Saturday, December 13, 2014

USA: Noam Chomsky on Ferguson and Racism

This is a very racist society,” Chomsky said. “It’s pretty shocking. What’s happened to African-Americans in the last 30 years is similar to what Baptist (Edward E. Baptist in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism) describes happening in the late 19th Century.

Chomsky said constitutional amendments were supposed to free African-American slaves, which they did for about ten years. Then, he said, a North-South compact granted former slave-owning states the right to do whatever they wanted.
And what they did was criminalize black life, and that created a kind of slave force,” said Chomsky. “It threw mostly black males into jail, where they became a perfect labor force, much better than slaves.

Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia. Painted upon the sketch of 1853 (Image from

Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia. Painted upon the sketch of 1853 (Image from

Chomsky explained that as a slave owner, the concern was keeping the “capital” alive. When the states were able to exert greater control over black lives, it became their responsibility to handle strikes and disobedience. Since African-Americans couldn’t effectively fight back against this increased state control, Chomsky said it led to a subjugated labor force.

He said that was the backbone to the American Industrial Revolution in the late 19th and early 20th Century, and it didn’t end until World War II.

After that,” Chomsky told Flanders, “African-Americans had about two decades in which they had a shot of entering [American] society. A black worker could get a job in an auto plant, as the unions were still functioning, and he could buy a small house and send his kid to college. But by the 1970s and 1980s it’s going back to the criminalization of black life.”

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