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Shortness of Breath

There are entire sets of personal, social, economic and institutionalized pathologies of power that would have to be unraveled if ‘racism’ disappeared tomorrow. More to the point without referencing the historical sedimentation of these ingrained power-narratives, police brutality would be an incomprehensible ‘effect’ with a fathom ’cause’. In other words, police brutality would be what it is in Friedersdorf’s thinking, a set of problems that can be solved if you don’t think about ‘racism’ too much. After all, a key component of ‘whiteness’ is the effortless expectations of the realness of certain possibilities churning silently in the background as ‘whiteness’ listens intently for the echo of a historically refined and calibrated ego attributed to the self-made man.


What would you do if you overheard Professor Robin DiAngelo telling a reporter for Gawker that she explores the role that ‘whiteness’ plays in the policing of citizens of color? Would it bother you if she went on to define ‘whiteness’ as the broad cultural ‘water that we all swim in’? Does the notion of changing the ‘the water we all swim in’ offend or threaten you?  ‘Whiteness’, ‘unexamined whiteness’ and ‘the water we all swim in’ are words and phrases that DiAngelo uses to refer to knowledge and understanding of our shared culture and history. In a manner similar to W.E.B Du Bois articulation of the ‘double consciousness‘ of black people as self-awareness that includes a consciousness of the ways that white people perceive persons of color, DiAngelo asks white people to embrace a higher level of self-consciousness.

The Atlantic’s staff writer, Conor Friedersdorf answers DiAngelo by acknowledging that it “. . .would be fantastic to reduce racism in America, and while policing might then improve along with other aspects of life, no one knows how to achieve” the goal of reducing racism. Police and policing, in his thinking, is a stubborn sub-culture that resists change but can be better regulated.  In an article titled, Police Brutality and ‘The Role That Whiteness Plays, Friedersdorf  scorns the notion of  “would-be reformers focusing scarce energy on changing “the water” in which we all swim.  He argues against broad cultural change as an unmanageable social project and as a “misguided approach.” Of our shared history and culture, Friedersdorf asks, “is the water that “we all swim in” the relevant ecosystem?”


Friedersdorf’s article is ‘whiteness unexamined’. At work is an extreme unconsciousness in an “American Dream” state comprehending today in terms of the social injustices that have ripened beyond specific intents over the last 60 years. The “American Dream” state is an imagination of the growth, development and changing of our society uncontaminated by social relations of slavery.  In Friedersdorf’s thinking the quality of the “water we all swim in” is measured by the evils of slavery that were jettisoned during the Civil War, Reconstruction and subsequent civil rights movements.  In the “American Dream” state the children and grandchildren of parents whose citizenship was molested by Jim Crow should be doing back strokes toward prosperity instead of treading water and drowning.


All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time is neutral. It can be used either destructively or constructively. – Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail” – 16 April 1963

Since its ‘founding’, in different parts of the country there were societies without slaves, societies with slaves, and slave-societies. In 1776 the colonies declared independence from Britain stating “all experience has shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Yet when societies without slaves, societies with slaves, and slave-societies came together under one government they did not abolish the forms and structure of societies that accommodated the evils of slavery. Among the evils of slavery was the calibration of a unique culture and practice of policing slaves, that is, of policing black people.

“The role that whiteness plays” in the policing of black people was written and directed by the experience of subordinating and dominating black slaves before a more perfect union of societies without slaves, societies with slaves, and slave-societies was formed.  The newly formed union expressed a national identity that accommodated the idea that not all human beings “are created equal”,  “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Documentary ’13TH’ Argues Mass Incarceration Is An Extension Of Slavery

Negation of the 13th Ammendment: http://nyti.ms/2i0Nf5A , http://n.pr/2gN5c6V

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Unequal Sentences for Blacks and Whites

Colonizationists accepted the premise written into the Naturalization Act of 1790 (and reaffirmed as the law of the land by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision of 1857) that the United States was a political community of whites, and that no black person could be a citizen. (Foner 25)

The circumstance of Freddie Gray’s ‘life, liberty and . . . pursuit of happiness’ date back to 1664. His death occurred under those circumstances in 2015.


  • 1664 Maryland Marriage Law Enactment of the first anti-interracial marriage statutes
  • 1667 British Plantation Act Established codes of conduct for slaves and slave holders

Beginning in 1775, after “9 years of haphazard policing in “Baltimore Town” where mistakes were made, but those mistakes were learned from, and in 1784 “Baltimore Town”, decided to form a paid “Watch”.”


  • 1793 Fugitive Slave Law Discouraged slaves from running away; protected planters’ invested capital

“The ‘[Baltimore] City Council passed the first ordinance affecting the police” resulting in the creation of “an officer known as “The City” or “High Constable” in 1797.

“Baltimore made the first of certain steps toward creating the chief of police, or marshal as he was later called.” 1798

  • 1800 Maryland Agricultural Law Prohibited African-Americans from raising and selling agricultural products
  • 1805 Maryland License Law Forbade African-Americans from selling tobacco or corn without license
  • 1807 Maryland Residence Law Limited residence of entering free African-Americans to two weeks
  • 1810 Maryland Voting Law Restricted voting rights to whites only

“The Mayor was given control of the police. The power given the Mayor was unlimited. March 9, 1826

  • 1827 Maryland Occupation Acts Prohibited African-Americans driving or owning hacks,carts,and drays

An ordinance passed in 1835 that “provided for the appointment of twelve lieutenants of the watch, constituted policemen ” to preserve the peace, maintain the laws and advance the good government of the city[of Baltimore].”

  • 1842 Maryland Information Law Felonied African-Americans demanding or receiving abolition newspapers
  • 1844 Maryland Color Tax Placed a tax on all employed African-American artisans
  • 1844 Maryland Occupation Act Excluded African-Americans from the carpentry trade

The State Legislature on March 16, 1853, passed a bill, “To provide for the better security for the citizens and property in the City of Baltimore.”

  • 1857 Dred Scott Decision U.S. Supreme Court dehumanized, disenfranchised African-Americans and ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional
  • 1858 Maryland Recreation Law Forbade free African-Americans and slaves from boating on the Potomac

“The Legislature of the State (March 15, 1858) took memorable action in passing a bill to “provide for the better security for life and property in the City of Baltimore.” This statute also provided that the police force should be armed, that a commission and badge be furnished each member, and that it should be no defense for anyone who resisted or assaulted an officer to claim that his commission or badge was not exhibited.”


 Baltimore City Police History

A CSPAN viewer to Randall Robinson : “With all due respect, I think your words further entitle many blacks to find excuses instead of getting to work and doing better. We all have our injustices to overcome. Sir, you are speaking of 200 years ago.” (Randall Robinson’s Response)

The Death Of Kalief Browder Is An ‘American Tragedy Almost Beyond Words’ https://youtu.be/Ri73Dkttxj8

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The Videos That Are Putting Race and Policing Into Sharp Relief

1.5 Million Missing Black Men

Curriculum Vitae

Tom L. States PhD Candidate

Fields of Interest: Political Theory, International Relations, Marxist Political Economy

Research Topic: eRacism - Conflicts of Difference

Education History: Williams College, BA Political Science; New York University, MA Politics; York University PhD Candidate

Languages: English, German

Hometown: Greenwood, Mississippi

Words of Wisdom: “IT” is what you are when you are young. Your youth mistakes certainty of the few things that you think you know for knowledge of things that it takes a life time to understand. With time and a few life experiences “IT” becomes the thing you pursue to give your life meaning. Somewhere along the way of having or getting “IT” you ask yourself, ‘Is this “IT”? Panic sets in when you realize that “IT” is your life. Fear and insecurity is that feeling you get when “IT” has not been worth a life time.


Harvey, David. Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. New York: Longman, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press. 1967.

Cancian, Francesca M. Gender Politics: Love and Power in the Private and Public Spheres. Gender and the Life Course. Ed. Alice S. Rossi. New York: Aldine, 1985.

Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. New York: Verso, 2009.

Lay, Shawn. The Invisible Empire In The West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920's. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.


Carothers, Thomas. Think Again: Civil Society. Foreign Policy Date, (Winter: 1999-2000).

Ober, Josiah. The original meaning of "democracy": Capacity to do things, not majority rule. Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics. American Political Science Association meetings, Philadelphia, (2006).