post article “From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Consequences of government-sponsored segregation, Valerie Strauss focuses on these inequalities and how they have built up to the riots seen in these places.

Strauss even brings the discussion back to the 60s, wherein “following hundreds of riots in black neighborhoods nationwide, a commission appointed by President Lyndon Johnson concluded that ‘[o]ur nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal’ and that ‘[s]egregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans’” (Strauss, 2015). This statement speaks to what Abu-Lughod was discussing, and Strauss goes even further to discuss that lower class African-Americans “are more segregated now than they were in 1968” (Strauss, 2015). In Baltimore, for example, the city “is now 64 percent black while the suburban counties surrounding it . . . are only 23 percent black” (Strauss, 2015). As such, in this same city where racially-charged riots broke out earlier this year, there were segregated conditions similar to those in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City in the 1960s. Furthermore, Strauss discusses similar persisting economic equality in which “the African-American unemployment rate is 18 percent, more than twice the white rate of 7 percent,” and in which “nationwide, black family incomes are now about 60 percent of white family incomes,” and “black household wealth is only about 5 percent of white household wealth” (Strauss, 2015). The conditions in Baltimore leading up the riots then, were deplorable for African-Americans, and much was the same in Ferguson.

According the Strauss, “virtually every one of the racially explicit federal, state, and local policies of segregation pursued in St. Louis has a parallel in policies pursued by government in Baltimore,” meaning that, as Abu-Lughod suggested, little has changed in US cities regarding segregation and economic equality, therefore leading to a continuation of those riots which occurred decades ago. Even while Abu-Lughod and Strauss each acknowledge the not unimportant role played by violent and lethal incidents of police brutality, Strauss sums up the argument by explaining “the obvious reality that the protests are not really (or primarily) about policing,” but about addressing systematically produced inequality in wealth, income, and housing (Strauss, 2015). They each then discuss the true fear, which is that “without suburban integration, something barely on today’s public policy agenda, ghetto conditions will persist, giving rise to aggressive policing and the riots that inevitably ensue,” and will inevitably never stop until the country addresses the underlying, systematic institutions of inequality that create these conditions (Strauss, 2015). While there is no doubt for either author that racially-charged riots have made some achievements and have well-thought out goals, it is clear that the reaction of media and those in power to the riots have resulted in reactions which fail to truly address what is occurring. If the pattern continues, then, so will the riots.


Works Cited

  1. Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
  1. Strauss, Valerie. “From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Consequences of Government-sponsored Segregation.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 3 May 2015. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. <>.



Reaction Paper 3: Newspaper Editorial

The riots at Missouri University over the past few weeks have divided many individuals as to whether the students, or the university were at fault. These issues began to acquire national attention when the football team began to boycott football games, backing a member who was on a hunger strike bringing attention to the racial issues African Americans faced when attending the university – problems the president refused to address. These two issues don’t mark the beginning of the situation, however. Instead, it arguably can be traced back to issues that began with the new university president coming into power.

As a former IT professional and a software executive, Tim Wolfe faced criticism from faculty due to his lack in experience of universities. (1) He acquired the position in 2012, and since then has made some policy blunders such as cutting healthcare for graduate and adjunct professors and temporarily terminating the university’s Univ. of Mo Press. After abstaining from addressing two situations of obvious racism within the university – when a feces swastika painted on a bathroom wall and when the Missouri Student Association president was called the “N-word” multiple times on campus (2) – Wolfe resigned under criticism from both students and faculty at the university, as well as lawmakers.

This relates to the course in many ways – specifically through systematic power. Many students at the University of Missouri expressed disapproval with public issues and how they were handled. Protests, hunger strikes, letters and obvious disapproval of the leadership did not bring any change, however. Instead, it was the boycott by the football team. The team pledged to not participate in any games until there was recognition and change brought about by the president and chancellor of the university, showing support for a student who went on a hunger strike. This quickly gathered a large following national media attention, as well as action from the university.

The fact that none of the prior expressions of contempt from students created a solid reaction from the university president, but the boycott from the football team quickly did, is a form of power within the university. The fact that the university officials only listened to students’ issues when a certain group of students was unhappy with the outcomes of situations is a sign that there is an unfair and unequal power within the university. This shows that unless you are somewhat of a celebrity – for example, a sports team member, you do not and will not have a say in the change that can occur within a college campus.

From governors to boards to presidents to deans, there are concrete and obvious signs of power. Certain individuals can and often will be favored over one another regardless of a greater amount of experience that the ignored may have. For this system to flood into student dynamics and mean that regardless of knowledge on issues, if you are on a sports team, you have more power than ‘the others’ is a serious issue within the distribution of power.

“What Happened at the University of Missouri? – Slate.” 2015. 30 Nov. 2015 <>

“Racial climate at MU: A timeline of incidents this fall | Higher …” 2015. 29 Nov. 2015 <>

“Should It Really Take a Football Team to Force Change on …” 2015. 1 Dec. 2015 <>

“Race Wasn’t the Only Issue at University of Missouri – WSJ.” 2015. 30 Nov. 2015 <>

Reaction Paper 3 More Breaking Down of Break Down

Breakdown theory through Chicago and Tottenham


On August 4th, 2011, the metropolitan police of Tottenham shot and killed a young man by the name of Mark Duggan. This one act by the police unleashed an outbreak of riots throughout the city and some say even led to the London riots of 2011. When we dive deeper into this incident, we can see that the shooting of Duggan played a minor role in the riots that ran rampant throughout Tottenham. The Tottenham riots give us a clearer picture of underlying grievances that can lead to incidents such as these. Understanding the pre-existing conditions and the responses is crucial in learning how to avoid riots like this one.

To get better understanding of how a lack of resources can lead to rioting we should look into other riots. One riot is the Chicago riots of 1968 that highlights breakdown theory as its most prevalent explanation. In 1968, Chicago had building tensions between the ghetto population and the displaced white population. As the ghetto population of Chicago rose, there was a flight of the white population from the inner city. The issue of open housing was becoming bigger and bigger because the black population could not be contained within the structures that were already there. This influx of the black population was due to the civil rights movements in the South. The main players in the housing were Martin Luther King and Mayor Daley. They were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to the issue of public housing. What’s interesting to note is that MLK, was the leader of these movements so Daley was stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to dealing with public housing. With these tensions continuing to build, all that was left was a triggering event. Then came the assassination of MLK. Immediately following the shooting, you had highschool kids starting riots in the streets. This was a generation who believed they could change something because those were the ideas that were prevalent at the time. The older generations were used to being oppressed and discriminated against. The responses were immediate. You had the National Guard come in and calm the situation. They knew exactly who to focus on when it came to who the rioters were. After the riot had been taken care of, there was a creation of a buffer zone and some would say it improved riot control procedures. Looking at the 1992 riots, the improved riot control procedures did seem to help. Now with some background we can look at Tottenham and see how breakdown theory can be used as its explanation as well.

Using breakdown theory can help us determine causes and what we should actually be focusing on when it comes to avoiding riots. In Tottenham, there had been growing tensions between the police department and the community. In the video we watched, it didn’t seem as if the riots were due to a race issue but digging deeper, we find the fact that Duggan was an African American male plays a major role. There were also allegations made against Duggan by the police department such as Duggan being a drug dealer and Duggan being one of the head leaders of a major gang in Tottenham. The story goes that Duggan was in a taxi and had jumped out as a police vehicle pulled up and they exchanged some fire and was eventually arrested. The interesting part of this story is that, apparently he had been shot after he was already pinned by the cops and, to the community that was the evidence that needed an answer. Once the court decided not to not convict the policemen due to the fact it was a “lawful killing”, the riots broke out. Throughout the riot, many police officers thought their lives were at risk because they were major players in the incident. Police officers that had nothing to do with the shooting were getting bricks and bottles being thrown at them. Inexperienced officers were out on the streets trying to quell the situation to no effect. The biggest revelation was that this department did not have adequate resources to handle a situation like this. Instead of focusing on the racial and class segregation, the hatred was directed towards the police. It wasn’t shooting or the trial as much as the media would portray it to be but the grievances between the community and the police department over years of confrontations. If Tottenham could take a page out of Chicago’s playbook, they would take their riot procedures. It does raise the question, what is more important? The practices they are being taught or how they execute riot procedures?

In conclusion, Tottenham and Chicago both show us a clear example of breakdown theory and how riots can and should be portrayed. The underlying grievances are the most important factors when considering what causes a riot and understanding that they are different from triggering events. Chicago and Tottenham show us race and class are very prevalent issues not just in the United States but in other countries as well. What is important to note is the handling of both. In one hand we have Chicago and its deployment of the national guard and on the other hand we have Tottenham where they deployed unexperienced policemen to calm the riot. Riot procedures in both countries are significantly different. We get to see how a riot should be handled and how a riot should not be handled. If we focus more on the underlying issues than maybe, just maybe, we can avoid riots.

Dominique Lopez-Piper Reaction #3–Breakthroughs on the Breakdown in Chicago

Dominique Lopez-Piper

Dr. Martin

Critical Synthesis: Breakthroughs on the Breakdown in Chicago

If you don’t have the resources to mobilize, something is bound to break down. That said, when responding to an upsetting event or ongoing societal issue, those who have the means to organize can often do so in a peaceful, structured manner; nevertheless, those with a lack of resources and power are forced to respond to injustice and oppression in a less coordinated, more chaotic way that often involves the destruction of their own neighborhoods and all the segregation and inequality that they represent. In this reaction paper, I will explain both ends of the spectrum through Bert Useem’s presentation of theories on this matter, while highlighting the difficulty of fighting the power with limited means, especially in terms of the race riots of Chicago in 1919 that are described in Abu Lughod’s second chapter of “Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.” I will begin by presenting the major ideas of each text and then drawing connections between them.

Firstly, Useem’s article “Breakdown Theories of Collective Action” outlines two different theories on the distinctions between riots and protests: breakdown theory and resource mobilization theory. The former is characterized by people resisting social structures and becoming more powerful than the sense of social order or control in place. Therefore, they disrupt everyday life and defy the authorities and laws that seem to represent their oppression. The latter is depicted by organizing through solidarity and collective action to gain an advantage of some sort or to put up a peaceful fight for a significant cause.

To summarize the next source, chapter two of Abu-Lughod’s book “Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles” outlines a sequence of events that led to the riots of 1919 and made them especially severe. It also discusses the characteristics of Chicago that made it especially prone to the race riots that unfolded, such as the fight over space and segregated housing and several other ongoing racial tensions that sprouted from Illinois’ origins as a southern state with strict miscegenation and voting laws, segregated schools, and “black laws” that required blacks to prove their freedom (Abu Lughod, pg 47). Some of the most relevant factors that worsened the harshness of the grievances in Chicago and thus worsened the impact of the riots themselves were the labor shortage that increased competition in the workforce, overcrowding and housing issues, and especially the unjust murder of Eugene Williams.

The two pieces work in concert with each other, particularly because one of the theories that Useem identifies clearly fits with the riots of 1919: breakdown theory. Abu Lughod shows breakdown theory in this chapter with their responses to the culmination of events leading up to the riots, particularly the death of innocent teen Eugene Williams. He was a victim of racial violence during a day at a segregated beach; when the boundaries were seemingly blurred between the white and black beaches, outrage ensued and Eugene Williams was caught in the middle, struck by a white man’s rock and propelled off his raft, disorienting him so much that he drowned before anyone could save him. On top of this deeply unfortunate event being a result of racial tension, a black man was wrongfully arrested instead of the actual white perpetrator, because the police would not allow anyone to arrest a white man. From that point forward, everything broke down and a full-on racial war ensued. People swarmed to the beach with rage, and even more blacks were harmed, with seven getting stabbed as well as four wounded by gunfire (Abu Lughod, pg 61). Breakdown theory was taking hold of society as they knew it, and the only way they knew of to build themselves back up was to first become a part of the total breakdown to rock bottom in order to make their voices heard.

Useem’s  article also identifies the important difference between routine and non-routine collective action. To begin, routine collective action is a product of solidarity and more privileged position in society to be able to organize in a cohesive manner that falls in line with resource mobilization theory, such as in electoral rallies and peaceful protests. Conversely, non-routine collective action is accordance with breakdown theory and includes people freeing themselves from society’s restraints on them and responding to oppression using anything they can get their hands on. Rebellion, collective violence, and rioting are solid examples of this type of collective action. The two pieces once again converge on this subject as the second chapter of Abu Lughod clearly exhibits non-routine collective action in Chicago’s riots of the time. For one, the violence that black workers faced from Irish gangs when going through the stockyards in the days following the riots was a clear indicator of non-routine collective action (pg 58). Another characteristic that makes the action able to be defined as non-routine was the violence that blacks were facing on public transportation as well as the molestation on their way to and from work.

In conclusion, these two pieces worked hand-in-hand to outline the theories and forms of collective action that surround rioting and protesting. Useem’s article presented us with the definitions of resource mobilization theory as well as breakdown theory, the second of which was extremely evident in Abu Lughod’s second chapter on the race riots of 1919 in Chicago. Additionally, we were able to apply not only breakdown theory, but also the concept of non-routine action to the riots of Chicago as well, which helped us link both theories to their respective forms of collective action. All in all, it was not exciting to discover the hardships of those rioting and experiencing oppression, but it was stimulating to get to read about the riots in Chicago and connect breakdown theory and non-routine collective action to those very events that were unfolding, seeing those intriguing concepts operating in real-life situations.
Works Cited

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. “The Bloody Riot of 1919 and Its Consequences.” Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. 43-78. Print.

Useem, Bert. “Breakdown Theories of Collective Action.” Annual Review of Sociology 24.1 (1998): 215-38. Web.

Vy Tran SOCG 371M Sect 1: The Underlying Issue

Janet Abu-Lughod compares riots that take place in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles in her book, “Race, Space, and Riots.” She looks at the race riots in these cities from the locally political standpoint and considers factors such as demography, economics, and community relationships. When Abu-Lughod speaks about the riots in Chicago, she discusses the race riot in 1919, which was initiated when a white rock thrower hit and drowned an African American boy who was swimming in Lake Michigan named Eugene Williams. As with the other riots examined, deeper issues stemmed from this. The main issue was the power struggle between ethnic whites and African Americans over housing, politics, and most certainly unemployment.

Boundaries between white and black were hardened in Chicago following the riots. The city pursued the “Atlanta Solution” where spatial segregation was the goal; to protect white areas from black intrusion. Residential areas as well as workplaces and social institutions were made separate for the races. The Black Belt was expanded and the border was made more firm in its boundaries. Throughout this civil rights struggle to change the segregation in Chicago, a second riot was sparked after Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. This riot occurred in the poorer West side of Chicago and resulted in expansion of the ghetto to the outskirts of the city.

In comparison to riots in areas such as Ferguson and Baltimore, the underlying dynamic is racial discrimination. In these cities, riots broke out due to the death of African American men who were in police custody. Not only were they in the hands of police, but they were victims of police brutality due to their race. Similar to the riots in Chicago, Baltimore created a white society through federal, state, and local government. Racial laws and policies kept blacks living separately from whites. As we’ve seen in class in the movie, “Crips and Bloods,” the individuals described their absence of identity in their community. With unequal treatment and racial profiling by the police, they formed groups for a sense of belonging, which were labeled as “gangs.” Experiencing this racial discrimination creates a barrier of tension and loss of community. Riots occur because of this built-up anger and tension. In result, innocent people’s homes, businesses and properties are destroyed.

The placement of power in a community is crucial for making local decisions that affect its members. It is especially important that elected officials are representative of their community and are making decisions with the people’s best interests in mind. As we see in riots, many times, members of a community feel powerless and resort to unnecessary extremes in order to get their message across. If communities and people in power could acknowledge and address the deeper issues at hand, there could be better progress towards ending racial discrimination.

Works Cited:

Strauss, Valerie. “From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Consequences of Government-sponsored Segregation.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 3 May 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <>.

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

Reaction 3 Ria Shah Section 2

On most white-dominated college campuses, there is always the issue of the lack of diversity among the student body. The University of Missouri is one of them that has been in the headlines recently. The school has been put under fire after not taking any action against the extreme racial tensions that occur in everyday life between the white and black students and faculty of the university. The University of Missouri has been put under the spotlight by being used as an example on how college racism is becoming a huge issue and hasn’t changed much since the civil rights era.

In some ways, the grievances of black students mirror those of other campuses across the country. The black students almost always felt as if they were being judged by the color of their skin. One student puts it, “It can be exhausting when people are making assumptions about you based on the color of your skin. I can be exhausting to feel like you have to speak for your entire race. It’s so exhausting that on some mornings I ask myself if I want to go to class and sit with people.” These young black college students are not only dealing with the harassment on campus but also via social media such as Yik Yak. Yik Yak is a commonly used app that lets users post statuses and comments anonymously within a one mile radius of the user. At the University of Missouri, racial threats against certain students so bad that students felt unsafe to walk on campus, afraid that they will be attacked physically and/or sexually. These students feel a sense of cultural isolation and feel harshly judged 24/7. There have been racial threats made via social media against these students. The university, specifically the university president, has been criticized for being slow and ineffective in addressing these racial tensions. The university president brushed this under the rug and the students are not happy. As a result of their frustration the students formed a group called the Concerned Student 1950 and protested against the school. The group was named after the year that African-Americans were admitted to the university.

According to the article, “Both blacks and whites are clearly underrepresented at the university compared to the demographics of the entire state. Eight percent of the students are black while nearly eighty percent are white compared to about eighty-four percent of the state.” Academic outcomes have also been unequal. “83% of black freshmen return for their sophomore year, nearly 88% of whites and 94% of Asians do. And black students have the lowest graduation rate of all races, less than 55%, compared with 71% for whites”.

Soon universities and colleges across the country united with the students at the University of Missouri. We notice the injustices that are occurring to people just like us. We notice what is right and wrong. We notice the grievances that young people just like us are going through on a daily basis and how the administrative power is doing absolutely nothing about it. Instead of going the violent route to be heard, students at the university and other universities around the nation are using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, etc) to let their voices be heard for these injustices to come to an end once and for all.

Reaction 3, Sequoi Phipps, Section 2

Reaction 3, Sequoi Phipps, Section 2

A brief examination of recent events in the United States will reveal that some of the most talked about events involve policing, riots, and systematic racism. There is a long list of the names of citizens killed by police officers, and in many of these cases, the events that followed these deaths included rioting, policing, curfews, destruction of property, and filtered media coverage. As an example, let’s take a look at Baltimore; what happened, what were the reactions to policing, what has happened since the riots, and how do “we” react now? (We – in this short reflection, “we” are students, scholars, citizens, humans. But remember that though I am attempting to speak generally, you will ultimately be reading the view of a student who thinks that this is how “we” should react to this problem in comparison with the ways in which the public and the media are reacting.)  

In two sentences, here is a brief overview of what happened in Baltimore. On April 19, 2015, Freddie Gray died after suffering injuries while in police custody. At the news of his death, the city of Baltimore experienced riots that were met by police officers, the National Guard and a declared state of emergency. There has been discussion since these events about the ways in which all members of the city reacted. In these next few paragraphs I am going to talk about what happened after.

Police brutality in Ferguson or Baltimore or Oakland represents the failure to bring real economic reforms that might have a chance of ameliorating the suffering of the poor and unemployed” (Palermo). During the riots, mirroring the events of any other recent riot in the United States, there was aggression displayed towards to police. The trigger of the riots stemmed from an instance of police brutality, during the riots there was visible animosity against the police, and ideas of who the police were and how they used their power were impacted after the riots (both on a local level in Baltimore and on a national level).

Another ripple of riots like the one in Baltimore is how the community and economy are impacted. Often, the cost of damages is immense, local shop owners often suffer the blow after their stores are vandalized and looted, the stigma surrounding a city can quickly alter how often visitors come to the city, and the dynamic of neighborhoods and housing can also be impacted. Nathan Connolly suggests that events like the Baltimore riots could bring up other important questions about jobs and unemployment. But in so many cases after events like this one, tax payers money is going to increased policing and more resources are being dumped into ways to make law enforcement and politicians look like they are making an effort to be better (Gwen Ifill, PBS). But what if the question was not only “how do we make law enforcement better” but how we begin to approach the real issue of systematic racism? Law enforcement’s relationship with minorities is absolutely a part of that, but so is job inequality, housing segregation, and the ongoing stigma attached to territory and “who belongs where” in the eyes of law enforcement.

My question, though, is what is being done as a result of these riots across the United States? Often, it appears that all of these outcomes – tension between law enforcement and minorities, economic changes, skewed media coverage, and nation-wide debates – result in band aids and cough drops rather than real treatments. In Las Vegas, bias training classes were being taught to law enforcement in order to educate and condition law enforcement officers to make critical decisions based upon the situation rather than making judgements based upon the person they are encountering (This American Life). Are bias training classes bad? Absolutely not. The inherent intention behind these courses is to educate and prepare in ways that best serves a community. But we can reference again to Palermo, “The simple fact is that millions of Americans are living under a distorted form of laissez faire capitalism that will continue to breed civil unrest.” That is the wound that needs to be addressed.  The ripples that can happen after a riot can spur on good change, yes good, if the right questions are being asked and the actual wounds are being healed.

This American Life


Ifill, PBS


Editorial: Black on Campus

Earlier this month on November 12th, 30 black student activists at Virginia Commonwealth University sat in at their president’s office in order to protest the school’s inadequate representation of the black students. The demands were simple; increase the number of black faculty and diversity efforts.

These actions are directly inspired by the series of protests that occurred at the University of Missouri. Starting out as a hunger strike, the presence of outspoken black students brought out a lot of the hidden racism in the campus as protesters were attacked by racial slurs and threatened with physical violence. White students in pick up trucks would ride on campus with more direct threats and yell at black students. The KKK even rallied in opposition. Racism turned visceral and with its out bringing nobody on that campus or in this nation could ignore it.

The national media lense was shifted from the disenfranchised streets of poor black communities dealing with police brutality onto one of the least suspecting spaces of our society; the college campus. Held to the highest standard, we often view our universities as spaces of progress, where the younger generations have been freed of their prejudices from their academic liberal arts educations. Some students, as it turns out, have a different outlook on what it means to be black on campus.

Once the lense was shifted onto the college campus, many shared their experiences of the passing aggressions that they face on a day to day basis on twitter through the hashtag, #blackoncampus, Summed up, a lot of these complaints did not look like the outright threats of lynching or physical violence that we witnessed, but feelings of isolation and small everyday interactions. Many complained of being tokenized by their communities on brochures and pamphlets, while being stopped and interrogated on campus by their own university police. Many also complained of the lack of black professors and being accused of using the race card or benefiting disproportionately off of affirmative action.

When we look at Virginia, a state that borders the northern region of the country, our situation looks different than it does in Missouri. Deeper in the south there the networks between white supremacists groups are stronger and they are able to make more of a visceral impact because of their deep roots in the communities. While physical violence towards black people happens in the north as well, there strong dynamics of campus life that uphold white supremacy through a softer means, such as the ones suggested in the tweets.

While we see more and more black students on our Virginia campuses now, the space is still white dominated. The VCU student activists identified these problems in their list of demands, when calling for a 5% increase of black faculty in the course of 2 years, an increase in tenured black professors, and cultural competency and diversity trainings for students. They want diversity not only in their student body, but in the very core curriculum that makes up their education that is most always dominated by white men in traditional academia.

These requests indicate that black students struggle to feel represented on their campuses, and are using this window of political opportunity and media sympathy for the black student population to fix this imbalance. They are identifying the various microaggressions coming from different sources (faculty, other students, and admissions) and bringing them together in order to paint the broader picture of what racism looks like in America in 2015. Its not as explicit and its not as gruesome as it was in the 1960’s, but nevertheless, these dynamics are keeping black students from excelling in their academic environment and instead creating one of tension that slowly eats at one’s self worth.