50 Years Ago Today: The Detroit Riot and the Decline of Civil Rights Liberalism (II) »

Throughout American history, government at all levels has used race to categorize, enslave, segregate, regulate human behavior, and limit immigration with “nationality” quotas that served as substitutes for race. Categorizing by race was essential to racist agendas.

In response, classical liberal civil rights activists struggled to eliminate government-mandated racial categories. They were anything but naive: racism was real, categories or no categories, but the government stamp of approval made things worse–and caused constant mischief in the ever increasing addition of group categories in the census or in immigration statutes. The only feasible solution was the most radical one: the complete elimination of government racial categories. Individuals might discriminate but would no longer have the support of the State. With time, classical liberals felt, the irrationality of racism and xenophobia would give way to better human relations.

50 Years Ago Today: The Detroit Riot and the Decline of Civil Rights Liberalism (I) »

Fifty years ago today (July 23, 1967), the largest urban riot of the 1960s rocked Detroit for five days (July 23-28). An encounter with the police (shutting down an illegal after-hours bar), sparked looting and arson on a scale far surpassing the riots that had burned in other American cities. While such riots often started with incidents involving law enforcement, the police were ordered—again and again—to stand down and let a small minority of African Americans loot property of small business owners (both black and white).

The Detroit Riot marked a turning point in how American policymakers dealt with race. The classical liberal tradition of civil rights, with its emphasis on rule of law and equal protection (regardless of race) gave way to policies that purposely treated minorities as “protected categories” deserving of treatment not accorded other citizens.

Apocalypse—Probably Not Now »

People my age have a wider perspective than most when we think about politics and government. When I hear young friends talking as if Donald Trump’s election portends the end of civilization and every good thing it has fostered, I recall vividly how it felt to live in the USA from 1963 to 1974,...
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Big Government, Racial Violence, and the Police »

In August 1965, the streets of Los Angeles erupted in fire, as black rioters burned hundreds of stores and ill-equipped police withdrew from the violent scene. Initiated by a minor altercation with a police officer, Watts was followed by worse riots, often sparked by encounters with police, turning cities like Detroit into burnt-over districts....
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Small Business Suffers: The Riots, Past and Present »

Several years ago, I wrote an article for The Independent Review on the urban riots of the 1960s (and the Rodney King riot of 1992). Watching the events unfold in Ferguson, it seems those in charge of riot control learned nothing. Once again, the victims were small business owners—many of them African Americans (as...
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