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Excess People


Riot PoliceMatt Stannard’s “Policing Justice Requires Economic Justice” (part one here, part two here) is an excellent exposition into an urgent need for change-that screams beyond the horrid headlines and newscasts. As heartbreaking and frightening as the always present danger that urban policing potentially imposes on young black males, this policing and its broad unquestioning acceptance by the community at large, speaks to much larger issues.

The author correctly tethers “policing” to a larger and interconnected issue of ‘economic justice”. While many people immediately conjure up images of Detroit, when any reference to “rust belt cities” is brought up; St. Louis does indeed share many of the classic challenges of a de-industrialized midwestern city, with that Michigan city some 600 miles to its northeast.

The de-industrialization of our society is now being accompanied by a technology based obviating of jobs, that were formerly thought of as “safe”. The service/information sector sector was heralded as our salvation during the years of off-shoring and technology-based elimination of jobs in our “rust belt” during the 1970s and 1980s. The word from the media, and many educational institutions at the time was implicitly clear: “Don’t be a chump-study computers, you’ll be set for life, unlike those sorry out-of-work 50 year olds in Detroit.”

Another promise, another panacea and another broken promise. Flash forward to 2014. The disenfranchisement of “excess people” continues as is demonstrated in Ferguson, Missouri and other places. As gentrification increases, more African-Americans are being forced out of cities-where they were formally sequestered in “ghettos”. For decades post World War II, the majority of center cities were abandoned by whites. White Flight. Excess People.

The African-Americans were left behind, following a relatively brief (1945-60) post-war industrial blue collar heyday in the industrial northeast and midwest. Now the young, educated, and affluent are returning to the cities. They like the convenience, ambience and public transportation they find there. The poor ( blacks and whites), are now being “pushed” once again, this time out to suburbs such as Ferguson-the very same suburbs that were emblematic as escape valves for white families, some 50 or 60 years ago.

In spite of their considerable educations and achievements, there now are more involuntary “excess people” drawn from semi-elite society. African-Americans have long long known about the negative connotations of being considered an “excess person”, obviated by economic change.

When will wounded white, educated, and newly redundant people admit to their own newly found, vulnerable status as an “excess person”. When will  they join with their long oppressed brothers and sisters, and oppose the oppressive corporate oligarchy that is currently dominating our society and polity?

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