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The broken heart of America: St. Louis and…
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The broken heart of America: St. Louis and the violent history of the… (edició 2021)

de Walter Johnson (Autor)

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831264,717 (4.33)1
"From an award-winning historian, a groundbreaking portrait of pervasive exploitation and radical resistance in America, told through the turbulent history of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis. And as Walter Johnson shows in this searing book, the city exemplifies how imperialism, racism, and capitalism have persistently entwined to corrupt the nation's past. St. Louis was a staging post for Indian removal and imperial expansion, and its wealth grew on the backs of its poor black residents, from slavery through redlining and urban renewal. But it was once also America's most radical city, home to anti-capitalist immigrants, the Civil War's first general emancipation, and the nation's first general strike -- a legacy of resistance that endures. A blistering history of a city's rise and decline, The Broken Heart of America will forever change how we think about the United States."--… (més)
Membre:Manas1000
Títol:The broken heart of America: St. Louis and the violent history of the United States
Autors:Walter Johnson (Autor)
Informació:New York: Basic Books, 2021; orig. 2020
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:St. Louis, American social history, race relations, read, discarded

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The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States de Walter Johnson

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Thorough and depressing book linking the continued expropriation of Native and Black people’s wealth and lives to the prosperity of white America through the story of St. Louis. “The red thread that runs through this entire book is the historical relationship between imperialism and anti-Blackness.” Johnson argues, among other things, that whites used Indian removal as a model for how they treated Blacks—white flight was important, but so was kicking Black people out of whatever land they were on when whites decided they had better uses for it. St. Louis began American life as an outpost of empire and beneficiary of the defense industry when that mostly meant defense against Indians, and in 1836 became the site of “arguably the first lynching in the history of the United States,” of a Black steward who thought he could move as freely as any white man in the imperial trade system of which St. Louis was a part.

In St. Louis after the Civil War, federal troops whose commander already used to killing Indians in California fired on Black and white striking workers, who were engaging in a general strike whose unprecedented interracial solidarity made its threat potential incredibly clear to the powerful men of the day. After the strike was crushed, city leaders began the Veiled Prophet parade, which continues to the present day; the image of the Veiled Prophet in the book bears a striking resemblance to a KKK cloak and hood. Meanwhile, St. Louis was the launching point for US troops who redeployed from the South at the end of Reconstruction to drive Indians onto reservations or into death.

The 1917 East St. Louis Massacre prefigured Tulsa, but was deadlier. Predatory national corporations founded their own municipalities on the margins, where they could pollute, evade taxes, and buy politicians on the cheap. Because valuable industrial property was hardly taxed, the government relied on fees and fines that fell most heavily on the poor, which would still be a feature of injustice a century later. But at least the white workers got the satisfaction of knowing that East St. Louis and similar environs were hostile to Blacks. As Blacks migrated North for opportunities, white politicians and newspapers stoked fears of black “colonization” and connected that to claims of voter fraud, representing what Johnson calls “the impulse toward ethnic cleansing that lies latent at the heart of our democracy.” Fear of replacement by Black workers stoked white racism; this fear of replacement no longer centers on work, but remains potent.

In the 20th century, racial restrictions slowly moved from explicit to implicit, but were powerful forms of wealth expropriation and suppression either way. Landlords could charge higher rents and do less maintenance when Black tenants lacked alternatives; the deterioration of their buildings would then be blamed on Black residence and used to justify moving them off the land and redeveloping it. A brief resurgence of working-class Black activism in the 1930s was again ruthlessly suppressed by wealthy whites; the Communists who came in to organize didn’t make common cause with non-Communist Blacks who otherwise might have supported collective action, and then the postwar settlement between capital and labor privileged unions from which Black workers had long been excluded. Discussing “anaphylactic” white violence in response to the brief integration of a public swimming pool, Johnson writes that “racism and capitalism were not identical …. They were always in excess of one another—capitalism mobilizing and exploiting whites as well as Blacks, and white supremacy providng pleasure, even the filthy pleasures of racial disgust and collective violence, as well as profit.” (When the pool was reopened, whites boycotted, so the parks department closed the pool and filled it with concrete.)

I’ve read more about the later parts of this story—urban renewal aka “Negro removal,” construction of highways that destroyed Black neighborhoods in order to allow white suburbanites to have easier commutes into the city whose taxes they would not pay, public housing that was immediately underfunded and left to deteriorate (the elevators of Pruitt-Igoe stopped on every other floor to save money), and so on. Here’s a shocking fact: “By the late 1960s, there were more sociologists working in Pruitt-Igoe than dedicated maintenance workers.” And another: You probably know that police militarization has a lot of links with the actual US military, but did you know that the Army conducted secret radiological weapons experiments in 1953-4 in St. Louis, a total of 163 chemical releases in neighborhoods that researchers had identified as “densely populated slum districts” and “poorer sections” that were useful because they were subject to greater “police surveillance”? (The NIH says the doses weren’t high enough to be dangerous.)

Still later, city officials used redevelopment initiatives and block grants to drive Blacks out and increase the value of the downtown district. Restrictions on property taxes for high-value property, which benefit wealthy owners, contribute to St. Louis’s self-defeating use of the one survival tactic that appears to remain: giving tax subsidies to businesses. So St. Louis ended up paying $70 million directly to the owner of the Rams because of a stadium deal, only for the billionaire owner to move the team back to LA, leaving St. Louis “the owner of a 67,000-seat stadium in which to host horse shows and church conventions, as well as $144 million of debt still to be paid on the bonds that it had issued to pay for the stadium in the first place.” Meanwhile, poor Black homeowners were losing their houses for unpaid property taxes, and then the city is too broke to keep the seized houses up to code.

Even when the state receives payroll tax revenue for its sweetheart deals, it’s notable that the money goes to the legislature and not to the local schools (as property taxes would). Given gerrymandering, this represents a transfer to white rural Republicans from predominantly Black schools. And disadvantage piles on disadvantage: the cash-starved Normandy school district lost its accreditation; state law thus allows students to transfer to nearby districts, but only for $20,000 per student—more than Normandy has per student. So, for five years at the time of writing, this struggling district has been subsidizing the schools in wealthy counties—including Ladue, one of the wealthiest counties in the US. And that’s before we get to the expropriation of Black wealth in the mortgage crisis and the imprisonment of Black Missourians in predominantly white rural areas.

This book should be read by anyone who wants to see how different aspects of structural racism interlock. ( )
  rivkat | Jul 23, 2021 |
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"From an award-winning historian, a groundbreaking portrait of pervasive exploitation and radical resistance in America, told through the turbulent history of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition to the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, American history has been made in St. Louis. And as Walter Johnson shows in this searing book, the city exemplifies how imperialism, racism, and capitalism have persistently entwined to corrupt the nation's past. St. Louis was a staging post for Indian removal and imperial expansion, and its wealth grew on the backs of its poor black residents, from slavery through redlining and urban renewal. But it was once also America's most radical city, home to anti-capitalist immigrants, the Civil War's first general emancipation, and the nation's first general strike -- a legacy of resistance that endures. A blistering history of a city's rise and decline, The Broken Heart of America will forever change how we think about the United States."--

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