The Profitability of Racism

In his opinion piece in today’s issue of The New York Times, “Black Culture Is Not the Problem,” N. D. B. Connolly presents a provocative counter-argument to those flying around in relation to racial profiling in US criminal justice practices. According to Connolly, “the problem is not black culture.” Placing the problem and its resolution on some vague component of black culture misses the point. Connolly argues that “it is policy and politics, the very things that bind together the history of Ferguson and Baltimore and, for that matter, the rest of America.”

To Connolly, the heart of the problem is the economics of racism:

Specifically, the problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods.

To begin to change things, Connolly suggests:

By avoiding the language of individual failings and degenerate culture, political leaders, black and otherwise, can help us all see the daily violence of poverty. More, they can better use the power they have to do something about it. By calling a nationwide “state of emergency” on the problem of residential segregation, by devising a fairer tax structure, by investing in public space, community policing, tenants’ rights and a government jobs program, our leaders can find a way forward.

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