Evictions as the New “Monuments to White Supremacy”

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

The City of Richmond took down the statue of Stonewall Jackson yesterday in the hope, in Mayor Levar Stoney’s words, of protecting the public and starting the healing process. But across town enraged demonstrators were one step ahead of the Mayor, having switched the focus of their wrath from Civil War memorials to housing evictions.

Marchers downtown chanted, “Fight, fight, fight! Housing is a right!” and “Eviction is violence.” Apparently, the demonstrators got disorderly, although the Richmond Times-Dispatch account is unclear. Deputies deployed pepper spray, a window was smashed, and two people were arrested. One is left to deduce from the photograph accompanying the story (shown above) that violence occurred, or was threatened, at the John Marshall Courts Building.

What is clear is that the mob has moved on. It has found a new cause.

“I find this incredibly insidious,” said organizer Naomi Isaac. “Especially when our elected officials are congratulating themselves for taking down monuments to white supremacy on Monument Avenue while replicating those same monuments to white supremacy at the courthouse against people who are fighting against [evictions] and fighting against the way that’s affected Black people for generations.”

There is a real social issue at the root of the mayhem. The COVID-19 shutdown has thrown hundreds of thousands of people out of work. As a consequence, many are falling behind in their rent payments and are being threatened with eviction. A week ago, Governor Ralph Northam said the state would use $50 million in federal emergency aid to help Virginia residents pay their rent and mortgages, and Mayor Stoney pledged another $6 million. Meanwhile, the federal government has dispensed thousand-dollar checks to tens of millions of Americans and has bolstered unemployment insurance payments to help carry people through the shutdown. Additionally, Northam dictated a statewide evictions moratorium, but that expired last week. The Virginia Supreme Court refused to extend the freeze, and eviction cases are now moving through the courts. It has been reported that 1,900 households in Richmond alone face eviction.

People affected by the shutdown, including those who have lost jobs and are threatened with evictions, have every right to protest in an orderly, law-abiding manner. But they don’t have a right to destroy property and engage in violence, even low-level violence.

I made the point in a post yesterday, “The Kraken Cannot Be Appeased,” that the Kraken, in the immortal line from “Clash of the Titans,” has been released. As I wrote, “The Kraken is running amok. The Kraken is not interested in healing. The Kraken is not in the mood for compromise.”

The Kraken, of course, is the mob. And it took only a few hours for my prediction to come true.

Yesterday’s mob, propelled by social-justice groups such as Richmond For All, the Virginia New Majority, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, has an endless list of demands.  The New Virginia Majority website says the organization is targeting economic justice, criminal justice, environmental justice, housing, education and health. The mob cannot be appeased. Indeed, activists have been attacking Mayor Stoney from the left, accusing him of cozying up to rich, white plutocrats in the now-defunct Navy Hill controversy.

Social-justice issues have been simmering for years, but militancy has increased dramatically in the past few months. While some of the intensity no doubt stems from the reaction to the George Floyd killing in Minnesota, it also coincides with the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 shutdowns, which threw thousands out of work and exacerbated socioeconomic insecurities. With the new race-is-everything paradigm, the travails of poverty, experienced by all races/ethnicities, are viewed as manifestations of racial oppression.

Social justice warriors have no interest in “healing” unless it is entirely on their own terms. Their power depends upon keeping people riled up. And as long as Virginia’s political class remains ambivalent — “I don’t support looting, vandalism, and destruction, but protesters are responding to systemic injustice” — there will always be a new cause, and there will be no no end to the disorder.

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52 responses to “Evictions as the New “Monuments to White Supremacy”

  1. I think either you have a very selective memory or you were occupied with other things while this country had multiple race riots – much, much more serious and violent than what we are now seeing.

    This is NOT a “new” thing, it’s not a ‘rare” thing, it’s a continuing thing, and we have never really done much about it – so it keeps coming back and we keep acting like we’re surprised and upset:

    A Timeline of US Race Riots Since 1965

    https://www.voanews.com/usa/timeline-us-race-riots-1965

    • How is this a comment on Jim’s column?

      • because Jim seems to not acknowledge that this is just the latest in a series of issues and he totally misses how violent many of the prior protests were – over the very same issues.

        • You really can’t believe that Jim Bacon doesn’t know the history of race conflict in this nation.

          I still want to know where you are going with this. What specifically do you want done about it?

    • You missed 1992, try harder.

    • Do you think what happened at the courthouse yesterday was a race riot?

      If not, why did you bring up race riots?

      • re: ” What is clear is that the mob has moved on. It has found a new cause.”

        you want a REAL MOB!

        • He used the term “mob”. “Mob” has no inherent racial connotation.

          Why does it have to be about race? Why can’t it be about economic status?

          –to paraphrase a certain person who regularly posts to this site…

          • Evictions as the New “Monuments to White Supremacy”

            when you add the above to “mob” ?

            or this: ” With the new race-is-everything paradigm, the travails of poverty, experienced by all races/ethnicities, are viewed as manifestations of racial oppression.”

            so seriously – if you read the whole thing – do you not get race connotations?

            so… can you read the whole thing and still wonder if it is about race or economic status?

    • Activism is a business — a going concern — and compromise/being reasonable for actual solutions to a problem does not support fund raising. Once you understand that, the behavior is predictable.

  2. I hope that it is apparent to everyone here (although I doubt it) that the issue of the day with this mob is never the issue. The sub rosa issue is an implacable hatred and rage against Western Civilization. The agenda is the destruction of the “existing order” without honest disclosure of the nature of the ephemeral utopia which motivates the foot soldiers of the mob. Until the mob or its intellectual leaders offer a positive vision of what they hope to create, it is hard to grant the assumption of good intentions to the movement.

    A few excerpts from Eric Hoffer’s book “The True Believer” might provide cannon fodder for those who try to characterize the mob’s quest as noble:

    Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.

    Passionate hatreds can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. These people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance.

    The enemy – the indispensable devil of every mass movement – is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter, and the deviationists are his stooges. If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing … the true believer … must be constantly on the lookout for saboteurs, spies and traitors.

    The desire to escape or camouflage their unsatisfactory selves develops in the frustrated a facility for pretending – for making a show – and also a readiness to identify themselves wholly with an imposing spectacle.

    A movement’s call for action evokes an eager response in the frustrated, for they see in action a cure for all that ails them.

    Mass movements strive … to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it … to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard … Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by … the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is.

    The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.

  3. If scared politicians want non-paying occupants to stay by government order, reimburse the landlords for lost rent. Just compensation. I read about that somewhere during my in-person schooling.

    • seems like the Feds are bailing out everybody and their brother – why not this?

      • So you don’t have a problem with out of control Federal Spending? Where shall this money come from? Perhaps we can liquidate all Government pensions to pay for this, how say you?

        • My point is that the reporting, including the nearly 1200 word article in yesterday’s RTD, and thus the public discussion, never gets to landlords’ rights, only tenant’s rights.

          Temporary government intervention to stop evictions in a health crisis may be justified, but the taking of the landlords property for government use – housing the poor – without just compensation is unconstitutional on its face.

          • yes – but we bailed out a bunch of restaurants and other small businesses on the same basis – that they owed rent… no?

          • I completely agree with that fact, I do think it’s not something that should be addressed by the Fed though. It should be a State function, the Fed can provide that money if they wish but it should be the state.

            As with most things that have been undertaken during this pandemic, the Judicial repercussions will be long lasting.

          • TooManyTaxes

            What do you expect from today’s woke journalists?

          • mob report from WSJ:

            ” Amid Coronavirus Shutdowns, Landlords Often Determine Fate of Small Businesses

            On one street in Brooklyn, survival can depend on negotiating a temporary rent cut with the building owner

            One of the owners of Brooklyn’s Du Jour Bakery was trying to negotiate a rent cut when a representative of her landlord suggested several grant programs she could apply for.

            That put Vera Tong over the edge. “I was like: Don’t you think I apply for those?” she said. “I apply for everything that’s out there. I apply for things that don’t even make sense for me.”

            The bakery and its landlord, listed by the city as Greenbrook Partners LLC, eventually agreed to a temporary 50% cut, she said.”

            WSJ July 2 2020

    • It seems that politicians and others who attempt to justify and placate the mob hope to be exempted from “devil status” and that the mob will leave them alone. In their more fevered and irrational fantasies they imagine that the mob will be grateful to them for their moral support. The unpleasant truth from history is that mobs are generally composed of the insatiable, irrational and ungrateful. In case it isn’t obvious to people here, most of us (even those on the political left) are unalterably part of the devil class, especially the males. A second lesson from history is that the mob NEVER builds something better than what it destroys.

  4. Jim says people have the right to protest in an orderly, law-abiding manner but the disorder will continue. So only orderly protests are law-abiding? Does everyone have to march in one straight line? Protests are designed to be disorderly as is civil disobedience. First amendment rights are messy and noisy so get over it. Everything out there is one big “mob” in his eyes which really has no meaning at all.

    • It is somewhat self evident that only law-abiding protests are law-abiding…And one of the rules of civil disobedience is you are willing to take the legal punishments. Getting arrested is part of it. If it were law-abiding, there would be no fines or nights in jail. Rowdy and noisy are fine, but weapons and vandalism, not so much.

      The point I noted elsewhere, Larry, is the government IS going to be paying the rents, and probably for tens of thousands. With that prospect, I expect evictions will only proceed on other grounds, say for property destruction or conducting illegal activities. But the Governor’s announcement that the rental program was in place and ready to go meant nothing to The Mob.

      • “If it were law-abiding, there would be no fines or nights in jail. ”

        Hence, no consequences to either side, and sadly politicians don’t vote their consciences; they vote the consequences.

  5. Apparently some of the protestors are people facing eviction, recruited by social justice organizations. So they vandalize the courthouse where their cases will be heard? I don’t expect they will get much sympathy from the judge when their cases come up. The organizers have done disservice to their cause. It doesn’t sound like the organizers communicated remedies already available to help with rent.

  6. Thanks to SBostian for the book reference, an old classic. On Amazon here is what it says: “A part of Harper Perennial’s special “Resistance Library” highlighting classic works that illuminate the “Age of Trump”: A boldly packaged reissue of the classic examination of dangerous nationalist political movements.”

    When I read SBostian’s excerpt and report, I thought he was describing the cult of Trump Supporters.

    So what readers on this blog need to realize is that the center has not held. This “movement” (Jim’s “mob”) is a backlash to years of repression, just like Trump’s cult mob is also a backlash to perceived years of oppression – loving the authoritarian, know-nothing/claim to know everything leader and the party that he has taken over.

    In 2015, former MD governor Martin O’Malley who was running for President as a Democrat said we can have “reform or pitchforks.”

    Reform of our corrupt system has not come, the pandemic and associated economic collapse has, and so now have the pitchforks.

    One man’s mob is another man’s freedom riders. Time to both hold the mirror up and take a look into it, folks.

    https://billmoyers.com/story/bill-moyers-talks-with-jeffrey-sharlet-about-tulsa-trump-and-america/

    • Good comments. Thanks for the link to Bill Moyers. I did not realize that he was still around and commenting, reporting.

    • Martin O’Malley’s tenure as Maryland’s governor was so miserable that he achieved something nobody thought possible … the election of a Republican governor of Maryland. I really wouldn’t look to O’Malley for saugacity.

      • On the other hand, if I had time to improve my guitar skills in the rock and roll genre, I would certainly accept lessons from him.

      • Maryland electing a Republican governor was so unthinkable it hadn’t happened since the governor that directly preceded O’Malley.

        • One term Bobby? Lost his reelection bid. Then eight years of O’Malley. Let’s compare … Who was governor of Virginia 8 years ago? Bob McDonnell? How much would you like to wager that the next governor of Virginia will be a Republican? Just tell me a number because I’ll take Democrat for just about any amount without even knowing who is running. Even with two blackface practitioners and a twice accused rapist manning the helm of the state right now. Eight years is a lifetime in state politics.

          And the last Republican governor of Maryland before one term Bobby?

          Spiro Agnew.

          As bad as McAuliffe and Northam were / are they’re not bad enough to get a Republican elected in 2021. O’Malley was in a class by himself.

          • re: ” As bad as McAuliffe and Northam were / are they’re not bad enough to get a Republican elected in 2021. O’Malley was in a class by himself.”

            It’s not like there are not moderate center-right GOP anymore…

            they’re out-there… and most elections these days are decided by the middle independents and they are more than willing to vote for a GOOD GOP.

          • UpAgnstTheWall

            Wow, I’ve heard of shifting the goalposts before, but you managed to move them all the way across the Potomac in a guileless attempt to discredit Virginia Democrats.

            Add in some childish, clunky nicknames and this would have been the Rippert special.

  7. You name your blog after a violent uprising by angry colonialists mad they couldn’t murder more Doeg people to steal their lands led by a pissy land baron upset the governor didn’t like him enough to let him in on the beaver trade and then turn around and handwring about a dozen college students angry that their fellow citizens are about to be evicted in the middle of a Virginia summer during a pandemic busting a window.

    That’s some real good intellectual consistency.

    White colonizers didn’t have to enslave kidnapped human beings from Africa, but they did. White Americans didn’t have to make slavery racially unique and inheritable, but they did. White Americans didn’t have to accept that Black human beings counted only three-fifths as much as they did, but they did. White Americans didn’t have to perpetuate slavery past the end of the transatlantic slave trade, but they did.

    The nation we have is the result of a series of choices, and we can pretend those choices are inevitable or were so long ago they don’t matter, but that’s bullshit because each choice builds on the one before it.

    Freed from the yolk of England, white America could have embraced the Black people they brought here as equals. Following the Civil War, white Americans could have offered restitution to their recently emancipated Black countrymen. Following that, white Americans could have extended the opportunities and protections of Reconstruction offered their Black countrymen past the Grant administration. White Americans could have rejected Jim Crow. White Americans could have offered the full benefits of Social Security and the rest of the New Deal to Black citizens. White Americans could have adopted housing policies free of redlining and racial covenants and allowed Black veterans the full promise of the G.I. Bill. White Americans could have respected school integration and not used highways built by taxes everyone paid to flee to suburbs Black Americans couldn’t access.

    White Americans could have chosen to allow Black Americans free access to this country, and they didn’t. Instead, they enslaved them and lynched them and destroyed their neighborhoods and blew up their churches while their daughters were inside and blasted them with firehoses and turned dogs on them and made their drugs more criminal. All the while taking taxes from them and sending them off to fight in wars.

    And you want to complain about a scuffle on the courthouse steps.

    • Bless you, child.

    • well, that was then, and this is now , and besides not all uprisings are good things….

      • Sure, but if you view uprising – any uprising – as a valid form of political redress then you don’t get to cluck about it as a tactic. If people think the goal is bad they should have the courage to say so and not retreat to false moral concern about violence as a tactical choice.

    • Up Against the Wall, I remember hearing it once said of Osama bin Ladin that he relived the Muslim’s humiliation by the “crusaders” of nearly 1,000 previously as if they were just a few years ago. He nursed ancient wounds as if they had been inflicted upon him personally. It strikes me that you’re doing much the same, reliving every bad thing that whites have done to blacks over the ages without any recognition that it has been a long, hard ascent from the universal barbarism of the 1600s to where we are today, as imperfect as we are. You hold up the gritty reality of American history, with all its pros and cons, against some utopian idea of perfection that no one else has ever achieved. You give no credit whatsoever to the thousands of people who died to free the slaves. (It’s one thing to die in the pursuit of your own freedom, but a rare thing in the course of humanity to die in the pursuit of someone else’s freedom.) You give no credit whatsoever to generations of philanthropists, and no credit to the expenditure of trillions of dollars to uplift America’s poor, especially African-Americans. And you give no acknowledgement that many of the problems afflicting African-Americans stem directly from the detrimental unintended consequences of many of those policies — not from slavery.

      You insist upon applying the standards of utopia, but whenever such standards have been applied, whether to make the new Soviet man, or advance China’s perpetual revolution, or establish socialism in locales as far flung as Zimbabwe to Venezuela, those shining ideals have created suffering more widespread than anything ever seen in this country. And, yes, I’m including the institution of slavery.

      Saturday is Independence Day. Our country has many flaws, but I’ll celebrate the creation of our country, and I’ll celebrate the ideas that the founding fathers birthed, and I’ll celebrate the USA’s ability to evolve in something better than what it was when it started. I suppose you can find a flag to spit on. When you do, just give a fleeting thought to where your freedoms come from.

      • Very well said.

      • James,
        I am with you
        and will gladly celebrate Independence Day! It seems to me that there are a nontrivial number of genuine haters of the United States and of Western Civilization who are active here. If the US and Western Civilization (which is the soil from which our country grew) are so vile, with no redeeming moral or historical value, some questions practically suggest themselves:

        1. Our nation is irredeemably evil compared to what? (Your fictional utopia is not a valid answer.)
        2. If you feel that the country, its history and its founding values are not worth preserving, even in part, what do you propose replacing them with? Be honest.
        3. What is the honest agenda of those who seek deconstruction of the republic? Platitudes are not an agenda. If you are a neo-Marxist admit it. At least we can have an honest debate, with agendas on the table.
        It seems that quite a few here hold this country and anything remotely southern to a standard of perfection, while holding their team to no standards at all.

      • I never argued for utopia or utopian standards, I merely listed a series of grievances needing redress, which with Independence Day coming up should sound familiar.

        The barbarism of the 17th century was neither universal nor inevitable. On the continent, in the isles, and in the colonies there was always a hierarchy and those able to live as an aristocrat over others – governor Berkeley shows us that much. And enslaving millions of people was not an inevitable, necessary response to the struggles of the day.

        And of course I don’t give credit to philanthropists when discussing the choices made by the majority – white Americans – inside the framework of a democratic republic. The actions and policies of the country are what matter. I gloss over the Union sacrifices to destroy the traitor states because I don’t know that I would personally thank someone who was stabbing me for stopping, but I’ll put it on the scoreboard and it still doesn’t come close to tieing the score. Even if we restart the game at Appomattox everything from Jim Crow on still goes on the list.

        And while I disagree with the assertions of the Moynihan Report caucus, if what you say is right then those policies are still the fault of white Americans because they’re the ones electing the white Americans who go in and draft and ratify laws.

        I’ll be celebrating Saturday, too, as I do every year. I love this country, it’s been very good to me. But more than the abstract notion of America I love Americans and I understand the centuries of suffering some of my countrymen have visited on others and why some people might find these evictions unjust in the context of that generations long system of oppression. Acknowledging the wrong choices this country made isn’t utopian or wrong, it’s accepting that a mature nation state should do more grown up self-reflection and try to atone for that harm, not perpetuate it.

        But I’m an existentialist in the tradition of Kierkegaard and find modern conservatisms adoption of post-modern moral relativism unacceptable.

        And one final thought that I was trying to ignore, but it honestly pissed me off so much I can’t let it pass. No one here is spitting on a flag you drama queen, and as someone with fighting family reaching all the way back to the American Revolution I know exactly where the freedoms I enjoy come from, who paid the freight, and how some of my countrymen have paid much more into this country than they and their ancestors were able to get back. Just because I think we as white Americans could have done better – including my own predecessors – doesn’t mean I’m spitting on anything. It just means I have faith my country can learn and do better.

  8. Chad and JT. Just saw these guys on Ellen. Yeah, I watch Ellen. Surprised?

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rP6SFPaGqeI

    They attack city councils about ordinances and such. BR needs to encourage them to speak on behalf of the Richmond monuments.

  9. I found this article from May about an earlier protest about evictions:
    https://www.nbc12.com/2020/05/26/group-rallies-courthouse-delay-eviction-proceedings/
    That protest was just a “let’s be annoying” thing. Still it’s counterproductive to annoy judges. It’s also counterproductive to stir in eviction protests with BLM protests. Evictions affect all races and the eviction problems now are because of Covid loss of income, not racism. The CARES act, by the way, put a moratorium on evictions from federally backed housing:
    https://www.investopedia.com/renters-how-to-get-covid-19-rent-relief-4800858
    The legal aid society would serve their clients better by providing information rather than organizing an unruly group to target the courthouse. They should have told their protestors that it’s not a simple thing to walk into a courthouse. Ever since 2001 there have been rules and procedures about entering.

  10. Maybe my eyesight is going but that attached photo seems to show three uniformed black men wearing masks trying to protect public property against a group of unmasked white protesters taking cell phone videos.

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