Moulitsas and Eleveld opened the show by discussing attitudes towards a higher income tax, which polling has revealed to have changed greatly over the past few years, especially among Republicans, as Moulitsas noted:
I would argue that more than a third of high-income Republicans supporting higher income taxes on wealthy Americans—I even think that’s a significant number. I don’t think we should dismiss it as ‘only one-third’—one-third of people who are probably going to be affected, Republicans, are saying, ‘No, it’s probably okay that we pay our fair share to rebuild our country.’
“The fact that Republicans are even at the table right now” is a big deal, Eleveld agreed.
The pair also talked about how important it is for President Biden and the Democrats to take credit for the most recent stimulus check, the child tax credit, and their other victories, which many Republicans benefit politically from now.
Dr. Hinton then joined for the second half of the show to offer her perspective on the future of policing and racial inequality in the U.S. one year after the murder of George Floyd and the resulting mass protests across the nation. As a Black woman who came of age as the war on drugs and the era of mass incarceration were unfolding, she witnessed firsthand how punitive priorities and increased police presence in Black communities affected her own family.
Hinton’s own lived experiences, as well as her research for her book, show us that police and state violence have routinely been utilized to quell Black rebellion and restore the order of white dominance. “[Police brutality against Black communities] was a form of political violence that was legitimate,” she elaborated, as it was “[one of] the ways in which the threat of Black rebellion has taunted political and economic elites, historically, from Jefferson on down.”
Several waves of urban uprisings have occurred throughout American history, such as during President Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. But the peak of the rebellion period actually occurred after the first major piece of federal crime control legislation was enacted: the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which had a significantly damaging effect, as Hinton describes:
[This act] basically militarized and expanded local police forces—not just in the big cities, not just in Detroit and Chicago and LA and DC, but in Greensboro and Waterloo, Iowa, and Carver Ranches, Florida, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Smaller, mid-size, and rural communities. And that’s when rebellions really hit the fan. Residents responded to the expansion of police in their communities and the policing of everyday ordinary activity—what we think of as zero tolerance today—by fighting back.
In this era, Johnson used both “carrot” and “stick” approaches, Hinton noted, passing civil rights legislation, helping dismantle Jim Crow, and engaging in the war on poverty only to turn around and then declare the so-called “war on crime”:
The war on crime and the Safe Streets Act … makes possible the transfer of things like armored vehicles, bulletproof vests, riot control helmets, helicopters, tear gas—the kinds of weapons and technologies that are kind of ubiquitous in law enforcement today—have their origins in this moment and are being gifted … in order to help suppress rebellion. The war on crime is very much motivated by a need on the part of federal policymakers, an awareness that rebellion is a problem and a continued embrace of punitive policies and police as the best way to solve it.
The federal government is, in the end, complicit in all of this, through long-term criminal justice planning agencies that decide the best way to expand police forces and prison systems. The federal government “incentivized and funneled all kinds of taxpayer dollars to expanding the carceral state, to expanding police and surveillance and prisons,” and the country is still living in the shadow of these policy decisions, Hinton said.
George Floyd’s death served as a tipping point at the intersection of the shared frustration in the Black community and the way information is shared in the era of the internet. For decades, many continued to believe that police violence was “a figment of Black peoples’ imagination,” but viral videos of police brutality—such as the murder of George Floyd—Hinton explained, galvanized the world. Moulitsas agreed, adding that body camera footage has exposed the routine and blatant lies of police officers across the country.
“Because police not only have a monopoly on violence, but also on truth, they don’t actually lead to greater accountability most of the time,” Hinton posited.
Hinton ended on a positive note, as she feels that young people like the students she teaches can leading the charge for the change in the next few decades: “Generation Z leaves me hopeful—they really grounded and steered many of the protests this summer. Many of my students, my undergraduates, they kind of came of age during the Trump Administration, and now COVID, and these protests. And I think they understand that this set of punitive priorities is costly, misguided, and doesn’t make sense, and they want to build a different kind of society.”
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