The Role of Government (and Me and You) in Oppression

Try and answer this question: over the past twenty-five years, what institutions have caused black people the most harm?

A strong case could be made that public schools and police forces top the list. Black children are forced to attend schools that few white people would send their children to. And black men are often deprived of their liberty (and lives) for crimes that cause no real harm. In both cases, unjust law and policy, coupled with operational dysfunction, have led to immense suffering.

Over course, government oppression of black people has a long, dark record in our country. It was written into our constitution. What we’re seeing today is unfortunately nothing new.

And this is not to say that the answer to these problems is abolishing government, or anything like that. Minorities tend not to do very well in anarchic states.

But it worth driving home the fact that government institutions – and by connection the voters who control these institutions – are playing major roles in limiting opportunities and freedom for black people.

It’s also worth noting that in many major cities, the Democratic party is the dominant political party.

To be direct: public institutions are harming black people, and in many cities these institutions are controlled by the Democratic party.

This is not to say that the Republican party would do any better. And it is not to ignore the role of states in setting laws and policies that affect cities (though Democrats have supported some of the worst education policy and criminal sentencing laws).

It’s just to say that our team might not be as innocent as you think.

For the record, I’m a Democrat. And I also believe that parties are best changed by leadership within the party itself. So this post isn’t meant to be about shaming and walking away.

It’s meant to help illuminate a set of facts that we sometimes ignore: the role each of us plays in not holding our team accountable for its role in oppression.

Spending energy yelling at the other team does have some value. We should publicly call out unjust  beliefs and actions.

But, in many instances, pushing your own team is an equally if not more effective way of making change.

2 thoughts on “The Role of Government (and Me and You) in Oppression

    1. Ed Jones

      Also, when you say ‘the last 25 years’ and “police forces”, have you looked at what life was like for Blacks in 1985?

      Check how many black lives were being lost in 1985 before police force numbers and authorities and local deference were increased. How bad the condition of cities was then.

      Twice as many were dying of violence..and not at police hands.

      Jail, of course, isn’t a preferred solution to that violence. Jobs and learning are. But democrats owned the 1985 murder/rape/assault rate even more than they own Baltimore. Congress was pure democrat for the 40 years before 1994.


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