Last August, National Public Radio promoted a book titled In defense of looting. On Monday, the NPR Politics podcast aired a “Book Club” segment where NPR fans were supposed to read a book together, and this case was a book titled America on Fire: The Untold Story of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s. NPR correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben interviewed the author, Elizabeth Hinton, a radical professor of African American studies at Yale (and Yale Law School).
The title of the program was Black Rebellion: Mass Violence and the Civil Rights Movement.
Hinton said she was “super excited” to join NPR, and Kurtzleben responded, “I’m excited too. I love doing these episodes. This is so exciting. This book is great.” As could be seen from the title, the riots and looting were to be romanticized as “rebellion.” (As opposed to the horror of the terrible riot on January 6).
SHORT LIFE: You speak of these clashes as rebellions – and quite intentionally, not so unrest. It is a very significant choice. It really shapes how the reader perceives these shocks. Tell us more about how you made that decision, about differentiating with you.
HINTON: A lot of the reason that we’ve gotten caught up in this, you know, in this policy cycle is the response to these incidents of mob violence when they came up in the mid-1960s and language is really important to. understand the true kind of meaning. and motivations behind this form of violence, so that we can respond to it more effectively.
So, starting in Harlem in 1964, after a New York City police officer killed a 15-year-old black high school student, and residents took to the streets for several days and, you know, attacked the police officers looted shops and burned them. buildings, Lyndon Johnson said this violence is related to crime and crime problems in our cities. It is illegal, it has nothing to do with the civil rights movement, it is a crime …
For this reason, Hinton believes that it is wrong to describe looting, burning of buildings and violence against the police as “crime.” Clearly, she thinks violence is an important driver of social change. She is insulted that violent rioters are not recognized as idealistic advocates of progress:
HINTON: … failing to acknowledge the socio-economic causes of the rebellions and the set of grievances shared among protesters within the racial justice movement at the time, who were fighting for full political and economic inclusion in American society. So, like the mainstream civil rights movement, the demands of those who adopted this set of violent tactics were based on a demand to end police violence, of course, protection from white supremacy, decent jobs, educational opportunities. expanded and housing. And instead of acknowledging these older drivers, Johnson and other officials insisted that this is criminal and therefore the only answer is more police, which is precisely what residents were protesting against.
His point was that “violent and non-violent protests were deeply intertwined” as part of the solution. Everyone was looting … for social justice?
Obviously, blacks were not fully integrated into American society in 1964, but the whole rationale for this book now is to explain the George Floyd riots of 2020, as if nothing has changed in 56 years. Hinton’s book clearly argues “the optimistic story of a post: Jim Crow America no longer holds up.” (Look down.)
“It’s a great book,” Kurtzleben said at the end, thanking NPR legal correspondent Carrie Johnson for recommending it to the book club.
PS: This is the taste of the book you get on amazon:
“Not since [communist] Angela Davis’s 2003 book, Are prisons obsolete?Has an academic so persuasively challenged our conventional understanding of the criminal legal system. “―Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., Washington Post
From one of our leading historians, a revolutionary story of policing and “riots” that shatters our understanding of the post-civil rights era.
… Even after Donald Trump, many Americans view the decades since the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s as a story of progress toward greater inclusion and equality. Hinton’s expansive narrative uncovers a completely different story, taking us on a haunting journey from Detroit in 1967 and Miami in 1980 to Los Angeles in 1992 and beyond to trace the persistence of structural racism and one of its main consequences, the so-called urban riot. . . Hinton offers a critical corrective: the word rampage was nothing less than a racist trope applied to events that can only be properly understood as rebellions“Explosions of collective resistance to an unequal and violent order. As she suggests, if the rebellion and the conditions that precipitated it never went away, the optimistic story of a post – Jim Crow America no longer holds up.