Updated: Aug 4, 2020
“... a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?… It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” -“The Other America,” MLK, 1968
I am called by my moral imperative to nonviolence, but that nonviolence does not cover a lack of self-defense. If I was attacked, or my family attacked, I would fight back with physical force. If I wasn’t able to defend myself or others, I would expect, as an American, to receive justice through the judicial system.
White privilege makes it easy for white “allies” to not understand that the current protests are acts of self-defense. What would you do, if your sisters, mothers, brothers, and fathers were harassed, raped, tortured, murdered, and were given no justice, no genuine promise of change, apology, or even fair trial as is supposedly assured us by the most important code of this country? Then you might feel the system has failed you, and that attempts for structural change have been either completely swept under the rug, or are so minutely small that they make no difference.
Who are the police protecting when they block protestors from moving down a street? Who are they protecting when they shoot tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of unarmed people? They may rationalize their actions as an attempt to negate anarchy and chaos or to protect the rest of the population.
But who would the protestors hurt if they were left without any police presence? In Oakland, we saw a few people set a pile of Lyft bikes on fire, and a Safeway looted and trashed. Who is that hurting? Corporations. Some people get free groceries, and two large companies are out a few thousand dollars.
So the police are protecting corporations, not the people they are meant to serve. Police should be on the side of the most impoverished, the most oppressed. They should be the force that steps up against the bully and protects the weak.
That is what this movement is about.
I am calling all white allies, all white conservatives, all people who condemn the violence of rioting, to exercise your empathy and realize that we have normalized police violence and murder against people of color in this country. It is not normal. It is not okay. And it is understandable for anyone who is attacked to act in self-defense or to seek some form of justice.
The police, out protecting buildings, objects of wealth, are only creating more violence by their presence. People are more prone to violence when they are afraid, and even I, as someone who has white privilege, am afraid of the police. They are members of society who are drawn to power: some are called to protect the people with that power, but others warp the loopholes in the law (see qualified immunity) to enact their own violent power-tripping fantasies.
We need to hold officers accountable for immoral and unlawful behavior. We need outreach programs where lawmakers and citizens can come together often and maintain empathy for each other. We need serious money poured into the long-term building and management of youth and community centers, which are shown definitely to decrease violence. Instead of arming police with tear gas, guns, rubber bullets and bear spray, we need to arm community leaders with ways to nonviolently and empathetically make their communities safer.
No one deserves food scarcity/insecurity [expansion of food banks, food stamps, and/or a universal basic income], or to be looked over by their teachers who have too many students to deal with [funding increase for teacher salaries, school hiring, and school supplies]. No one deserves to watch their grandparents or parents die because they can't afford medical care [universal health care]. No one deserves to be on the brink of eviction or to be homeless (unless they so choose) [expansion of low-income housing, and/or a universal basic income]. No one deserves to feel bleak about their chances of getting a job [blind hiring practices, and/or diversity requirements], or to realize they are making less for the same work as their white and/or male counterparts [income equality requirements]. No one deserves to have to be in debt for most of their lives when they choose to further themselves and enter higher education [loan forgiveness and increased federal funding to universities for tuition reduction].
Most of all, we need to spend every penny we can to make the lives of the people of this country better, so no one is called to violence through desperation.
These are solutions to this problem. Not band-aids for the real issues of our world.
Asking the protestors to behave nonviolently — in the face of injustice and violence by people who are way scarier in their armor and with their guns — is hypocritical and beside the point. I hope for a plan of nonviolent civil disobedience, because I don’t want to give any excuse to oppose this fight, and because I don’t want the violence to stoke the fire of police involvement and militarization, which will only lead to more death and suffering.
At heart, I am a pacifist. I believe in peace and love and care for all living things. But when I see the gut-wrenchingly long lists of black Americans who have been murdered by police?
I want to fight back.