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History of Race Riots Reveals — and Obscures

Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 23 years ago, in 2001, on the World Wide Web.

David Greenberg’s Riot Act – The last century’s racial disturbances have a common cause: police brutality [Slate.com] provides a good discussion of the past century of riots by black citizens and its links to the white supremacist corruption of the police department and justice system. On the other hand, it has a lingering problem: it attempts to cast all race riots as black people rioting and attacking white people. This neglects the truly vicious white supremacist assaults on blacks in towns such as Tulsa and St. Louis. The article even tries to lump the 1919 Chicago white supremacist riot as a black-initiated race riot similar to Watts, L.A., or Cincinatti.

Yes, I know the article is an attempt to show how the rioters were provoked by massive police brutality and that oppressive police treatment of blacks has got to stop if we want to end the violence. But it has a subtle effect in reinforcing a few dangerous premises. It reinforces the conviction that racial problems mean black problems, and don’t have anything to do with the active brutality of whites. And similarly, it makes it seem as though racial violence is something that blacks initiate, even if we see that initiation as justified. In the vicious race riots of the early 20th century, that simply was not the case. All of this leads to a continuing view of blacks as a problem to be solved, as the (Greenberg’s words) the violent and the lawless element of a race riot.; What about the white thugs in Tulsa who dropped dynamite on black ghettoes from airplanes? What about the white St. Louis rioters who raped and tortured black women and men by the thousands? Blacks are not the only racial troublemakersof the twentieth century.

4 replies to History of Race Riots Reveals — and Obscures Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. ashley

    I am doing a report on riots, particularly blacks who are protesting something a white person has done. I have found a lot of information on black riots but this is the first information on white riots I have found. Thanks for the info.

· December 2003 ·

  1. matt

    Why do we automatically assume it is ‘racial’ when there is a white cop beating a black criminal? If the cop wasn’t white, people wouldn’t be making a racial issue out of hit. How is THAT not racist? Why is it not such an outrage if a black cop is beating a black suspect? Why is there no outrage when blacks are killing eachother in their own neighborhood?

— 2004 —

  1. Jasper Myers

    Hi everybody,

    Im just on here to express my concern about the racial problems in America and all across the world. Im not a racist or anything, but mainly what it all boils down to is that, White men, in particular, are affraid and intimidated by a darker race of people, it has always been there nature, because they know that black people world wide will raise up on them at anytime, it is more dark skinned people on earth than white, and the white people know (racists) know this, and they feel threatened!!

    It is especially a problem in America. I think in my opinion, when the slaves were brought here from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the blacks that came to America, were more treated like a barbaric creature, less of a human being, at one point not even considered 1/3 of a human being, IT HAS ALWASY BEEN A RACIAL CONFLICT OVER HERE, but in the islands and South America, it was more for a financial gain, (more slave trades, and they were allowed rights, and property and so forth, and in some caese the slaves were at least treated civil in some cases!! Not so much in America.

    That is just my take on the matter. If anyone wants to chat, hit me back, at smoothjazz01@yahoo.com, thanks a lot!!

— 2005 —

  1. Shabazz

    There is an outrage when it comes to black on black crime and it’s a problem that is being dealt with everyday. But you have to admit to the fact that white cops have always had it in for black men. the footage of white cops beating down the blackman makes it a fact. Have you seen black cop beating down white male civlian. I don’t think so.

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