I’ll start with the mandatory disclaimer, albeit Mad Biologist style: if you think this post is an approval of political violence, you are a fucking moron. But refusing to discuss the origins of violence does not prevent violence from happening.
With that out of the way, we discover, by way of Howie Klein (as always, worth reading), that the editor-in-chief of a CUNY newspaper has published an editorial piece, under his own name, arguing that violent self-defense against police misconduct is legitimate. No doubt, come Monday, Fox News will be going Full Ward Churchill on this guy’s ass (ELEVENTY HITLERS!!!), and nationwide, Black people will be told to apologize for this piece.
Repeatedly, on the Twitterz, I have asked people who oppose the peaceful protests* if they realize what the alternative is. Which is to say, political violence. It’s worth remembering that the Troubles in Northern Ireland originally began as non-violent civil rights protests (as a side note, it’s also worth noting that, the British Army was originally welcomed by Irish Catholics as it was thought the Army would protect them against the excesses of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Something to keep in mind when faced with calls for intervention by the National Guard).
I write this post in a city, Washington D.C., that took a quarter of a century to begin recovering from the 1968 riots–which was one relatively non-lethal week of rioting (the police and the army were under orders to not use bullets to quell the violence–most of the twelve who were killed died in burning buildings)–so I am not kindly disposed who speak of ‘only property violence. During those twenty-five long years, the predominantly white residents of Kalorama or Upper Northwest suffered very little compared to the overwhelmingly Black residents of Ward 7 and 8. And as is always the case, during times of societal breakdown, women and children get it the worst.
One common refrain of the pre-Revolution colonial era was the inability to redress grievances. When people believe (often correctly) that those who control the political system are unaccountable and unresponsive, people will escalate their responses. Between anger and crass opportunism**, there will be those who want to inflame passions, who have more to gain, at least in the short term, from violence than from avoiding it. That violence would be a completely predictable outcome of our elites’ constant refusal to address long-standing problems such as inequality, both economic and before the law***.
Unfortunately, rather than truly defusing the situation through policy changes (including policing procedures), an aggrieved minority will be told to calm down. In a heavily armed country.
Historically, this does not end well for anyone involved, or even bystanders.
But somehow Monday, I have the suspicion that our political discourse, such as it is, will be focused on one foolish op-ed in a student newspaper. That does not end well for anyone involved either.
*With the police killing about one unarmed Black man per week, naming the protests after one particular victim is unfortunately pointless.
**While the D.C. riots can’t be blamed on one person, many contemporary reports blame Stokley Carmichael for inflaming tempers, losing control of his followers, and then fleeing the city.
***Police brutality and violence should be viewed as a symptom, not the problem itself. We are asking the state representatives of violence to fix problems that can not and should not be fixed with the application of force. What else would one expect to happen?