In Support of Baltimore: Or; Smashing Police Cars Is Logical Political Strategy

Rioters near Camden Yards in Baltimore smashing the windows and windshields of police cars.

Rioters near Camden Yards in Baltimore smashing the windows and windshields of police cars.

As a nation, we fail to comprehend Black political strategy in much the same way we fail to recognize the value of Black life.

We see ghettos and crime and absent parents where we should see communities actively struggling against mental health crises and premeditated economic exploitation. And when we see police cars being smashed and corporate property being destroyed, we should see reasonable responses to generations of extreme state violence, and logical decisions about what kind of actions yield the desired political results.

I’m overwhelmed by the pervasive slandering of protesters in Baltimore this weekend for not remaining peaceful. The bad-apple rhetoric would have us believe that most Baltimore protesters are demonstrating the right way—as is their constitutional right—and only a few are disrupting the peace, giving the movement a bad name.

This spin should be disregarded, first because of the virtual media blackout of any of the action happening on the ground, particularly over the weekend. Equally, it makes no sense to cite the Constitution in any demonstration for Black civil rights (that document was not written about us, remember?), but certainly not one organized specifically to call attention to the fact that the state breaks its own laws with regard to the oppressed on a nearly constant basis.

But there is an even bigger problem. Referring to Black Lives Matter protests, as well as organic responses to police and state violence as “non-violent” or “peaceful” erases the actual climate in which these movements are acting, the militant strategies that have rendered them effective, and the long history of riots and direct action on which they are built.

I do not advocate non-violence—particularly in a moment like the one we currently face. In the spirit and words of militant Black and Brown feminist movements from around the globe, I believe it is crucial that we see non-violence as a tactic, not a philosophy.

Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege. When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy. It not only fails to meet the needs of the community, but actually puts oppressed people in further danger of violence.

Militance is about direct action which defends our communities from violence. It is about responses which meet the political goals of our communities in the moment, and deal with the repercussions as they come. It is about saying no, firmly drawing and holding boundaries, demanding the return of stolen resources. And from Queer Liberation and Black Power to centuries-old movements for Native sovereignty and anti-colonialism, it is how virtually all of our oppressed movements were sparked, and has arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire.

We need to clarify what we mean by terms like “violence” and “peaceful.” Because, to be clear, violence is beating, harassing, tazing, assaulting and shooting Black, trans, immigrant, women, and queer people, and that is the reality many of us are dealing with daily. Telling someone to be peaceful and shaming their militance not only lacks a nuanced and historical political understanding, it is literally a deadly and irresponsible demand.

The political goals of rioters in Baltimore are not unclear—just as they were not unclear when poor, Black people rioted in Ferguson last fall. When the free market, real estate, the elected government, the legal system have all shown you they are not going to protect you—in fact, that they are the sources of the greatest violence you face—then political action becomes about stopping the machine that is trying to kill you, even if only for a moment, getting the boot off your neck, even if it only allows you a second of air. This is exactly what blocking off streets, disrupting white consumerism, and destroying state property are designed to do.

Black people know this, and have employed these tactics for a very, very long time. Calling them uncivilized, and encouraging them to mind the Constitution is racist, and as an argument fails to ground itself not only in the violent political reality in which Black people find themselves, but also in our centuries-long tradition of resistance, one that has taught effective strategies for militance and direct action to virtually every other current movement for justice.

And while I don’t believe that every protester involved in attacking police cars and corporate storefronts had the same philosophy, did what they did for the same reasons, it cannot be discounted that when there is a larger national outcry in defense of plate-glass windows and car doors than for Black young people, a point is being made; When there is more concern for white sports fans in the vicinity of a riot than the Black people facing off with police, there is mounting justification for the rage and pain of Black communities in this country.

Acknowledging all of this, I do think events this weekend in Baltimore raise important questions for future direct and militant action in all of our movements. In addition to articulating our goals, crafting our messaging and type of action, we need to think carefully about what the longer term results of militant action might potentially be. Strategies I might suggest, and important questions I think we should try and answer as we plan or find ourselves involved in political actions are these:

  • Are we harming state and private property, or are we harming people, communities and natural resources? Is the result of our action disrupting state and corporate violence, or creating collateral damage that more oppressed people will have to deal with (i.e., Black families and business owners, cleaning staff, etc.)? Are we mimicking state violence by harming people and the environment, or are we harming state property in ways that can stop or slow violence? Are we demonizing systems or people?
  • Who is in the vicinity? Are we doing harm to people around us as we act? Is there a possibility of violence for those who are not the intended targets of our action? Are we forcing people to be involved in an action who many not want to be, or who are not ready?
  • Who is involved in the action? Are people involved in our action consensually, or simply because they are in the vicinity? Have we created ways for people of all abilities who may not want to be present to leave? Are we being strategic about location and placement of bodies? If there are violent repercussions for our actions, who will be facing them?

We should attempt to answer as many of these questions as possible before action occurs, in the planning stages if possible. We also need backup plans and options for changing our actions in the moment if any of the agreed-upon conditions are not the same when it comes time to act.

I rolled my eyes when inquiries in Ferguson “shockingly” revealed racist emails sent throughout local government, including higher-ups in the Police Department. I think many of us knew the inquiry of virtually any police department would yield almost identical findings. The riots in Baltimore have many drawing parallels between policy and conduct in both cities now. What kind of action brought to light for the less affected what Black people have always known? What kinds of actions will it take to make it widely understood that all policing is racist terror, and justice can only come with its permanent abolition?

Black power, Queer power, power to Baltimore, and to all oppressed people who know what time it is.

219 responses to “In Support of Baltimore: Or; Smashing Police Cars Is Logical Political Strategy

  1. Great article. Sometimes a riot is the most rational thing that can happen in a situation. And rational, philosophical violence might be the only language they understand.

    • I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with this article. Violence only spreads more hate, discrimination, and violence. While I know that the government and our society has never allowed blacks and other minorities to be equal, militant action will never accomplish the goal of getting this equality. By law African Americans are equal, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act accomplished that in 1968 through a campaign of peaceful protests, but it is clear in action and practice this is still not true (police brutality, incarceration, drug laws, open housing laws, employment, income…etc.) African Americans have lost faith in our government, our society and the system and I can see why. Militant groups emerged because they know the Civil Rights Movement did not achieve the ultimate goal. I can see why this is a knee jerk reaction for many and there is a lot of anger and resentment built up over a history of discrimination. However this kind of protesting will never accomplish the goal. The argument: “centuries-old movements for Native sovereignty and anti-colonialism, it is how virtually all of our oppressed movements were sparked, and has arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire.” is completely false, unless the writer of this piece wants to try and create a separate African American nation and go to war with the United States. The United States is not colonized Africa and Asia of the 20th century and violence is not the answer. Violence will only bring about more violence, further escalation and will definitely not bring about political and more importantly ,at this point, social change in the minds of all Americans. Violence will only solidify racial thought. Well thought out symbolic peaceful protests and movements show how ridiculous inequality is today and pushes politicians and everyday Americans to rethink their lives, the government, and our society’s collective conscious about race. Change is needed in the hearts and minds of every American to bring about true equality and violence will not change the heart and it wont change the mind.

      • To be fair – MLK was successful because the Black Panthers were there burning buildings down to provide an alternative to working with him. As both he and Malcolm X both recognized. Also, MLK was assassinated, so you might not want to point to him as an example of non-violence ‘working’.

    • Just like sometimes, when you’re living with someone, and you have an argument…Breaking that person’s stuff, or throwing things across the room, is the only “language they’ll understand.” You know, just really threaten them. Show them that you’re capable of violence, and unless they do what you want, you might take it a step further.

      • More than “just an argument” though…a better analogy would be: if you’re living with a violent abuser who has the capability to take your life, and you’ve been backed into a corner, you need to demonstrate that you can and will defend yourself by any means necessary.

        Let’s not act like all of this is sparking off due to a civil, innoculous disagreement between parties. This is a proxy war.

    • In an ideal world, your ideas would make perfect sense. You are making the mistake that the rioters are politically-aware individuals with a modicum of intelligence. Hardly the case. All I see is opportunism and wanton destruction. This isn’t the 2015 version of Gandhi, Che, or George Washington. To attribute revolutionary characteristics to the bulk of the Baltimore protestors is misguided. The true outliers in the Baltimore situation aren’t burning down homes and stores, they are attacking in other ways.

      • they don’t have to be politically aware individuals, they are not political commentators, they are living what we are discussing and are innately responding to their circumstances. you are letting your viewpoint be formed by what the police and mainstream media reports instead of reports from within the protests themselves. like you said, most are not politically aware so they have no reason to have an agenda like the police and mainstream media have shown time and time again to have.

        you also don’t know what the hell this is, none of us do, so to dismiss the similarities between now and established historical popular struggles is pretty stupid.

  2. Here is a piece that made many similar related points, and got a lot of attention from the right:
    Another thing to consider is that the Finance Insurance and Real Estate sectors extract far more capital from the community, on a regular basis, than a fleeting small scale riot. Just wanted to underscore that is an ongoing process, and if people could see the relative scale of damage from this sector more easily, political reactions in the ‘mainstream’ would hopefully shift in a more constructive direction.

  3. “Because, to be clear, violence is beating, harassing, tazing, assaulting and shooting Black, trans, immigrant, women, and queer people…”

    I have been having a great many arguments with people here in Florida, where I am living these days, about the race-baiting going on in the media surrounding police violence. While it cannot be denied that blacks suffer an inordinate share of these abuses they are still a small minority (18%) of the total and population and remain a minority of police abuses and killings. The way these things are covered gives a casual observer the idea that blacks are the only ones being abused which: A) makes the black community feel under siege and hostile to poor whites who can be targeted for revenge without fear of reprisal by the authorities, and: B) enrages poor whites because these kinds of atrocities against them are ignored and when they attempt to call any attention to it they are called racists and lectured on their “white privilege,” usually by rich whites. I have been arguing myself horse trying to tell my neighbors and family that the rich and their enforcers are the enemy, not the black community.

    The quote above from this article makes me wonder if I am wasting my breath however. I can’t help but wonder if maybe I SHOULD regard all blacks as my enemies when they come out and say that I am inferior, the embodiment of all that is evil, and that acts of violence against me and my family do not even count as violence at all. I regard the oligarchs and their servants as my enemies and I will not flinch for an instant as using whatever means I must to protect myself from them and their depravations. I would prefer to be allied with the black community but if blacks want to do me harm I will hold them in the same regard I do the police. There are still more of us than them in this country and if they really insist on a race war I’m game.

    • It is precisely because Black people represent such a small portion of the population that our over representation in prisons, police killings and any number of forms of state sanction violence is so alarming and infuriating. Acknowledging this need not and should not be about making invisible all the people who suffer at the hands of the state. This is one reason why lists of those targeted can be so long: Black, Brown, poor, queer, trans, women, immigrant, mentally ill, and on. Each category is distinct, yet we know we can not speak of them separately because so many of us belong to more than one. We know we cannot fight our battles separately because they are not separate battles. Segregation exists for the sole purpose of keeping oppressed communities from uniting to pose a real threat to the classes which oppress us.

      War is state violence. Militant movements should seek to end war, not instigate it with one another, and I see this value as core to the protests happening around the county and world. Each one of us holds privilege in some areas of our lives and oppression in others. Each one of us is capable of perpetuating violence, or of recognizing the systems that are our real enemies, and working collectively to dismantle them.

      • Anyone who would make a statement like “war is state violence” is completely clueless and unfit to comment on matters of politics and conflict.

      • @Jamie: If you’ve never heard of war referred to as state violence, then I’d say you’re fairly new to political discourse. Anyone who would argue that war is NOT state sanctioned violence is completely clueless and unfit to discuss political or economic discourse. See what I did there? Now do you want to actually discuss the topic or make more blanket statements?

    • My thoughts on that quote are very much along the same lines.
      Why is violence only defined as being against certain demographics? Isn’t violence something that everyone can experience regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their religion, their sexuality, etc.? I don’t like that as this article tries to bring discrimination to light, it perpetuates it in the same way.

      • The point is that violence against people and violence against property are not the same thing. Violence against people, community and environment are always heinous, and are the primary tools of the state and private enterprise. Destruction of property does not perpetuate the same cycle, but may actually interrupt it. Read carefully.

      • “When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy.”
        I wish that everyone in a demographic could be represented equally. I do. But the truth is that it really only takes one bad egg to ruin a reputation for the whole. I don’t think that all white men are quick to turn a cold shoulder for those in need, nor do I think all black men are criminals. But we have those prejudices and by thinking in these terms, we continually perpetuate that way of thinking.
        I said in my post, “I don’t like that as this article tries to bring discrimination to light, it perpetuates it in the same way.” Even though you may not have meant that violence only happens to certain people, you did continue blaming a demographic for the mistreatment of the underprivileged and therefore, my comment still stands.
        Read carefully.

      • Howdy Liz… Here’s a profoundly informative short lecture by Michelle Alexander about the prison system and the inequities… not how they came about, but rather how the system was built on and has relied on white supremacist values. That’s Slavery. I think she’ll be able to enlighten you about why the white male point of view is being scrutinized by this author and many others… but she’ll definitely help you to feel comfortable with the wake-up call as she champions MLK and Rosa Parks… and explains human rights. She also wrote a book very recently… I think called the New Jim Crow… I’m forgetting the title but that’s in the title at least (I apologize)

        The Future of Race in America: Michelle Alexander at TEDxColumbus

        I hope this helps you feel a little less threatened as you can see the shift of facts by way of the evidence. Peace to you. -TRE

    • “when they come out and say that I am inferior, the embodiment of all that is evil, and that acts of violence against me and my family do not even count as violence at all.”

      A) who even says that?
      B) why that person’s words make you feel differently about a bunch of other people who didn’t utter them?

      • “Because, to be clear, violence is beating, harassing, tazing, assaulting and shooting Black, trans, immigrant, women, and queer people…”

        “…the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed…”

        The entire is full of statements like these and the tone is clear. I was once robbed at gun point. The guy never said he was robbing me; he just pointed the gun and said “Money.” I’m pretty confident about what would have happened if I didn’t hand over my wallet though. When The Rwandan Genocide was going on the Hutus never said “Go slaughter the Tutsis” on the radio. They talked about “Clearing Bush” and “Killing snakes.” Everyone knew what they meant though.

  4. Hey, great blog and great post. In case you don’t already know, here’s a blog run by radical black woman out in CA:

    The most recent piece got some circulation for supporting property destruction against white supremacy after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, but you might be interested in reading deeper into the archives. Peace!

  5. “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
    ― Frederick Douglass

  6. “We’ll stop breaking your cars when you stop shooting our unarmed teenagers” strikes me as a more-than-fair offer.

  7. “When there is more concern for white sports fans in the vicinity of a riot than the Black people facing off with police, there is mounting justification for the rage and pain of Black communities in this country.”

    Of course their is! When the mob is attacking White people and throwing things at them, that is a hate crime! Go watch the videos! Never going to spend money in Baltimore again!

    • The only videos I’ve seen show white people shouting at and taunting protesters and generally looking for a fight. It’s not exactly open season on all white people. Before you say I’ve been watching the wrong videos, the ones I’ve seen were used by people trying to make the same point. Do you have a single video showing white people being attacked without harassing protesters first?

      • Are the white people not allowed to express their anger with their city being vandalized? Should they just sit there quietly to let the protesters loot and break windows?

      • “Are the white people not allowed to express their anger with their city being vandalized? Should they just sit there quietly to let the protesters loot and break windows?”

        They sat quietly when black children were being shot by the police. They sat quietly when black men were being incarcerated at a sickening rate. They sat quietly when black women were being sexually assaulted by the police. So yeah, maybe they should keep their outrage about broken windows to themselves.

      • @Michaela, yes, I am sure that the ones breaking the windows and looting the stores really care about black lives. Pretty sure they also care about the black employees who work in those stores and won’t be paid while the store is closed. Or the black business owners who will have to shut down for repairs and won’t make money. I’m sure the protesters put a lot of thought into it.

        Just like the gangsters who do the drive by shootings, flood black neighborhoods with drugs and rape black women – all of them must be really good guys just fed up with the “system,” so their behavior must be their only option. Why is the black community not lashing out against the gangs in their own neighborhoods? Why are they not breaking into homes of criminals who get kids hooked on heroin and crack cocaine, criminals who get young black girls into prostitution and pimp them out, and breaking their stuff and saying “enough!”? Or is it easier to just blame everything on an ambiguous, amorphous enemy called “white people?”

      • @Alexander: As many of the people IN those photographs have gone on the record to explain, those white people pictured were not trying to properly “express their anger with their city being vandalized”; they were drunken buffoons who wandered into the riot area by accident & tried to pick fights. The other white folks pictured were not protecting them from the rioters; they were RESTRAINING them from ATTACKING the rioters in their inebriated haze.

      • @Alexander: “yes, I am sure that the ones breaking the windows and looting the stores really care about black lives.”

        It’s your right to pretend to be a mind reader and guess what people in that situation are thinking. However, since you are not one of them and frankly seem to lack the empathy required to try to put yourself in their shoes, why not just keep your complaints about the darkies to yourself? Just because the internet offers to be your white hood from under which to post doesn’t mean you have to take it up on its offer.

        @Alexander: “Why is the black community not lashing out against the gangs in their own neighborhoods?”

        The police in these neighborhoods are looked at as being worse than the gangs. You are free to ignore this fact and the reasons for it, just as you are free to ignore what is actually going on and the reasons for the protests as you continue to demand that black communities fix everything in society before you will take any of their opinions about police killing their children seriously. Here’s a thought, though: maybe powerless people are breaking things because trying to convince people like you to do something while they watch their kids being murdered by the people who are supposed to protect them simply hasn’t worked?

      • @Michaela, let’s make this simpler. What do black people want regular white people (those who don’t have political office or money) to do?

        Me, as a regular white guy who has no money to give to a political movement and who does not have a job that allows me to hire people, promote people, or any other control. What specifically can I do that would make you say; “thank you for doing something about the killing of black men in our communities”? Not a rhetorical question.

      • Speak out against injustice; don’t turn a blind eye. Educate others if need be.
        Please don’t believe you are helpless to the cause. This is not a black white issue, it affects our entire country.

    • Ask yourself: “What stores did people loot from?” That’s an important distinction. Sure, some buildings probably got attacked that should have been left alone, but CVS, 7-11, Target; those are places that already exploit the downtrodden and expect them to be happy because “jobs”. So you’re going to get mad that these places of exploitation get attacked by the population they exploit?
      And don’t forget to remember that people came out in droves this morning in order to clean up. The above statement paints the picture as white people “taking back their city” while (black) protestors destroy it. That idea doesn’t take into account the protests in downtown Baltimore at all.

      • @ Michaela “Just because the internet offers to be your white hood from under which to post doesn’t mean you have to take it up on its offer.”

        You must be right. Because I’m disagreeing with you and because I am white – then I MUST be racist. I mean…What other explanation could there be?

      • @ Alexander “What specifically can I do that would make you say; “thank you for doing something about the killing of black men in our communities”?

        At the very least, when black communities turn to violent expression as a last resort after another one of them is killed by the people who are supposed to be protecting them, maybe try not to reflexively turn the conversation away from why the riots are happening and making the validity of other people’s misery subject to your convenience and approval? Or refrain from trying to minimize what this community suffers at the hands of its police force by juxtaposing it with gang violence, as if their inability to stop gangs in their community makes them less worthy of a police force that doesn’t terrorize them?

        “You must be right. Because I’m disagreeing with you and because I am white – then I MUST be racist. I mean…What other explanation could there be?”

        I don’t think you are racist based on your skin color or the fact that you disagree with me. I think you are a racist based on the fact that you feel the need to critique how people are coping with dire circumstances, but you choose to ignore the causes of those circumstances. Their children are literally being shot/beaten by the police for looking at them wrong, but you choose instead to focus on broken windows. They cannot call the police to deal with gang violence because the police do not protect them, but you choose to focus on the fact that they don’t break into the dealers/gangs hideouts and deal with them, as if any other community in the country would be expected to do the same.

      • @Michaela: “I don’t think you are racist based on your skin color or the fact that you disagree with me…..”

        Definition of racism: the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

        Nothing I’ve said falls under this definition. In no way do I believe that blacks or whites have abilities specific to them. If anything, I feel blacks and whites are very much alike and have the same motivators that drive them: money, power, and that all races have pre-concieved notions about others. We’re all the same at the core. Aztecs murdered neighboring villagers and sacrificed them. African tribes helped American slave traders round up other Africans to be sold into slavery. Yet all of that falls by the wayside, and the blame for everything wrong with this world is squarely placed at the feet of whites. That doesn’t mean that a lot of things shouldn’t change in this country. That doesn’t mean that we SHOULD change drug policies, prison sentences etc., but placing all the blame for violence and lack of opportunities in black communities at the feet of whites also is very dishonest.

        The fact that I don’t agree with you, and point out what I believe to be flaws in the rationalizations doesn’t make me racist. These protesters are “frustrated” but they’re not willing to wait for the final results of the findings. Their own pre-conceived notions and prejudices of what white cops do drove them to act this way. Maybe the cops did it, maybe they didn’t. Remember the Duke lacrosse team rape case? Everyone was so sure that the white guys were rapist animals, until all the facts came out. We don’t know yet what happened with Freddie Gray – but the buildings are already burning.

        Definition of prejudice: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

        Nothing I’ve said at all fits the definition above. Absolutely nothing. Pointing out what I believe to be inconsistencies in a philosophy doesn’t make me racist. Heck, even if I had no empathy as you’ve stated (which is not true), but even if that was correct, that still wouldn’t make me racist or prejudiced.

        So you can feel free to disagree with my point of view. But please don’t just chalk up my views (or any other white person who disagrees) of this situation to racism. Because it’s just an easy way to disregard any point that I’m making.

  8. Beautifully written article. I agree with some points; and don’t to others. Selma, though it turned out violent, it was COMPLETELY from the police and magnified to the world where the problem was. It was ugly and brutal; changes had to be made and the government could no longer justify it’s atrocities. In other words, to answer police brutality with MORE brutality doesn’t work….js.

  9. This article is my everything. I will probably read it 10 more times and frame it. Beautifully explained.

  10. I would only add a definition of violence that, having read, has been mine for decades.
    Resourcelessness. As per the noted witch/philosopher Starhawk.
    When all options are exhausted, when every other avenue has been tried, when you are without further resources- violence is whats left.
    Heresy, young man. I approve.

  11. You make an excellent case for why violence is justified, but I’d be curious to hear your argument for why it’s effective. You say violent resistance has “arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire”? What are they? I can think of a lot of setbacks.

    • Schools and media teach that MLK’s non-violence was the reason for civil rights advancement. Of course they will restrict their analysis to non-violence since they do not regard revolutionary action and violence as valid methods for discourse. However, if one was to actually investigate the civil rights movement, one would discover that the Black Panthers had a profound effect not only in their militant actions, but also in the services and programs they began to provide. They became a direct threat to much of “the system” vis a vis community protections and economic wealth distribution.

      This is one example. Another is the French (and other underground) resistance during WW2. In fact, it could be argued that Gandhi’s peaceful resistance to imperial England (possibly the only truly successful peaceful movement) was only successful because of the onset of WW1. In the end, though, neo-colonialism has reversed many of those gains anyway.

  12. The black/civil rights movement could achieve so much more if they just reached out to white people as a whole. If they just said something like “hey, I’m your brother/sister, and I need your help to make lives better for my community. unarmed black men are being killed and the police are getting away with it. will you cross racial lines and stand with me against this travesty?” That would make a HUGE difference, and it would get white people involved.

    Instead, the militant stance and “let’s break things” creates a very uncomfortable feeling in whites because why would you help someone who hates you? Combined with the militant rhetoric, many whites feel like the anger isn’t pointed at inequality, but directly at whites. It’s this “white people are privileged, racist and they oppress us…why won’t they help us?” If you accuse someone of being a d-bag, why would that person help you? “Hey, your life is so much better, because you’re white. Everything you achieved…well, it’s not that big a deal, because you’re white and it was easy for you since you’re so privileged. Now, why won’t you help me? I’m going to break things now, because you’re not taking my struggles seriously.”

    Forget civil rights, would that type of stance work in a romantic relationship or a friendship? If you want someone to be your friend, and to build a beautiful future together, do you think that person would be open to working for your rights if you keep telling them how much better their life is and that they need to treat you better? That they need to take you seriously, or else… And then you start breaking things in the house…Would that person want to be your friend and invest time and energy to make your and your children’s lives better, when you’re making it pretty clear that you don’t like them?

    And what should white people do? We keep being told that we’re all racist and privileged (thank you so much for lumping us into one bucket – because all white people are indeed the same, and we all have money and a special phone number we call when we need something). The only message whites really hear is “you have it way better, you’re privileged.”

    Why would whites help someone who doesn’t like them? Someone who likely won’t even say “thank you” at the end of it all and will instead say “well, finally you’ve done something about inequality, it’s about time.” So when articles like this pop up, about how violence is the only answer – it’s just kind of stupid. Violence is the EASY answer. Reaching out to whites and building bridges with them, extending that hand of love and saying “hey, I’m your brother/sister, I don’t hate you, but look at how bad things are for our communities,” that could bring about very rapid change.

    After all, whites have made significant sacrifices for blacks before. Starting with helping black slaves run away – Harriet Tubman didn’t do it all on her own – to hundreds of thousands of white soldiers dying in the Civil War for black freedom. Not to mention the countless white legislators and judges who have helped move black rights forward in this country. Many whites who would go out of their way to help black communities, if only the black rights movement extended to them a hand of love and genuine warmth, and also, please stop lumping us into one big group.

    • “why would whites help someone who doesn’t like them?” Oh I don’t know, having basic humanity I guess?

      If you can only bring yourself to fight against injustice if people are ~*nice to you*~ that is a problem.

    • Speak for yourself. As a white person, nothing about this makes me uncomfortable. I don’t understand white people who get all defensive the minute institutional racism is pointed out. (Actually, I do understand them— I believe it’s been recently termed “fragile white” syndrome.) I don’t need someone to “reach out to me” in order to stand with them against injustice. Get a grip.

      • @Aster, you misread my comment. There is no discomfort about institutional racism. It’s very well understood by many whites who try to avoid being bigoted. But the author is saying that violence is completely ok, when others are standing on the sidelines. What I’m saying is that violence is the easy answer, and completely alienates certain groups of people. Logically, how often does the easy answer lead to anything? Looting, breaking cars and windows? Will that really help? Did that really help during the 1994 LA riots? Nope, it didn’t fix much. You can’t riot, and then say why are these other people not joining in. But if you reach out instead and try to build genuinely better relations, that will have a much better effect with way more positive change.

    • There’s plenty of black liberals doing almost exactly what you propose. People complain about them “playing the race card” and other stupid things.

      Politics and friendship are not comparable.

      The Civil War was not fought for “Black freedom”. It was fought to keep the south in the US. And either way, there were violent slave revolts which clearly didn’t prevent the abolition of slavery.

      • And the North could have just as easily kept the South in the US by allowing them to maintain slavery. But they didn’t. They sent hundreds of thousands of their sons to their death instead.

      • Additionally, in the Civil War, the North was motivated by wealthy white industrialists supported by the political establishment who were keen to secure a source of low-wage labor in order overtake Southern commerce and accumulate profit for themselves. Read Howard Zinn for more detail.

      • Yes, and I’m sure that the foot soldiers were aware/really thought about all those economic details. Many of them died for black freedom, believing in the cause. And now that that time period is long gone, the memory of their sacrifices, and their willingness to give up their lives for black freedom is just brushed aside. “Well there were economic reasons, they didn’t really care about black freedom…”

      • Don’t White Wash Civil War history. See New York City Draft Riots and the violence experienced there by the poor Irish and other immigrants and whites who resented fighting to end slavery. They even burned down an African American orphanage. The point here is that if you actually study the history you see a lot of nuance, and a bit of the pointlessness of saying “All Northerners were fighting for this!” The Emancipation Proclamation, which first hinted at the possibility of freeing a large number of slaves (but only those held in enemy territories, not the slaves held in union territory like Missouri, KY, MD, etc.), was not issued until 1863, when the war was over halfway done, nearly into the 3rd year of fighting. It is also important to remember “abolitionist” did not mean one who believed in racial equality. So even if large numbers of Northern soldiers (aside from the often forgotten black troops like those that liberated Richmond) did believe by the end of the war in the cause of black freedom, it is not realistic to ascribe those same soldiers as also believing in racial equality.

      • @Arkie, “Don’t White Wash Civil War history.” Sorry that the soldiers in the North weren’t educated, and didn’t fully believe in racial equality. Just because they weren’t the full, absolute perfect non-racists, that doesn’t make their sacrifices any less important. Yes, some didn’t want to join. But many believed in the cause, even if their belief isn’t perfect. They gave up their lives for this idea. They could’ve said no, and went West. It was not hard to disappear in those days.

        Stating now that the Civil War was all about economics, and that it wasn’t about blacks, and that white people didn’t even want to fight in it, is very disrespectful to the memory of those Northerners who gave up their lives for blacks – who maybe weren’t perfect in their beliefs, but believed that slavery was wrong. It’s like spitting on their memory. Whites had absolutely nothing to do with the liberation of blacks. And those that did, well, they just had other reasons.

    • “if only the black rights movement extended to them a hand of love and genuine warmth”

      How is it in any way reasonable to expect this of people who have been abused by us for hundreds of years? Why must they put all of that aside in the hopes that the very people that abuse them might show them some support? No, it is up to whites to prove that we have changed. White people need to suck up those poor uncomfortable feels and do the right thing without requiring someone to hold their hand through the process.

      • Why must I, as a first generation immigrant, who has no slave-owning ancestors, who benefited in no way economically from slavery, now show someone that white people have changed? My financial situation is worse than that of most of my black friends. I don’t even have my own apartment right now. I know plenty of white people who grew up in trailer parks and told me stories of having 7 people packed into one trailer and having to share beds. They didn’t abuse black people. They’re all struggling right now. So why are blacks so reluctant to reach out to whites who are not living much better lives than them? Whites who never benefited from slavery and are struggling every day to put food on the table. What is it that we’re supposed to apologize for?

      • Alexander, I am not descendant of slave owners either. I am descendent of Irish and Ukrainian immigrants. Did you know that Irish people used to be considered less than black folks by some people? Do you know why they don’t deal with as much oppression? Because they are labeled white. That is white privilege. Irish immigrants and immigrants labeled as white could rise up while people of color are kept down. That is the nature of our system.

        I am also disabled, trans, queer, and in poverty. And guess what, being white is still something that privileges me. Just as being disabled, trans, queer, and in poverty robs me of privilege. But not in the same ways.

        If you could look more at how this system harms all of us, how white supremacy harms all of us, and look at WHY people are pissed and don’t have the time or energy to beg for you to like them in order to gain your solidarity, you may see the bigger picture.

        People of color can be wrong. White people can be wrong. There are people that can act badly from any walk of life. But ignoring the institutionalized and systemic oppressions that go into the choices people make causes people to judge choices by individual characteristics, rather than the true DESERATION and SURVIVAL they often come from.

    • Privilege isn’t meant to be interpreted on an individualized level: privilege is a description for the pervasive systems in our society which favor certain people above others (in our society it favors white, cisgender, straight, etc. males). This is a common misunderstanding.

      Privilege does not ALWAYS equal power in EVERY individualized situation, but it DOES equal an unfair advantage that one group has over another.

      Because the system favors one group over another, when I get clocked as white, and as a result, am treated favorably, I am benefitting from white privilege.

      It happens when we don’t even know it!

      Because we as white people are generally taken more seriously and benefit from our race, we need to be careful when talking about race. Therefore, don’t go telling people of color how to deal with racial issues: it’s super condescending!

      You can really only speak from your own experiences :/

      I don’t think violence is the answer, and I agree that PR would be better if the protest was 100% non- violent, but I haven’t lived the same life as those rioters: they know their own struggle more than I do.

    • It is our responsibility as white folks’ to fight white supremacy and reach out to black folks and other folks of color and tell them they are their family, not the other way around. After all, if white people were listening to people of color, this shit wouldn’t be happening. If white people had been so amazing and flawless and could solve all of the issues in the world, there would not be riots. You act like riots are part of someone’s character. They are caused by oppression. They are a result of oppression. And that oppression must be blamed.

      The underground railroad and John Brown are the minority. Please consider spending more time telling your white friends to do more rather than telling people of color to pander to white people more. It is always the dominant group’s responsibility to challenge that dominance.

    • I understand your point and appreciate your honesty. I, for one, know that many white people don’t agree with what is happening and have historically been part of the civil rights movement. To think that help won’t be appreciated or that the movement has generalized all white people as racist is probably just what the media wants to put out there to fuel separation and apathy.

    • “After all, whites have made significant sacrifices for blacks before. Starting with helping black slaves run away”

      Your ability to ignore everything white people have done to black people, while emphatically pointing out the few times in history when white people haven’t been complete monsters to them, is utterly astounding. Who do you think those black slaves were running away from, pray tell?

      • @Michaela, whites like me understand what they were running away from. We understand that there are good white people, and bad white people, good black people and bad black people. I get all of that – because there are no absolutes in life, it’s a complicated thing.

        What I don’t get is when blacks or whites lump all whites into this one, homogenous group that is responsible for all the suffering of blacks. Black people didn’t get this far in their civil rights fight just because they burned buildings and rioted. They got this far because there were other whites who risked everything to help them. What did these whites have to gain from poor blacks by joining hands with them? What did these whites have to gain by helping slaves run away and endangering themselves and their families? Moral satisfaction. They took significant risks to help someone just because. They didn’t have to do any of that. They literally could have stayed in their homes and just say “not my problem.” But they didn’t.

        Yet none of that figures into the rhetoric of blacks today, or people like the author of this article. Apparently, blacks in the US got their freedom and improvements in civil liberties all on their own. They FOUGHT for it, DEMANDED it, and got it – no whites helped them. And their justification for rioting, is that whites are not doing more, just standing on the sidelines.

  13. Willow, I assume you help other people a lot? I assume you donate time and money to help the economic development of villages in third-world nations, where there is no law, no clean drinking water, no rights, no opportunity at all – all because of your basic humanity. Honestly, how much of your paycheck and time have you devoted to helping other people outside of your race, who have a much worse life than you?

    • This question doesn’t make your point. If they don’t help people in the third world or whatever, it isn’t because those people were “too violent” or something.

      • It does make a point. It’s easy to talk about fairness and how those on the “outside” are not doing anything to help, when you feel that the situation is unfair toward YOU. When it’s reversed, and someone else’s life is way worse than yours, but you’re not doing anything to help them, then all of a sudden there’s a justification.

    • Alexander, please stop fetishizing the “third world countries” as some homogenous group of mindless people who are starving and have no structure. There is great diversity there and also great suffering. And to act like the suffering there is separate somehow from the capitalism here is misguided. First world countries benefit from third world countries being poor. And someone always has it worse than someone else. That doesn’t mean we can’t examine our issues and advantages and do our best to connect and dismantle oppressive hierarchies.

      • @Corvus, “please stop fetishizing the “third world countries” as some homogenous group of mindless people who are starving and have no structure.” Not really sure what you mean there, but you’re missing the point.

        People always want to lecture others on what morality is, but rarely want to lead by example. If you want to stop racism, if you want others to extend a helping hand to you and fight for you, then you have to lead by example. You can’t just be angry because no one is helping you, if you’re not willing to help someone else. And neither can you shame someone for not helping you, and try to make them look like bad people because they’re not extending a helping hand to you, unless you’re willing to do it yourself. Forget third world countries, how many blacks came out to support hardworking Latino families against deportations? How many came out to support Latino kids, brought here as babies, to be able to get citizenship so they wouldn’t have to work menial jobs for cash because they don’t have papers? When do these racial lines actually mix to help each other? Yet, regular, non-rich, non-politically-connected whites are so bad for not taking the initiative to help.

        Even though no one ever seems to tell white people what it is they should be doing to help. should we be marching? should we be writing to congress? Because just pointing the finger and saying, “hey white people, you’re all privileged, look at how many black men are being shot by police,” it kind of doesn’t achieve anything. What action do blacks/minorities/gays, etc., want the “privileged” people to take?

        At the very least, the black community could tell white people what they need from them. Because honestly, it’s like being in a relationship with a woman who is angry, yet doesn’t realize that you simply don’t know what she wants you to do:

        “you know what you’re doing wrong”
        “umm, I’m sorry that you’re upset, just tell me what you’d like me to do.”
        “no, you know how to fix it, you think about it.”
        “sorry, you’re right, I am wrong, I am sorry you’re upset. what specifically do you want me to do?”
        “Ugh, you still haven’t done anything about it?”
        “Like I said, I’m not really sure what you want me to do. Can you please just tell me what you want me to do?”
        “you are such an a**hole!”
        “I am very, very sorry. I don’t know what you want me to do. Just explain to me what you’d like me specifically to do.”

        Because most white people are not cops or politicians and are not in a position to give black people better employment opportunities or to stop discrimination against them. If there’s at least some direction from the black community, since the black community is the one who would know what truly needs to be done, then I’m sure white people would do a lot more. But right now it’s just anger, and lashing out, but no actionable requests that any regular white person could do anything about. So how can you be upset at someone for not doing something, when you’re not even telling them what it is you’d like them to do?

      • Alexander, there is a lot of frustration in your writing, I can see that. And I see that you’ve had conflicts with folks of color that have influenced your feelings. I want to encourage you not to extrapolate those conflicts to all people of color and to look within to your part in those conflicts. I also want to encourage you to notice that I am sure yo have had similar conflicts with white people, yet your focus is on people of color. Ask yourself why that is.

        1. Try organizing with your white friends and dismantling racism together. Take that burden off of poc you are asking to educate you and educate yourselves. Call out your white friends. Call out yourself. Challenge white supremacy, don’t turn the other cheek.

        2. Look within yourself and ask yourself why you are so angry right now. Are your needs not being met? How can you meet your needs to better be in solidarity with people of color.

        3. When you ask questions like “how many x group showed up for other x group” you do not want to hear the answer. I have seen lots of poc show up or not show up across racial lines. Same with white people. MOST people don’t show up. It doesn’t matter though. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Your liberation is tied to mine. So, if you’re hurting from oppression, I am or will eventually be hurting. We should come out for each other even when we’re not perfect and even if our pasts aren’t perfect. Something else to note is that folks who face more struggle have less time to be activists. So, that may also be why you see less of x-group at y-group’s gatherings. But also ask yourself, how many of your white friends showed up?

        4. I highly doubt the conversation you give as an example ever happened, given your tone here. You are pissed and you are spouting it all over this thing. I encourage you to stop playing the victim of black rage and start listening. If you ask how you can help and someone says figure it out, maybe they just needed to be heard. Maybe they’re struggling so much they don’t know what they need. Or, maybe there are a million other resources you could seek out if you really wanted to help.

        Do you really want to help? If so, why? If so, how can you help? You have put a lot of thought into your writing, so you obviously can put a lot of thought into these questions. Thanks for the dialogue.

      • @Corvus. Your problem is that you think you’ve figured out other white people. That you’re enlightened somehow, and that whites who don’t see the black struggle somehow are terrified of blacks or black rage. They’re not; many just see the hypocrisy in these conversations.

        1) That conversation in my comment above never happened. It was pretty clear from what I said in my comment, that I was presenting a hypothetical conversation between two people in a relationship, and that’s how I see the black/white conversation in the US. My personal opinion – you don’t have to agree.

        2) I’ve known plenty of blacks in my life who have serious economic difficulties now because of their own choices. These were my friends who chose to drop out of college and are now bouncing around jobs. No one forced them; it was their choice. They threw away their potential without any racism lending a hand. And yea, I have plenty of empathy, and tried to help, and helped some of them get jobs.

        So when you talk about white privilege. I consider how I worked during the day and went to school at night and paid every single penny of my education (no one helped me, and no scholarships). My black friends’ choices were different – they wanted to enjoy life, so they dropped out. Yet somehow, according to people like you, it’s still my fault, for all black people who made the same choices my friends did, and somehow, it’s because I’m white. I must find my humility, and realize that busting my a** to move forward in my life and try to achieve something was just so much easier for me, because I’m white. And when a person of color makes a bad life decision, well, it’s all my inherent racism, that I’m not even aware of because it’s so deeply ingrained in me.

        Here’s how racist I am, Corvus; helped a bleeding, blind black homeless guy who got punched in the face in front of a grocery store. Offered him a ride to the hospital, he said no and that he’d like a beer instead. Didn’t judge him for his decision to get drunk, walked him to a liquor store by the hand (him being blind and all), bought him several beers, two packs of strawberry cigars that he wanted and gave him $10 so he could get food if he wanted. No one else seemed to give a crap about this dude, not even black shoppers who saw what happened to him. Likely, because he was filthy and had skin lesions all over his face. And pretty damn sure no one would offer to put this person in their car and drive him to the hospital. But I’m just racist like that; you know…afraid of black rage. Not able to see my own racism. Funny how no black people rushed to help him, though…

        So when I do get a little upset, is when the problem in black communities and the justification for burning buildings is presented as purely due to racism. “white people aren’t doing enough, dammit!!” And when blacks like Charles Barkley try to point out that it isn’t just that, that blacks must take responsibility too; they’re quickly shut down by members of their own community as being “oreos” or whatever.

        I’m not disputing that some things in lives of the average black individual are much harder. And I’m not black, so I’ll never understand what it is to be black in America. But people like me do get a little pissed when ALL of the hardships of black communities are being thrown at the feet of whites. When a guy decides to justify burning buildings because it’s ALL white people’s fault. If whites just did more!

        If whites just become humble and eliminate racism within themselves…Will black people do that too? Will they stop assuming that all whites are racist? Will Mexicans do that and stop hating Salvadorians? Will blacks start liking Asians now, and vice versa? Because the idea that’s being thrown out here is that it’s the white people’s racism is the root of all evil. Yet EVERYONE is racist in one way or another. Every group and sub-group has something they hate about each other. Ever been in a government building lunch room; the Philippinos in one clique, the Latinos in another, the Blacks have their own, and Whites have their own. It isn’t something unique to whites…

        So yes, white people, look within, and find that humility, because it’s ALL your fault. Find that humility, man…

        So when you suggest that I need to talk more to my white friends about it, because we need to do more for blacks, I think you’re misguided. I do talk to my white friends, and my black friends, and Latino friends. But not about police brutality against blacks – but police brutality against everyone. Including that white homeless guy who got beaten to death by six cops, and not one cop went to jail…That was probably racism too…Right?

        Just like I talk to my friends about unfair wages and corporations not paying taxes and how people are getting screwed. But not in the context of blacks, but in the context of everyone. Because if we focus on “white people are the root of racism, and whites need to change to help blacks” then we’re just getting more rights for one group of people; not actually changing things for EVERYONE.

        And yea, black, white, latino; you don’t get to justify burning buildings because change isn’t happening fast enough. You can do it, if you want; but don’t try to make it into something honorable.

  14. Pingback: Rachel Baker Thoughts·

  15. (I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m a gay white male) But most white people in the United States are racist, have racist tendencies and/or, in the least and even the most enlightened, have benefited from racism. It was built into the foundation of our country and still effects black people today from housing to education to voting to employment to police enforcement and on. If you want black/civil rights leaders to come to the table to negotiate you have to do some of the work too and learn more about on the issues.

    White people are not the victim in this. This is about social justice and fair treatment for all Americans. Personally, I believe in non-violence. But I do not shame anyone for their actions when they have been systemically denied justice based on their race.

    At the same time, there are white people who are poor, LGBT, etc. We all balance and operate through multiple positions of power and need to learn about the privilege that comes from that.

    The minority group should not have to wait for the majority group to have sympathy for their struggle. They should not have to ask for help. As human beings, they already have the same dignity and rights as everyone. It’s a shame that this is ignored. And also black/civil rights leaders have been doing this but white people keep ignoring it. And then we get surprised every time something like Baltimore (Ferguson, L.A., New York, any time sometime racist occurs) happens.

    What can you do as a white person? Acknowledge racism in yourself and in society. Work to end it. Call it out. Teach other white people to recognize it, too. Join an anti-racist group in your local area or start one. We can move forward but we need to address the root issues sooner than later.

    • As a white male who doesn’t feel like I am racist, how am I supposed to “Acknowledge racism…” in myself? I don’t know how, because I don’t think about race. I don’t care about others race. Any violent riots are stupid, I think ones spurred by sports are the worst. It’s why I don’t participate in organized sports in any way. I think that these violent riots now are criminal. Maybe it’s because I just can completely wrap my head around the roots of the anger happening, but it scares me to see everything turn into burning cars and buildings down.

      • Kellerjello, we all have grown up in white supremacist culture, so it’s impossible not to internalize white supremacy. The fact that it’s been ingrained in you is not your fault, what you do about it is. We all have internalized racism (and classism, and homophobia, and so on). Even people of oppressed groups have internalized oppression.

        I am answering this assuming you really want to know “how am I supposed to acknowledge racism in myself”? there are lots of resources out there. This is one of my favorites:

        It’s a life long journey to unlearn racism. You’ll make mistakes. It will be hard. But trust me, the rewards of liberation and humility you can gain will outweigh the work.

      • Saying that you don’t think about or care about race is a place to start acknowledging your privilege. people of color do not have that option. Our color is part of our identity. You saying that you refuse to recognize it is perceived as attempting to erase part of that identity.

  16. I’m not one to say whether there should or should not be violence in the resistance against the grievous injustices being done to the black community. But I do disagree that, “Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege”. I think it is much deeper than that:

    From On Nonviolent Resistance by Mohandas K. Gandhi

    There are two ways of countering injustice. One way is to smash the head of the man who perpetrates injustice and to get your own head smashed in the process. All strong people in the world adopt this course. Everywhere wars are fought and millions of people are killed. The consequence is not the progress of a nation but its decline…Pride makes a victorious nation bad-tempered. It falls into luxurious ways of living. Then for a time, it may be conceded, peace prevails. But after a short while, it comes more and more to be realized that the seeds of war have not been destroyed but have become a thousand times more nourished and mighty. No country has ever become, or will ever become, happy through victory in war. A nation does not rise that way; it only falls further. In fact, what comes to it is defeat, not victory. And if, perchance, either our act or our purpose was ill-conceived, it brings disaster to both belligerents.
    But through the other method of combating injustice, we alone suffer the consequences of our mistakes, and the other side is wholly spared. This other method is satyagraha. One who resorts to it does not have to break another’s head; he may merely have his own head broken. He has to be prepared to die himself suffering all the pain. In opposing the atrocious laws of the Government of South Africa, it was this method that we adopted. We made it clear to the said Government that we would never bow to its outrageous laws. No clapping is possible without two hands to do it, and no quarrel without two persons to make it. Similarly, no State is possible without two entities, the rulers and the ruled. You are our sovereign, our Government, only so long as we consider ourselves your subjects. When we are not subjects, you are not the sovereign either. So long as it is your endeavor to control us with justice and love we will let you do so. But if you wish to strike at us from behind we cannot permit it. Whatever you do in other matters, you will have to ask our opinion about the laws that concern us. If you make laws to keep us suppressed in a wrongful manner and without taking us into confidence, these laws will merely adorn the statute books. We will never obey them. Award us for what punishment you like, we will put up with it. Send us to prison and we will live there as in a paradise. Ask us to mount the scaffold and we will do so laughing. Shower what sufferings you like upon us; we will calmly endure all and not hurt a hair of your body. We will gladly die and will not so much as touch you. But so long as there is yet life in these our bones, we will never comply with your arbitrary laws.

    • To quote Gandhi in such a way is to ignore the entire context in which he existed. Manufacturing plants, farm land, mills, and police stations were occupied or sabotaged in order to fight the colonialists. This militant struggle fit in with Gandhi’s notion of non-violent resistance. Read Gandhi’s ‘Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule’ for more detail.

  17. What i don’t understand is why black people don’t move back to Africa? And i’m talking as a brown person. If the feeling express here is that intense, one place they will not be discriminated will be Africa. It is very easy to immigrate too.

    • Because they are not Africans. They’re Americans – their ancestors did help build and shape this country. Why give up your legacy?

    • They would be discriminated against there. Many black Africans look down upon black Americans. Things would not be any better for them then.

    • this idea of moving “back to Africa” assumes a few ignorant things:

      1: that the black people you speak of came from Africa. they didn’t. they came from North America. born and raised, lived there for as many generations as the whites, for the most part. why not ask the whites to move back to Europe? after all, without them, this issue would not exist. (if we’re going to think like this, let’s go there.)

      2. that Africa has not been colonized with the same type of anti-black racism that North America has been colonized with and, therefore, is an oasis of black unity and love and acceptance. please up your global awareness. i’m not saying Africa is a horrible place, i’m saying educate yourself. Africa exists in the same world we are living in.

      3. that people being oppressed should leave rather than fight for what they have, had, want. while i, personally, strive for non-violence and am politically non-violent (i believe that violence against oppressors signifies that i have taken on the mental framework of said oppressors and i refuse to allow oppressors to dominate my humanity aka loving nature in that manner these days), i recognize one’s inherent right to choose for one’s self which path one will take. to fight against those who would harm you, rather than run away, is not inherently worse than any other option.

      i don’t know you, but i have encountered the “go back to Africa” sentiment enough to address is when i see it. i am not from Africa. i am from North America. i am of African, Comanche, and Cherokee ancestry. i have been told to go back to Africa, as if the whites here came with the land. they didn’t. my peoples were here first and we will always be here. i “look black” to white people. and i’m perfectly fine with that. i love my ancestry. all of it. but if anyone needs to go back where they came from, it’s not us.


      • That is silly answer and you know it.

        Most of the countries don’t give citizenship by birth.. even generations being born there.. whole middle east, Germany, uk..

        Citizenship is not birthright. It is privilege granted by those in power to those not in power.

        Whites are not complaining about power structure or discrimination. If they don’t want have that high degree to complain or nationalism like some Irish and Italians had during IRA war and world war 2 they did and they should move back.

        Black or partial blacks will be million times less discriminated in Africa compared to here.. So many people from all over world come here to American, brown, black and yellow and also white, they leave their citizen ship to take new ones. Why not immigrate Africa? I plan to do it myself. Not because i’m black but i love Africa. Why not same?

        Rest of your construct is a normative framework which crumbles in the absence of moral society like South Africa (where they killing black immigrants) or Russia or Germany or rest of the world. Moral society is outcome of affluence and splendid isolation of American, it is not normal.

        You just have to accept the very basic fact, you want to be part of affluent society, it is about money. You will be million times better off in discriminated American then million times less discriminated Africa.

      • i don’t know where this reply is going to show up…under my original reply to you or under your reply to me, browny, but i want to start off by telling you not to tell me what i know. my answer was not silly and if you think so, you have, once again, proven your ignorance.

        if you want to derail the topic and start talking about money and which continent has less discrimination, you’ll have to talk to yourself. i’m not interested in your theories, since you are unwilling to acknowledge the ignorance you carry around with regard to your unhelpful and racist suggestion to “move back to Africa”.

        get over yourself. you have a long way to go before your opinions are relevant to a discussion on race or even self-worth and self-determination. learn to see beyond your own ideas and a whole world of insight is likely to open up to you. so far, you think and communicate like an oppressor. please don’t move to Africa. they don’t need any more folks who think their own myopic view of the world is the only one worth acknowledging. no continent does.

        good luck.

      • Citizenship is not birthright. Not sure you can understand that. I’m not sure you call founding fathers Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams as your founding father?

        I never said there is not discrimination. There is plenty and what you say about institutional and subterranean racism etc. is all true.

        Basic motivation like every human is self interest and calculation is based on where will you have better life both monetary and social. There are two solutions:

        1. Fight for your right here with social disadvantage but better monetary advantage

        2. Migrate to Africa with better social advantage but severe monetary disadvantage.

        You have made your choice clear. Please don’t make virtue out of necessity.

        There have been many cases of black leaders moving back to Africa in 40s, 50s and 60s. Please go and read about them.

  18. Pingback: Whose Violence Matters? | Backslash Scott Thoughts·

  19. Since the only things police in this country seem to relate to are violence and acts of terror, it’s starting to make sense that people are beginning to wake up and bring a bit of it back to them. Peaceful protests are getting nowhere.

  20. Reblogged this on Decolonize Indigenous Generations and commented:
    Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege. When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy. It not only fails to meet the needs of the community, but actually puts oppressed people in further danger of violence.

  21. It’s a very romanticized view of what is happening. I read the article and it sounds like these protests are very organized and only targeting specific buildings. We all know that isn’t true and that saying damaging property doesn’t hurt people is ignorant. When you hurt someones livelihood you hurt them and to clam you didn’t because it isn’t physical is the kind of mindset you are fighting against. Also there are people being hurt in these riots and unless they wanted that then you whole we are not hurting people claim is false. Then to claim anyone who objects to what you are doing is raciest is very close minded, I can object to a riot for reasons that don’t involve the race of the people doing it. You have created a very us against them mindset and all that is going to do is keep you from gaining any ground because at the end of the day you are not going to destroy the system.
    Violence can be a means for change but when it is the first tool you just to then you’re just taking more steps back.

  22. Are you serious? Have you spoken to the people rioting? There’s a very heavy tendency in this article to almost romanticize what these people are doing to Baltimore. Most of the rioters are youth that are out to “purge” for fun, out of boredom, and what have you. I completely agree that people have a right to be angry, but violence in this case will get you absolutely nothing except the opportunity to destroy the houses and businesses that people have worked years to build. The consequences of this will be catastrophic, and some of these places may or may not be rebuilt, many people tomorrow (many of them hourly workers), may or may not get to go to work, therein making the poor poorer and further fueling the cycle. Students that are already behind are missing out on school because of these riots, and Baltimore has basically cemented its status in the eyes of the nation as the city that’s portrayed on “The Wire.”

  23. I agree that, in this sort of situation, violence is sometimes the only way to get the state to pay attention, but in response to the second article Anita linked to, I’m not sure how effective it will be in bringing about political change. The mainstream media isn’t framing this as an issue about black lives mattering right now; CNN’s headline on it ( doesn’t directly mention race or police brutality at any point, and doesn’t quote a single protester (just the authorities denouncing them). So yes, the use of violence has gotten CNN to pay attention to the protesters, but not to the issues they are rioting for, but rather just to the fact that they are rioting. I think that part of the problem lies in the fact that violence is being used indiscriminately as opposed to judiciously. I can understand that actions such as smashing police car windows can have a political aim that could potentially justify the harm that is done through them, but actions such as looting businesses and burning down buildings do not seem to have as direct of a political aim and cause great harm primarily to individuals rather than to authorities. Violence is a powerful tool, and we need to be careful that its use does not do more harm than good. In this case, the harm that it is doing is that, in addition to the direct destruction it is causing, it is also providing opportunities for authorities to highlight that destruction and to use it as a way of demonizing protesters rather than engaging with their demands. The only significant good that I see that it is doing is providing rioters an outlet for their repressed emotions. Although it is tragic that oppression has resulted in those emotions, I don’t think that indiscriminate violence can be justified solely as an emotional outlet.

  24. The writer lives in a fantasy world. These neighborhoods aren’t just made up of bums, drug dealers, and other oppressed people who have no choice but to do these things because of a racist system. There are good people down there who work their asses off, take care of their homes, and otherwise are stuck these awful neighborhoods. When you defend rioting, destroying police cars, and setting fire to places like CVS, you’re insulting them. Stop defending acting like an animal and setting low expectations of West Baltimore. They rioted yesterday because they wanted to break shit and steal. That’s it. No one throwing a rock at the police after school let out gives a shit about Freddie Gray. Every year those same rioters kill about 200 other Freddie Gray’s on their own without any help from the police (Of Baltimore’s 212 murders in 2014, 188 were black men).

    Let me answer those questions for you: You are harming people, everyone who lives there is in the vicinity, and a bunch of scumbags and thugs are involved in this. This isn’t some WTO protest where a bunch of 19 year old college student anarchists break out the glass at Starbucks while a bunch of peaceful protestors yell “Peace! Peace! Peace!”. Real life isn’t some HD version of Do The Right Thing for you to casually muse about.

  25. So just how do we fix this problem? Seriously. Both sides need to accept responsibility. When business are destroyed, both large corporate type and small mom and pop type…where is the benefit? When the large won’t rebuild and the small can’t. Now there are more abandoned areas, even fewer local jobs, and nothing is truly changed.

  26. Defining “violence” to suit your purposes is a fools errand and counterproductive. Violence is violence. Those in power attempt to control definitions in the same way. Cops say their killings are “justifiable use of force.” Guess who is going to win this argument in the broader society? If someone believes that committing criminal destructive acts is for some higher purpose, then at least admit the acts are criminal and destructive. Don’t try to hide behind psuedo-intellectual sophistry and clever redefinitions of words with plain and clear meaning. Trying to redefine words with plain meanings is a tactic used by tyrants in all ages. Ghandi and MLK did not choose non violence as a mere tactic. They chose it to preserve their own dignity and dignity of their movements. They realized that they would become no better than their oppressors if they descended to their moral level. The harm caused by the rioters will take years to repair.

  27. I agree with so much of the sentiment behind this article. One absolute truth is that the way the media has covered the last four days in Baltimore has been divisive, disgusting, and dangerous. It is even more appalling to see the reaction of a country, that as this author points out, care more about broken police car windows then lives of the people living in the deplorable oppression of racisms and capitalism in Baltimore and around our country.

    All that said, I must strongly disagree with one very important aspect of this article. That is the role of non-violence. To be honest I’m note sure I think the author full understand what true non-violent dissent can look like. It has been a long time since we as country have seen it in action, but it is powerful and it is essential.

    The author suggests that non-violence is not a philosophy but is used as “a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege.” While militancy the author defines this way: “Militance is about direct action which defends our communities from violence.”

    It’s true that non-violence is often used as a political performance, but it has so much more power then that. Whenever I hear people calling for non-violence because to act violently or to riot “hurt how people see the cause” I cringe. It is clear those people have forgotten the real reason to use non-violence. It’s because violence hurts people; because violence is a form of oppression. It is because no true revolution can happen using the same methods as the oppressors and no true revolution has ever happened with violence at its base. To use violence is to allow the oppressor to win and to draw you into the darkness. Violence can only perpetuate more violence.

    But that is not to say that non-violence must be restricted to silently walking down a street in large numbers. I believe in marches, they have their place as important part of protest. But to suggest that non-violence limits us to just that is to fail to see the weight of what non-violence can be.

    To be clear in my definition of violence, I do not include the intentional destruction of property when done in a way to protect the safety of ALL people.
    So what’s perhaps most concerning about this article to me is the suggestion that direct action can only happen when we forsake non-violence.

    On May 17, 1968 nine people entered a draft board site in Catonsville Maryland, a part of Baltimore county and adjacent to Baltimore City. Those nine people were calm, orderly, firm but polite. Without hurting a single person or putting them in danger, they took hundreds of draft cards out of their files, into the parking lot, and set them on fire with homemade napalm. They did over $22, 000 in damage and destroyed the only copies of those draft records. It was direct action, it has symbolism, but it also meant that for those hundreds of draftees, many of whom were young black men living in Baltimore, they would never be drafted. It directly changed those people lives. It directly destroyed a small fraction of the state and its oppression. It also started a nationwide movement of draft board raids. It also was non-violent.

    This is just one example of hundreds, if not thousands, of uses of non-violence as direct action. Because we can directly oppose the machines of war, racism, poverty caused by capitalism, privilege, violence, without becoming part of those machines. We can be angry, we can act from that anger without being violent.

    The author of this article also defends the young people acting out their anger in Baltimore last night. I agree that they need defense as the media has completely destroyed and ignored the truth of their story. They are justly angry, they are acting with the only tools they have ever been given or shown. It asks a lot from someone to act with restraint and respect when they have never been shown that respect. If the Baltimore police and government had spent half as much time getting to know these young people, working with them in their communities as they have chasing them and villainizing them over the last four decades, then this weekend would have looked very different. But just because we understand where these young people are coming from doesn’t mean we have to condone their behavior. Condone and condemn are not our only two options. The author of this article lays out some important questions that need to be asked, and I agree with them. But underlying them is the sense that if the violence could be controlled to just the targets, i.e. the state and police, then it would be acceptable.

    I don’t believe it would be. The state and police are made up of people. While I oppose all they stand for, while I know they are ruthless and do not care that we, on the ground, that black men, and queer women, are people too, I still must care that they are people. It is still not ok to put them in physical danger. And as we have seen with these riots, you can’t control violence. It’s why we hear the phrase collateral damage in warfare. Because no matter how sophisticated you are, how in control you are, how well informed you are, violence is part of the chaos. And when you embrace violence you slowly allow more and more chaos to creep in. The more you embrace violence the more ok you are with the pain of people, the destruction of people. As you become ok with it you become cold and calculated. You become the oppressor.

    When I see the young people in Baltimore rioting, I see the pain and anger they feel. I think how much more could we achieve if that pain and anger was give a proactive outlet. If they could make change with that anger instead of falling victim to the trap of violence that the privileged oppressors have set up for them. We need to be telling the young people in Baltimore, and around our country, that they should not be using violence. But that doesn’t mean we should be telling them to go home at night or be silent. Be in the street. Be loud. Be heard. But be together. Talk, plan, and know that you are stronger when you act as one unified, controlled, non-violent body enacting the change you deserve. Embrace the power of non-violence and end the oppression.

    My heart goes to everyone in Baltimore. I do not judge tonight, your anger is the voice of a people oppressed to long, but I pray for you tonight. I pray you will all be moved to let that anger and that voice be changed into the power of a song and movement.

    PS. As a disclaimer, I am a young adult white female who is born and raised in DC and has ties to the Baltimore community.

  28. I am vehemently opposed to oppressive policing, and I’m with you on issues of social and economic justice. HOWEVER

    I realize you wrote this essay on the 26th. Hopefully by now, in the aftermath of the 27th, you realize how dangerous this point of view is, although I doubt it.

    The writer presents an incredibly privileged point of view. Try actually listening to the BLACK citizens of Baltimore. Seek out the interviews with the Baltimore Bloods gang members who are condemning the violence, or any of the actual people that live on the streets that you suggest be burned.

    The people condoning riots are almost always either A) white, or B) don’t live in Baltimore.

    My black neighbors (I live in a poor neighborhood in Baltimore) are not happy that the CVS where their mother has her prescriptions on file is now burned down.
    They aren’t happy that the senior center that took years to plan and implement has now burned down.

    Civil disobedience? Yes. Torch your own neighborhood? The only people excited about that are those who don’t live in the community. Talk to the people living in Watts– you think they are happy with the legacy of those riots? That it was a good idea at the time?

    Why don’t YOU go out and burn down the closest store to you, RadFag?

  29. I won’t take the time to disprove every lie and bit of historical ignorance in this article but a few things warrant pointing out.

    “all policing is terror”

    If you believe all policing is terror, then you believe all police are terrorists; even the black ones. That is simply not true and is as ignorant as saying all black people are (insert your choice of derogatory terms here).

    You want to live in real terror? Move to a country with no effective police force.

    “the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed”

    Just search Google images for freedom marches. White people were there marching and standing up for black rights in the face of dogs and fire hoses.

    Not good enough? Of the more than 4,700 documented lynchings that took place in the US 1882-1968 almost 30% were of white people who helped blacks or were against lynching.

    Lastly, black people in the last 40 years have been exploited politically as badly or worse than they have been economically.
    But don’t take my word for it.

    If people want to shake up the white establishment and advance black political interests, they should listen to Steven A. Smith and not some radical violent blogger.…/stephen-a-smith-espn-black…

  30. I understood what the message of the article was stating, that sometimes a targeted disruption towards those who are oppressing a group/culture/belief ect is can spark change. This is important to bring about change when peace and negotiations seem to bring about little to no change.

    But at the end, this quote lost it for me “What kinds of actions will it take to make it widely understood that all policing is racist terror, and justice can only come with its permanent abolition.”

    Are you stating that we need to remove all police to enforce the law? That we ourselves can be good and well intentioned and will not have to police ourselves (as all policing is a racist terror)?

    I do agree that the media is focusing on the negative (property damage to uninvolved civilians and businesses) but do you honestly think that those who were harmed are going to believe that this protest was in the best intention for the progression of civil rights? Of course the media will show what will have the most impact on the viewer, they are in the business to gain viewers. More people will be moved by someones personal property damage (for good or bad) and they will want to watch that bit of “news”.

    I tend to take any media coverage with a grain of salt, as they don’t properly cover all the purpose of an event without bias and truth. I also don’t listen to extremest views as they are just as bad as the media. The unfortunate reality is that if you want the answers, you really have to dig deep and find the sources.

    I think that a good portion of the protesters were laser focused (targeted destruction of police equipment and time), putting all their effort to show the correct group that they will not stand for such behaviors. Unfortunately the spot lite seems to be taken over by those who are equivalent to a light bulb and not a laser, thus scattering the anger they feel in all directions harming whomever the light shines on (bystanders, businesses, personal property, uninvolved government entity). I also think (this applies to all groups of people mind you) that some people are just not well intentioned and will just use this upheaval of societal norms as an excuse to do whatever they impulsively feel like doing.

    Some sort of change needs to happen, to both groups. If both groups do not act out in an illegal/violet/immoral way, will the other group need to retaliate in such a manner? Balance is what we are trying to accomplish, but what we seem to be trying to balance out is on two different scales. Thus when one side pushes, the main action of that force is directed at another entity and misses the point.

    If one side becomes more respectable and less troublesome, that does not mean the other side has to or even will follow suit. It will take an effort on both sides to fix the problem, a balance to create equality and understanding on both ends. What I see is a war, and from what I know, a wars outcome is dependent upon who is the victor. This is a win lose situation and will not create good feelings in the end. Both sides need to find that balance and true understanding, only then will, I think, the pain, suffering and anger be relieved. The only problems I see getting in the way of this is personal revenge, desire, and willingness to continue.

  31. I agree with the questions you posed as necessary for a productive and educated protest, but understanding riots means acknowledging the sociological phenomenon that triggers unconscious reaction to behavior around us; we simply act as a pack or a heard–not much thinking is involved when emotions are this high.

  32. As an old white guy I understand that I cannot tell anybody how to respond to oppression, but I can tell anybody how gravity works.
    Nothing falls up. And violence doesn’t work.
    First, violence is wrong. Whacking another person, a being made in the image of God, is wrong. It doesn’t matter if they whacked you first, or if you were raised in an oppressive whacking-based society, what you did at that moment was wrong and you need to deal with that fact.
    Second, violence is the tool of the powerful. You are not going to be able to dish out more violence than the United States government. This is their game and they will win because maintaining a monopoly on the use of force is their whole reason for being. If you don’t have a lot of tanks and helicopter gunships, you are playing a fools game.
    Third, violence justifies your enemies and alienates most everybody else. Notice that the media has stopped talking about Freddy Gray and is now all about looters and punks. This is not a conspiracy, it is a natural result of what interests people, chaos is scary and attracts attention, long term social justice not so much. Racists trying to justify the death of an unarmed black man sound ridiculous, racists decrying arson and looting sound reasonable.
    Fourth, while property damage per se is a grey area, and disrupting the white consumerist reality is a good thing, even this sort of violence must be a strategy not a reflex. Burning down your local drugstore is not a strategy. What happened in Baltimore was a spasm that damaged the lives and property of oppressed people without affecting the bottom line of the (insured) corporate masters. If you want to blowup the power structure take a thousand Sandtown residents down to the inner harbor for a street-fair/teach-in at the height of the tourist season.
    Lastly, you can’t threaten someone with what has already happened. If the police declare that no officers were at fault in the death of Freddy Gray,what are you going to do …riot? If throwing rocks get the boot off your neck for the moment, how will you get air tomorrow? It is easy and gratifying to respond emotionally now but change comes when you respond thoughtfully and strategically over the long haul.

    • Dear Brian,
      I think the points you make are right on the mark. My feeling–after much contemplation of the subject–is that most of us, black, white or other, are being played by the media and by those who control the media: racism and racial strife do exist, but it is only by exacerbating the supposed differences between blacks, poor whites, immigrants, and indigenous people that we are all kept preoccupied and thus kept from the realizing what a fixed racket American society has become. The imbalance in wealth and power in America today is basically unparalleled, as is the cynical undermining of people’s belief in the government’s ability to offer real solutions to the staggering inequalities that face almost all working people in this country. The police no more represent my interests than they do black people’s interests–they represent corporate interests, as does the current electoral system. We are all becoming disenfranchised–until the 99% realize that we are absolutely brothers under the skin, a handful of the rich and powerful are laughing all the way to the bank; and, trust me, they’ll even find a way to make the rest of us foot the bill for the mess they’ll leave behind, politically, socially and environmentally.

      Begin locally and start to know your neighbors–they’re mostly just like you.

  33. Pingback: En soutien à Baltimore! – [ou] – Éclater des voitures de police est une stratégie politique logique! | Le Partage·

  34. Pingback: ignoring battlefields: why white people wrongly condemn riots | Young Mormon Feminists·

  35. Well said, well written. I am so sick of how the media has already convinced a lot of people that the protesters are animals with no rhyme or reason.

  36. Pingback: The Stories behind #BlackLivesMatter | Miranda's Hearth·

  37. Pingback: Baltimore’s violent protesters are right: Smashing police cars is a legitimate … – Salon | Car tools market·

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  41. The 1960s were to have served as a wake up call to many Americans concerning police and race. Somehow we fell back to sleep.
    As the bitter debate about how our police forces treat non white citizens escalates it has exposed a truth many minorities know.
    White children learn early on the policeman is your friend. He keeps us safe It is their truth but the truth is often skewed as simplistic as the vintage schoolbook illustrations I grew up with. The all American white schoolbooks of my own 1960s civil rights era childhood serve as nothing less than a primer on white privilege. If racial identity shapes the way people are treated by police it also shapes the way we are likely to view them. Take a look

  42. Pingback: Some of the Best Must-Reads for #Baltimore & #FreddieGray | Prodigal Paul | the long way home·

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  44. Pingback: Baltimore’s violent protesters are right: Smashing police cars is a legitimate … – Salon | Car electronic sale·

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  46. “What kinds of actions will it take to make it widely understood that all policing is racist terror, and justice can only come with its permanent abolition?”

    I would like to hear more of an explanation on this.

  47. Thank you for writing in support of tactical diversity while also asking us to examine it. I think this is the big thing missing from nonviolent/violent debates. There is this polarity between them as if there is a hard line that can be drawn and there is privilege on both sides. And neither side wants to examine how their preferred tactics work or affect others (“nonviolent” and “violent” both).

    I, for instance, can’t be out on the streets like I used to be due to chronic disability. Sometimes the “nonviolent” things are what I am able to make it to, if I can get out to anything at all. I do believe that we need to respect the tactics of organizers of each event. And I also believe rage and violence is a tactic to be supported, provided oppression dynamics are taken into account.

    Of course there are white manarchists who will latch onto this article and use it as an excuse to riot in front of abortion clinics. And nonviolent “peace” activists will use it as yet another reason to blame oppressed people for police brutality and violence. But, overall, you managed to support tactical diversity and also challenge us all to grow with it. No easy task.

    Thank you again for this.

  48. saw your piece on – so glad for it!
    I’m just a white wealthy middle aged lady, but no one had to tell me that a police car doesn’t matter. It can burn and they can buy a new one. Is that what our nation is crying about in Baltimore? You can buy a new window. You can wash your streets of debris. But you can’t put back the severed neck of you child. Get real. I know what matters.
    thank you thank you thank you !!!

  49. Justify violence all you like but there’s no excusing it. The images I see from the other end of the world show that thanks to your sort of flawed reasoning innocent people have lost their livelihoods, some their lives and many have been injured. these sorts of riots have been going on for decades but do not seem to have made a bit of difference. Isn’t it about time somebody thought of something else?

  50. So in protesting the death of one man you destroy millions worth of property. You ruin countless lives and businesses all for a political statement? I hate to break this to you but that’s called terrorism. Seriously the definition of terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims”. Two wrongs don’t make a right. There is no justification for destroying property that doesn’t belong to you. No amount of spin or rationalizing will change that. You are welcome to invite the rioters to your house for some destruction. But, I don’t see that happening

  51. Yeah, we COULD start a violent revolution to bring about a new Utopian world where we don’t need police at all… Or we could non-violently, and realistically, work to lobby our state and local representatives to pass a measure requiring that all police officers wear body cameras while on duty.

    The results from a randomized controlled study in Rialto, California revealed that after one year of body cameras:
    – Public complaints against officers fell 88%
    – Officers’ use of force fell by 60%

    But I’m sure I’m misguided and the only answer here is to “scare” the super-wealthy, super-powerful boogey man oppressors by carrying out acts of “militancy” against state property that will just be rebuilt the next day bigger, stronger and more racist using tax dollars siphoned from the people who live in the areas you target. Great plan.

  52. Pingback: Calling people who do not act civil as 'uncivilized' is racist?·

  53. I know there a lot of pacifist oriented uncritical comments here so I hope this doesn’t get lost in the mix…Forgive me if you have already addressed this, but why do you propose that we make an exception for black buisness owners? A capitalist is a capitalist, exploitation is exploitation, no? To the same degree that women will not be emancipated by bourgeois women, and the queer community will not be emancipated by bourgeois queers, black Americans will not find their emancipation in black capitalism.

  54. I believe in the violent way of dealing with this issue. And if you do not support the violent action that is taking place, you do not know your nations history. The sons of liberty through tea in a harbor and tar and feathered people to portray a message not to mess with the colonies. The blacks are simply portraying a message to spark some political and social interest in their ever increasing problems. And I as an American will stand by them.

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  56. Reblogged this on royalonfire and commented:
    This article brings some thought provoking ideas to the events that are currently happening in Baltimore.

  57. Pingback: Should an Epicurean Humanist Support the #BaltimoreUprising? | The Autarkist·

  58. Reblogged this on Gil Shalev and commented:
    A very interesting piece about the so-called Baltimore riots.
    I do not agree with every single word in this post, especially since I do believe in non-violence.

    At the very least, I hope that once you read this, you’d reflect on how quickly we judge people based on limited information and understanding of the roots of the problem.

    How quickly the discussion turned from state violence to “black violence”…

    See you soon right here on this very blog.

  59. Reblogged this on Malawi Ace and commented:
    “When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy. It not only fails to meet the needs of the community, but actually puts oppressed people in further danger of violence.”

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  61. A very well written and eye-opening piece. You make points that are hard to argue but there are things I would say you don’t touch upon that are really important.

    There are two major battles to be fought in this war. One is the political legislative battle and one is the battle with the media/general populous.

    On the legislative side there are obvious problems that need to be fixed. A huge problem is the low income housing and low property tax areas. It is undeniable that many African-Americans have been cast onto these islands and labeled as “low-income” therefore “high risk.” This has given rise to laws that allow for specifically higher policing of these housing projects which has resulted in police brutality. Although made with what I believe to be good intent, the housing projects just don’t work. How can you put a bunch of low income, which in this country means worse educated because the property taxes cannot pay for better schools, people on literal islands on the outskirts of a city and expect them to progress? This is a set up for failure. This gives rise to the frustration that is felt in many community members who have almost no other way to express their anger than to riot.

    Unfortunately, I do not see rioting as having the ability to bring light to this very important topic and effectively bring about change, no matter how strategic the militancy is. Destroying state property strategically will not change legislation and it will not send a clear message to legislators and politicians about what changes need to be made. The biggest problem with the riots is the lack of order and a clear message. By definition a riot lacks order and this clouds the message that it might intend to send, no matter how strategic it may actually be. I know it is hard to believe that the constitution can work for minorities but it is impossible to deny that this is the only state in the world where the people can actually have a say, even if it’s through a tough path. No one is saying the constitution was written perfectly, but the best part about the constitution is the everlasting ability to rewrite laws to modernity and update as social currents change. Americas Democracy has checks and balances to ensure it stays true to its original beliefs, which everyone is striving for. Sometime these checks and balances are hoops that we have to jump through to get anything changed but we forget that WE have the ability to change them. We often forget that the people who wrote this document and our laws were extreme radicals of their time. They knew that more radical ideas were bound to come in the history of the United States and they ensured that the laws would be able to change as society progressed. This is the privilege of living in America, it’s our ability to influence what happens.

    It is a shame that most African-American people are not taught that they have a say but instead are exposed to the state literally beating them down every step of the way. It is undeniable that this is a systematic institution, a huge part of which is due to the point I made before about housing developments. But I am just not convinced that breaking into a CVS and stealing toilet paper “systemically” and “strategically” is going to bring light to this or send a clear message.

    This brings me to the battle of the Media and the general public. At the end of the day, this is the bigger battle and one that plays more into the poetic and philosophical role that rioting plays in this case scenario. Plain and simple, these riots have been received as a “sad outcry by the oppressed” by the more intelligent public and worse things by the less intelligent. What most people think is “how sad, these people have no other way to instill change other than to reek havoc and make a scene to be heard.” That’s the extent of the reaction. “How sad.” Most people don’t know the poetic terms behind these strategic riots and it’s no secret that the Media isn’t going to point them out to us, in fact they will make sure we see the opposite. So you must think about the general connotations that a “riot” has through out the minds of the people. It implies a lack of structure, control, and clear thought or purpose. This is most likely the most important argument I have against these riots.

    A huge part of the issue is the fact that a lot of people are still extremely racist. This racism is up-kept by stereotypes and depictions of African-Americans through the media. To an uneducated person this is an excuse to turn to their child and say “look at these people, look at the havoc they are causing!” They’re not going to understand that its a demonstration and they’re not going to side or try to understand. It unfortunate but undeniably true. No matter how much significance you want to give to these riots, most people are just not going to see it this way and whether you want to believe it or not, what the general population thinks, is really fucking important when combating something like racism.

    So much of this fight is a Media battle and that’s not fair but that’s the age we live in and a smart idea would be using it as an advantage. And no matter how you spin it, a riot will never earn you any points. These are long term battles that need to be fought but every little win is a step towards progress. It is understandably frustrating, especially in a culture that needs instant gratification, that things clearly aren’t changing but throwing your hands up and resorting to throwing punches isn’t always the answer to the bigger issues.

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  68. Whaaaat? The driver charged with 2nd degree murder and the sergeant who spoke to the back of Freddie Gray’s head as he lay motionless on the van floor are both black!!?? 3 of the 6 cops are black?? Who could’ve seen a twist like that coming!!?? I know…how about people who wait for investigations to be complete before burning buildings?

    But anyways, why do white people continue ignoring and causing injustice? Ahole white cops broke his spine during arrest. Oh wait, it was in the van? Wait, the cop driving the van is black? Wait, the sergeant who ignored the fact Freddie Gray obviously needed medical attention as he lay motionless is also black? Another black cop also didn’t listen to Freddie Gray’s requests for an inhaler?

    Freddie Gray should’ve been transported safely and his medical attention requests should’ve been taken seriously. No one deserves to die like that. No one should die in police custody, and no one should be falsely arrested for a “switch blade” which is just a folding knife. But next time maybe let’s wait before we say that burning buildings is justified because “the white” are ignoring things.

    • You contradict yourself quite often. You describe many examples of how white supremacy has infected every aspect of this occurrence, showing quite a bit of insensitivity and selective attention to details (ya know, who cares if yet another cop or group of cops killed a black man for no reason, what about the fact that there was a black cop driving?! Eh? Eh?), then you throw a bunch of strawmans in as if the presence of a black cop means there was no racism. I guess the existence of Ann Coulter means there is no misogyny or patriarchy in the world, right?

      What is your agenda here? You’re insensitive and in bad taste at the very best. But, I realize, you’re far worse. Kinda regretting the time I spent trying to dialogue with you.

      • Hi Corvus, don’t regret the dialogue completely… I mean you said really important and good things. You’re talking to someone with an agenda and who can’t be convinced, but the actual dialogue shows where the problems are. And you’re not the problem. Grace Lee Boggs talks about rebellion and said riots was the wrong word. Revolution is evolution she said. The system isn’t going to fix the problem because the system is the power and it wants to keep the power. The system is the problem. So we need grass roots and local politics and protest… and I hope you feel no regrets for speaking up. But I know how you feel after getting into these kinds of discussions… sometimes they don’t feel worth it.

      • @Corvus. You and I exchanged a few messages on this board, and because your arguments weren’t strong enough to convince me that your point of view is correct, then you’re just going to throw your hands up in the air and say “I regret this dialogue.” Is this the best approach to take when you truly believe in something? Here’s where you are in error: you think that just because I don’t agree with you, then that means there’s something wrong with me.

        I posit what I believe to be logical arguments, and your responses haven’t been strong enough to change my mind. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It simply means that for me, your arguments haven’t been strong enough.

        The reason for my bringing up the fact that 3 of the cops are black, are not to be hateful, but because so often we are presented with cases of injustice and people get angry, and take action. In the minds of many, this was a black man killed by racist white cops. Apparently, not so – blacks were just as involved in his killings. Just like the Duke lacrosse case where the white guys were charged with rape just to appease the angry masses, only the facts were wrong. Just like all the fraternities closed after that account of the girl being gang raped, only her story fell apart completely. See, people don’t wait for facts; they love operating on generalities. Most of the people who call for change are very prejudiced themselves; they see a situation, they make lots of assumptions, they act on those assumptions, but in the end the facts are different.

        Further, what you perceive as insensitivity and an agenda, is nothing more than pure frustration with how the discussion of race and inequality is taking place in this country. It is so generalized, with no grey areas inbetween. Further, communities that accuse whites of racism rarely admit their own racism. Let’s be honest; blacks and latinos have issues with each other, Asians and blacks have issues with each other, different latino cultures have issues with each other, and the list goes on. But no one wants to talk about that in the conversation of race. It is almost always: White = racist and owing a debt, Black = victim of white supremacy, Homosexual = victim of white supremacy, Woman = victim of sexism.

        Yet when you look at the details, there are many other factors. (Just a small case in point: everyone loves to talk about the 77 cents on the dollar for women statistic, yet few realize that this number is an AGGREGATE for ALL MEN vs ALL WOMEN, not on an industry by industry basis. And this 77 figure is partly influenced by the fact that many women CHOOSE lower paying jobs [teachers, secretaries, etc]. Hence, the solution is NOT to just pass laws that mandate equal pay, but to encourage girls to become doctors and scientist. But few people are talking about that second part, because most people hear the 77% number and go “oh, the world is screwed up” but are too lazy to dig deeper. And the result: their actions will not achieve full wage equality, ever. Do you see the pattern? Generalities = actions on false facts = problem never fixed.)

        Which brings me back to race. The conversation of inequality in this country has nothing to do with race at the very core. It has to do with human nature. People want money and power, and our society only respects money and power. Look at our entertainment; who are our heroes – tough guys, gangsters, ruthless politicians (screw their victims). Are there any weak protagonists who fail miserably? Are there any protagonists who are homeless? Nope, because we inherently don’t want to associate ourselves with anyone who is weak. It is our biological instinct to push away from weakness because weak people drain our resources, instead of being nurturing. In fact, most commonly, the only people who associate themselves with others who are less fortunate, are usually in the same situation. You don’t see rich people hanging around with poor friends. It’s not because they’re racist or prejudiced, it’s because you don’t want to surround yourself with people less fortunate.

        So when the conversation centers just on race, and why WHITE people should be doing more, it’s incredibly superficial. It does not dig deeper. It just stays at that superficial layer of skin color, sexual orientation, gender. Yes, RIGHT NOW, white people, in aggregate (and on average) have more control over their lives. But in the future, someone else will. Before whites colonized North and South America, a very different group of people was in charge here. They weren’t all nice and sweet and loving. They raided each other’s villages, they raped women, they killed each other, and they ENSLAVED each other – these weren’t white people.

        In China, Japan, all of Asia, similar things happened throughout history. Invasions, tortures, slavery, murders, rapes. Most of Russia and Ukraine were occupied for several hundred years by Mongols, and that is why many people from that region still have slightly slanted eyes.

        In Russia, you had serfdom; which is just a step above slavery. That’s light skinned people enslaving other light skinned people.

        In Arabic countries, you have migrant workers who are also basically slaves. Arabs are not white.

        Dark skinned Egyptians owned Jewish slaves.

        The point here, is that any race, any culture, when given the opportunity will oppress someone. It’s this natural drive for power and control that is responsible for our social inequities. Prime example; the black police officers who caused Freddy Gray’s death. They could have used their office of power and control to help a man who was less fortunate than they are. They, better than any white cop, should understand the struggles that blacks face. But they didn’t help, because the moment one human being has control over another, their outlook on life and on what is right and what is wrong changes.

        And the reason why cops disproportionately kill and imprison black men is not because these men are black, but because they don’t have the economic resources to fight back.

        At this point the argument that is made is that if you target those with little power, and blacks have less power, hence cops are targeting blacks. Valid point. But unless being poor and not having political control is recognized as the root cause – not the color of a person’s skin – then the conversation remains superficial. And the end result will be as follows: blacks get more power, blacks move up… but other people don’t. People who seek power and control will instead change targets. They’ll find someone else. Someone who is economically weak, and then another group of people will have to endure unjustified arrests, discrimination, and will have to fight their own fight.

        So what you perceive is insensitivity or my unwillingness to see your point is simply my frustration with how generalized some of your ideas are, and how generalized the conversations in this country are about race and inequality. That it’s very, very important to dig deeper and look at facts. That people who accuse others of prejudice are often themselves very prejudiced – but fail to see it. That making generalizations like “the white” should help more, are very misleading unless you present the full picture. It’s not a race thing, Corvus, it’s a human nature thing. If we fix just the symptoms; police brutality against blacks, then the disease will just take root somewhere else.

        And please, man, don’t do that thing where someone doesn’t agree with you, and you take that high road, like “well, I tried to enlighten you, but I guess you just have an agenda or something.” You’re not more enlightened than me. You have a different opinion, and you’re welcome to rebut anything I say. But me disagreeing with you or not finding your arguments to be valid doesn’t make me a bad guy. Being insensitive also doesn’t make me a bad guy. It simply means we have different life experiences and see things differently. The point is to talk and discuss, and not just find groups of people who agree with you already, without challenging any of your points of view.

      • what tabbyrenelle said… Thank you Corvus for your contribution to the important and (mostly) very intelligent dialog on this blog. Your conversation with Alexander has been read in all its fine detail by many, including me, who now have your insights that we may be able to use to help the situation in other venues. No regrets.

  69. @tabbyrenelle. You shouldn’t assume things like “agenda” or whatever. I saw that video you posted of Michelle Alexander’s talk. I watched the entire thing. INCREDIBLY enlightening.

    Do you know what stood out the most about it? She presented facts. She didn’t say “rioting is ok because the white people are not doing much” (I know this was before these riots, but making a point here.) Instead of emotions, she presented facts; prison population 5x greater than several decades ago, blacks disproportionately represented, drug war is responsible, we have a prison industrial complex. Amazing information that puts a lot of things in context.

    It clearly explains how the system works and the economics behind it. Further, it allows everyone to try and put themselves in the shoes of black men; who leave prison with no money, cannot get a job due to disclosure requirements, etc. It’s much more effective than burning buildings because facts are difficult to refute, emotions are much easier to brush aside.

    Pretty sure that if the black movement took this video and had representatives stopping random people of other ethnicities (not just white) and asked them to watch this video together; it would do way more to move this country forward than smashing police cars. After doing that, they could say “if you’re willing to help stop this, this is what we’d love for you to do [write to congress, make this call, we’re having a peaceful protest on this day, please come out to support our communities]” It would achieve way more than trying to shame white people for not doing enough.

    • First, you act like you’ve come up with some sort of new tactics that have not already been tried…. as if property destruction is not happening out of desperation and rage, and is just “Oh you know we COULD have just watched a video with some cops and wrote a letter and saved the world and racism would no longer exist, but instead we decided to risk our lives on the streets.” Are you truly that out of it? Do you really think anything has happened with peaceful protest, watching videos, and writing letters alone? That’s what the state wants you to think. Because as long as you think that, you won’t be a threat.

      Secondly, your rant against feminism and women is not at all surprising. TL;DR. But I do want to share one quote with you about women “choosing” lower paying jobs and your assumption that the pay of those jobs is either deserved or NOT based on the fact that they are jobs that women do:

      “1. Women are paid lower wages than men for doing the same work… 2. Women are systematically excluded from work of a high status, concrete power, and high financial reward… 3. Women are consigned to the lowest ranks within a field, no matter what the field… 4. WHEN WOMEN ENTER ANY INDUSTRY, JOB, OR PROFESSION IN GREAT NUMBERS, THE FIELD ITSELF BECOMES FEMINIZED, THAT IS, IT ACQUIRES THE LOW STATUS OF THE FEMALE. Women are able to enter a field in large numbers because it is low paid relative to other areas where men can find employment…” Andrea Dworkin, “Sexual Economics: The Terrible Truth”

      In short, women enter “lower paying jobs” because they are systematically feminized and if too many women enter a “higher paying job” it will gain lower pay. This is the nature of patriarchy and misogyny. Similar systemic things happen for people of color including men of color.

      Same old same old scared white straight boy afraid of people getting what they need and him losing out somehow. Some day you will see that all of our liberations are connected. And as long as you put more effort into fighting the tactics of the oppressed than you do against the oppressor, it only harms you as well.

      Third, emotions are valid and not bad and “facts” do not exist devoid of emotion, nor does anything. I am sorry that you’ve been taught throughout your life that feeling is bad, because it’s pretty obvious most of your words here come from your feelings. The sooner we all allow ourselves to have them in healthy ways, we can then have a better more just world. But, for now, you’re angry and and you’re the only one that is allowed to be angry in your mind. You can write all of the misogynistic, racist, and self congratulatory stuff because you smiled at a blind black guy once, then condemn others’ anger and frustration all you want- but don’t pretend for a second like you’re being rational and others are not.

      • @Corvus. You respond without reading. Didn’t smile at a blind black guy. Actually read what I wrote. If you did read, and are just being cynical now, then let me know next time you offer a bleeding homeless person a ride to the hospital.

        Really, please let me know when you do more than just write blogs and talk to your friends about how you hate inequality. Thinking about equality and patting yourself on the back for having compassionate thoughts are actually very different from physically helping other people. Marching in protests and volunteering your time to help others are also two very different things. Giving a homeless person change is also different from engaging them in actual physical help. So let me know when you do more than just read political blogs and pat yourself on the back for being so open minded about social issues.

        You act like all of the rioting is against police brutality. It isn’t. If the video of Freddie Gray’s arrest showed black cops dragging him to the police van, then the riots wouldn’t have happened. The point I clearly made is that people make assumptions and that everyone acts on prejudice, without waiting for facts. Being sick and tired of something doesn’t give you the right to act without waiting for facts, and then saying, “well there’s racism, so I was justified anyway.”

        Why were people so angry after Trayvon Martin was shot? Because a white guy (or so they thought at least) shot him. When was the last time the black community protested when a young black man shot another young black man? And no, pointing this out doesn’t make me racist.

        So do you genuinely think that the Baltimore riots would have occurred if the arrest video showed black cops arresting Freddie Gray? No, they wouldn’t have done that. The people assumed it was white cops that broke his spine, so they rioted. All they had to do was just wait for the details. Am I wrong on this, Corvus? Not a hypothetical question. Do you think that the riots STILL would have happened if the officers’ skin color in the video was black instead of white?

        You think, Corvus, that because you are gay and disabled that it gives you special insight into life. It doesn’t. You have zero idea about my background. You have zero idea about my exposure to other cultures. It is this extensive experience with a great deal of different people that has allowed me to see how similar everyone is in their motivations and how hypocritical everyone is in their actions – selfishness, hypocrisy, and victim mentality bridge all races, colors, religions. EVERYONE does it.

        Lastly, you don’t really address any points I make. You chalk it up to “scared white boy” – how quickly you move into name calling. How quickly you decide to label me. Yet I haven’t labeled you in any of my posts. Haven’t taken personal jabs at your race, your sexual orientation, or your disabilities. But that’s what people like you do; you want to preach self righteously about how enlightened you are, like you have some high moral ground. You don’t.

        You want to twist my words like I have a problem with women, while all I said was that people focus just on the 77% figure and don’t dig deeper, and that if that’s all we focus on, then we’ll never achieve equality, that we must do MORE than just legislation. By your own explanation of industries being feminized: if ALL industries had an equal influx of women, would it be possible to feminize ALL of those industries? Nope. And combined with equal pay legislation, that WOULD solve the wage pay gap. If you READ what I wrote, maybe you’d actually realize that I was saying that NO WAY can we eliminate the wage gap without doing more than just legislation. At no point did I say or even hint that the equal pay legislation was not needed. You should slow down when you read.

        But because I don’t agree with your points of view. Because I don’t agree with the riots. Because I point out valid things like; hey 3 of the 6 cops were black, and that people really should wait for facts in situations like these, then I must be a racist in your view. How dare I point this out? Things like this happen when you’ve already made up your mind, Corvus, and when you read things too fast.

        By the way, you should look up the definition of racism, if you’re going to use that word. At least use it appropriately, instead of labeling everyone who doesn’t agree with you a racist.

        Here, I’ll make it easier for you: Racism – the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

        When you find some racist statements in any of my comments that in any way fit that definition, please do let me know.

        Good luck to you.

      • You know Corvus, having read and re-read our exchanges, I think you and I really have the same views on the results that should be achieved in this world. Equality for all ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and religions.

        You and I just have a difference of opinion on how to go about it. You believe that people who have even a bit of privilege should acknowledge that privilege and just extend the hand of love and warmth to anyone who has it worse than them – that love will heal everything. I on the other hand, believe that everyone must acknowledge the fact that they make decisions on prejudice while at the same time preaching against prejudice.

        There’s a lot of emotion surrounding this topic. Because some people go “hey look at the suffering here, how can you even care about any logic. We must heal people first, and then move forward together.” Valid point. People like me, on the other hand do “well, you’re talking about prejudice and how racism is wrong, but a lot of your actions follow the same exact mentality.”

        At the end of the day, both points are valid. I don’t have to acknowledge white privilege to believe that a white kid, a black kid, an asian kid and a latino kid should all feel safe around police, should all have access to excellent public education and free healthcare, should all feel safe in their neighborhoods, and have access to excellent higher education and well-paying jobs after that.

        I also don’t have to agree with the riots or the burning of buildings to acknowledge that something I consider to be misguided, hypocritical and counterproductive also has good aspects to it; higher public awareness of the fact that black men are jailed at disproportionately higher rates, and are more likely to be profiled and arrested for even non-violent crimes like marijuana possession. I don’t have to agree with it, and some of it can even make me angry, but I can also see good aspects of it. The world doesn’t work on absolutes.

        It’s a difference of opinion as to how to go about creating a more equal society, and how people operate at their very basic levels. For example, you think that to reduce police brutality, the primary method should be for whites to acknowledge the existence of white supremacy and white privilege, I don’t agree, because my view on human nature is different. I think ending police violence against black men would be achieved more effectively if all police wearing body cameras, having cameras installed in all police vehicles (not just dash cams, but to capture what happens inside), and to have no camera-free zones inside prisons (so if there is abuse, the misconduct cannot be hidden). Because we all won’t love each other one day, and just changing our opinions about race won’t fix it all – strict rules, transparency and effective oversight will.

        Again, difference of opinion about the approach, but not the final result.

    • Uh… ok hi Alexander… Glad you found the video helpful.

      Here’s another excerpt from a larger interview which can help people understand that the word “riots” is a misnomer. It’s with Grace Lee Boggs and from several years ago, but it traverses the reasons to move from rebellion into other actions. You might find room for both or at least understanding of how and why better, without having to judge it from your own vantage.

      BILL MOYERS: Let me take you back to that terrible summer of 1967, when Detroit erupted into that awful riot out there.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I ask you to think about your calling it a riot.

      BILL MOYERS: What would you call it?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: We in Detroit called it the rebellion.

      BILL MOYERS: The rebellion?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: And because we understand that there was a righteousness about the young people rising up — it was a rising up, it was a standing up, by young people.

      BILL MOYERS: Against?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Against both the police, which they considered an occupation army, and against what they sensed had become their expendability because of high-tech. That what black people had been valued for, for hundreds of years, only for their labor, was now being taken away from them.

      BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened– or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don’t think it’s that they were conscious of it, but I thought– what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that– no one cares anymore.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it’s not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?

      BILL MOYERS: The violence in Detroit brought some new thinking about a strategy for change. After seeing how anger and frustration could turn so quickly into chaos, Boggs began to take a closer look at the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.

      She had been slow to appreciate King’s spiritual journey or his belief in non-violence. But now she discovered that King, too, was wrestling with how to go beyond the civil rights movement to a profound transformation of society.

      By this point, King had realized it wasn’t enough just to end racial segregation in the south. In the spring of 1967, he came to New York’s historic Riverside Church to challenge inequality throughout America — and to link conditions at home to the nation’s war in Southeast Asia.

      MARTIN LUTHER KING: I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam… The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

      BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King’s great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don’t expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

      BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they–

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

      BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we’re not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments–

      BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: There’s big changes–

      BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that’s what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

      BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That’s not what we should be about.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you’re saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that’s been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

      BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you’re saying those haven’t changed.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I’m saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they’re part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo.

      BILL MOYERS: Whose failing is that?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I’m not sure I would use the word ‘failing.’ I would say that people who have engaged in one struggle tend to be locked into that struggle.

      BILL MOYERS: When you look back, who do you think was closer to the truth? Karl Marx or Martin Luther King? The truth about human society.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: King was an extraordinary thinker. He understood — he read Marx. He was serious about reading Marx. He was also serious about reading Hegel, about reading Gandhi, about the Bible, Jesus Christ and Christianity. So Marx belongs to a particular period. I think that the anti-Marxist King was not an anti-Marxist. He was a man of his time.

      BILL MOYERS: I’ve often wondered, Grace, if Martin Luther King would have been more effective, if he’d been slightly more radical.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: First of all, I find it difficult to understand what “more radical” means.

      BILL MOYERS: If he had challenged the system more, the interlocking relationship between power, both in the economy and power in Washington.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: You know, Bill, to develop your ideas to meet the crisis that you’re faced with, takes time. King, from ’65 August to April 1968, only had three years, and he was moving very fast. It takes time. what we need to do is not to fault him for not having done in the few years that he had. What we need to do now, we need to build on what he did. That’s what the movement’s about, building on what you learned from the past.

      BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that’s where the movement — I see a movement beginning to emerge, ’cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

      BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that’s a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

      BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.

      BILL MOYERS: How so?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that’s the key to reality, you’re in a hell of a mess of a human being.

      BILL MOYERS: So it is that this woman who marched and agitated and argued in mass movements and social protests for over 70 years…has come full circle…to find seeds of hope in small places where people work quietly and patiently on every imaginable front.

      Man # 1: We work on trying to change policies for homeless people.

      Man # 2: I think information is power

      BILL MOYERS: They get little public attention….although they’re concerned with the most basic human needs…

      Man # 3: We want jobs that actually empower us, you know, and make it so that you actually have a say in what happens at your workplace.

      BILL MOYERS: These days, Boggs works through what’s known as the Beloved Community Initiative to encourage people like this in cities across the country to see themselves as crucial to how democracy works. And for whom.

      BILL MOYERS: You know, you didn’t have to come here this past weekend. You’re 91 years old. Why did you come?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Because I think the initiative that I am part of, the beloved communities initiative, is identifying and helping to bring together small groups who are making this cultural revolution that we so urgently need in our country.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: And I see this as part of a pilgrimage which human beings have been embarked on for thousands and tens of thousands of years. People think of evolution mainly in terms of anatomical changes. I think that we have to think of evolution in terms of very elemental human changes. And so, we’re evolving both through our knowledge and through our experiences to another a stage of humankind. So, revolution and evolution are no longer so separate.

      BILL MOYERS: But the economic system doesn’t reflect this evolution. Outsourcing of jobs, the flight of capital, the power of capital over workers. All of that has– the system isn’t catching up this.

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, just don’t expect the system to catch up, the system is part of the system! What I think is that, not since the 30s have American– have the American people, the ordinary Americans faced such uncertainty with regard to the economic system. In the 30s, what we did, was we confronted management and were able, thereby to gain many advantages, particularly to gain a respect for the dignity of labor. That’s no longer possible today, because of the ability of corporations to fly all over the place and begin setting up– all this outsourcing. So, we’re gonna have – people are finding other ways to regain control over the way they make their living.

      BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that’s practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don’t diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

      BILL MOYERS: Don’t ‘diss’ them?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

      BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their limitations. Politics — there was a time when we believed that if we just achieved political power it would solve all our problems. And I think what we learned from experiences of the Russian Revolution, all those revolutions, that those who become– who try to get power in the state, become part of the state. They become locked in to the practices. And we have to begin creating new practices.

      BILL MOYERS: What will it take for this next round of change that you see as promising? What would it take?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: It takes discussions like this. I mean, it takes a whole lot of things. It takes people doing things. It takes people talking about things. It takes dialogue. It takes changing the whole lot of ways by which we think.

      BILL MOYERS: Do you see any leaders who are advocating that change? I mean, people that we would all recognize, anybody we’d all recognize?

      GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don’t see any leaders, and I think we have to rethink the concept of “leader.” ‘Cause “leader” implies “follower.” And, so many– not so many, but I think we need to appropriate, embrace the idea that we are the leaders we’ve been looking for.

      BILL MOYERS: Grace Lee Boggs, thank you very much.

      If further interested in Michelle Alexanders\’s work, her free online book The New Jim Crow: Massive incarceration in the age of colorblindness is excellent in outlining the system as the real problem to address rather than continuing to create and punish the the symptoms (rebellion):

      I wish you luck with your continued learning. -TRE

  70. As a Brazilian involved in activism, it was a pleasure reading such a clear and succinct justification of direct action. Much has been discussed in Brazil on the subject, mostly because of the constant attempt of criminalizing social movements by press and state. Can I translate and share your text in Portuguese (with due credits, of course)?

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  72. People are shocked that the riots are still occurring since we’ve gotten justice for Freddie Gray (essentially…)
    White America has chosen to turn a blind eye toward the systematic and institutionalised racism that Blacks (as well as numerous minority groups face, with Blacks being the most prevelant.) This is the way they’ve gotten them to notice. It’s extremely interesting to consider that most people you could ask about their take on the riots would note that it “came out of nowhere”, when in reality, the racism has always existed.

    We just made peace with it. Until now.

    This is what is going to bring about the change we’ve been waiting so long for. I myself am Puerto Rican, so I’m not exactly the most qualified to speak on this matter, but we all wait to see the day in which everyone is truly seen as “equal” on a political and social scale.

    Anyone choosing to turn a blind eye to this, fine.
    You’ll see youself to a more difficult time trying to block out the eons-old cries for justice.

    I leave you with a great quote from Desmond Tutu which you’ve all probably heard at some time or another by now; “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

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  80. I can’t see that trashing a police car will impact some system. They’ll just buy a new car.
    What’s the U.S. budget? What does it cost to keep one person in jail for a year? Less than a police car costs, I’ll bet.
    Getting attention is one thing but creating real change takes more deliberation.

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  82. Thank you for spelling it out like this and providing sound ideas on how to move forward intentionally!

  83. I enjoyed your article and agree with you. It’s sad but true that violent action is the only thing that will garner the attention of society. Non-violent actions and protests only gain a short news story on the evening news while a violent protest will be the headline for weeks.

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