That’s Rich: The One Percent’s Hypocritical Litmus Test Of ‘Violence’
Donald Trump can always be counted on for a certain perspective. So when he - several years ago, before he was president - without context, asserted that our nation’s violent crime problem generates almost exclusively from the Black and Hispanic communities, it came as no surprise. The then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed to echo Trump’s remarks. We see his thinking at work in the decision to send ATF agents to Chicago like a foreign occupying army.
What these statement reveal, however, is an all too familiar disconnect from violence perpetuated by the rich and powerful — who are overwhelmingly White. War profiteering, proxy wars, lax workplace safety compliance and so on, are all part of the bloodshed experienced in America and around the world, instigated not so much by a particular race or ethnicity as by a certain socioeconomic class.
Worked to death
A Center for Disease Control study from 2011 found that:
— Between 1992 and 2002, there were 64,333 civilian workers who died from injuries sustained while working in the U.S., generating a total societal cost of over $53 billion. The mean and median societal costs of a fatal occupational injury for these years were $831,000 and $838,000, respectively.
— Civilian occupational injury fatalities ranged from a high of 6,303 in 1994 to a low of 5,316 in 2002, while the total societal cost ranged from a low of just under $4.7 billion in 2002 to a high of $5.2 billion in 1994.
— By state, California experienced the largest amount of total societal costs ($5.4 billion), followed by Texas ($4.7 billion), Florida ($3.2 billion), Pennsylvania ($2.2 billion) and Illinois ($2.1 billion). Georgia reported a cost in excess of $2.0 billion and is the only remaining state above $2.0 billion. Vermont ($95 million) reported the smallest amount of societal costs and was the only state to report costs below $100 million.
According to another report titled Death On The Job by the AFL-CIO, the Hispanics that Trump has no problem demonizing are particularly at risk:
Latino workers continue to be at increased risk of job fatalities, with a fatality rate of 4.0 per 100,000 workers in 2011. There were 749 fatal injuries among Latino workers, up from 707 in 2010. Sixty-eight percent of these fatalities (512 deaths) were among workers born outside the United States. Workers who are undocumented may be at particular risk facing abuse and exploitation and fearing retaliation if they raise concerns about unsafe working conditions.
The report also places the annual costs of workplace illnesses and injuries at an estimated at $250 billion to $300 billion a year.
Yes, many jobs will always have some inherent risk, and yes, there are such things as unavoidable tragedies, but the track record of corporate recklessness is well-documented as it pertains to worker and environmental safety. This is far from a purely American worker problem.
Wal-Mart, for example, could have avoided the fire that caused over 100 deaths at a Bangladesh garment factory that made clothes for the super-retail chain. Bloomberg reports:
At an April 2011 meeting in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital, retailers discussed a contractually enforceable memorandum that would require them to pay Bangladesh factories prices high enough to cover costs of safety improvements. Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Wal-Mart director of ethical sourcing, told attendees the company wouldn’t share the cost, according to Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, who attended the gathering. Kalavakolanu and her counterpart at Gap reiterated their position in a report folded into the meeting minutes.
The statistics tell a clear story of a violence that isn’t called violence by the likes of Trump. They consider it merely the cost of doing business; the inconsequential side-effects of free-market forces. The blood spilled and the lives limited by disease are treated as appropriate sacrifices on the altar of greed.
The business of violence
War has long been used as a tool of the world-wide aristocracy as a means to obtain and maintain wealth. The CIA-backed Guatemalan coup in 1954 is a clear example of how powerful interests routinely use violence, sanitized by political rationalizations, as means to the end of a bigger corporate bottom line.
The official government story was that popularly-elected president Jacobo Arbenz was secretly working with the Soviet Union and therefore promoting the evil of communism. In actuality, the CIA was working on behalf the largest landholder in Guatemala: the United Fruit Company (now Dole) — an American company.
What followed was decades of brutality by military dictatorships – which included a civil war that led to a genocide of the country’s indigenous people (an estimated 200,000 people were killed). At the end of the day, the only proof that pointed to a Soviet-Guatemalan connection was two invoices totaling $22.95 to the Guatemalan Party of Labour, from a book shop in Moscow.
The year before the overthrow of Arbenz, the CIA worked on the behalf of British Petroleum in Iran to overthrow another democratically-elected government. This violence rarely, if ever, is called violence by those who waste no time racializing violence in the U.S. And although those who made such decisions were predominantly, if not exclusively white, race never entered the discussion.
The war profiteering of recent conflicts only highlights how what I term Rolex aggression is viewed through an entirely different prism from those who use violence on the streets to protect their drug revenue. The shareholders and executives of Halliburton were rewarded with a no-bid, open-ended 7-year contract for their work in Iraq even before the war began. As a matter of fact, Halliburton’s Pentagon contracts made a quantum leap from $483 million in 2002 to over $6 billion in 2006. There is absolutely no way we came separate the dividends from the violence that made them possible.
Anywhere from 113,185 to 123,900 Iraqis have been killed since 2003, making blood-flow and cash-flow inextricably connected as the gospel of uber-capitalism cleanses the coins in the coffers of the one-percenters.
A new world-class yacht? One thousand mangled bodies of Iraqi children. An extra 1500 square feet for that house in the Hamptons? Five thousand dead Iraqi civilians. The Benz with all the bells and whistle? Two hundred fifty bullets in 75 bodies.
It cannot be whitewashed nor can it be sanitized. Violence is sanctioned when it acts at the behest of and for the benefit of rich and powerful interests.
The aim of this writing was not to let those within communities of color off the hook for the senseless and brutal violence they’ve committed. Far from it — I have been personally impacted by it. Violence, however, whenever and wherever, must and should be addressed. It is a curious thing that when wide-scale damage is done to those in the workplace because of lax compliance with safety laws, or when false allegations lead to wars, it fails to be included in the same category as urban violence.
And when those who authorize and execute the wars and those who profit from them are overwhelmingly White then, and only then, race isn’t the issue – and this writer isn’t trying to say it is, either. And yet inner-city violence is almost always about the color of those involved. Big Business, Wall Street and the world-wide aristocracy’s violence profiteers would like for us to disconnect their proceeds from the means that produced them.
Donald Trump, especially over the past few years, has carried bigotry and cluelessness to new and dizzying heights, but he’s still singing an old and familiar tune. And contrary to the stereotype, this Black man can’t dance to it.