Law and Order and Racism

Not the first time Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has been mentioned on this site. In this interview with Anand Giridharadas at The.Ink, he openly says what many of his colleagues in the Senate have not.

I think it’s interesting that, as violent as America is around the revolution, we don’t start to become a global outlier of violence until the slave population explodes. There’s a ton of violence in America in the 1600s and 1700s, but from the data we can glean, it looks like America’s homicide rate doesn’t start to go into the stratosphere until we have so many enslaved Americans that violence is the defining feature of the American economy.

To me, violence explains a lot about how America has ordered itself from the very beginning. But, for many of our formative years after the Constitution’s signing until the eradication of slavery, it took just massive, mind-numbing amounts of violence to keep America’s economy running. It stands to reason that we became anesthetized to that violence during that period. I don’t think that we’ve ever got our sense of feeling back.

Giridharadas, Anand. (2020, September 15). America’s real law-and-order problem is racism. The.Ink. https://the.ink/p/americas-real-law-and-order-problem

Giridharadas himself doesn’t mince words either.

When pollsters ask voters about “law and order,” or when leaders promise to secure it, here is what many white Americans seem to have in mind: pure, placid, milk-colored communities living in perfect harmony, until darker-skinned people violently intrude.

In the minds of many of the suburban white voters who, in our peculiar system, have a disproportionate influence over election outcomes, peace is the default condition of white America, and violence is something that bubbles up from Black and brown communities that must be kept in check.

And so it was striking to me, in interviewing Senator Chris Murphy some days ago, that he rightly turned the law-and-order issue on its head. America, he notes in his new book, is the most violent country in the advanced world, and long has been. And he makes no bones about why: white people’s racism. Because from its earliest days America committed itself to an economic model dependent on chattel slavery, Murphy told me, “it took just massive, mind-numbing amounts of violence to keep America’s economy running. It stands to reason that we became anesthetized to that violence during that period. I don’t think that we’ve ever got our sense of feeling back.”

So America does have a law-and-order problem, but it’s nothing new. And the nature of that law-and-order problem is being the most violent country in the rich world. And the genesis of that violence isn’t Black and brown communities rising up against friendly, overwhelmingly white suburbs of Minneapolis. It’s white America, from the founding days of the republic, committing to an economic and political model that made violence a daily, systemic necessity.

Giridharadas, Anand. (2020, September 15). America’s real law-and-order problem is racism. The.Ink. https://the.ink/p/americas-real-law-and-order-problem