Here is a link to an article justifying what is referred to as “direct action”, as opposed to coherent dialogue. It is certainly interesting, after having watched many such “protests”(silently deploring the regression of human communication to howls and shrieks), to read an actual articulation of what goes on in these people’s minds when the chanting fever takes over.
As the author describes it, the drive is rooted in visceral rage and a sense of disenfranchisement, which puts people into a permanent fight mode.
A group of all-Black activists did a Valentine’s Day action in the town of Walnut Creek, a predominantly white and upper-class neighborhood with a history of white supremacist politics and rallies. We took over local businesses to call out the names of Black people who had been murdered by the police. We demanded an end to complacency. We spent no longer than five minutes in each restaurants surrounded by white folks who refused to look at us – some plugging their ears, others calling out slurs, others mumbling that we “deserve to be shot.” None of us carried guns, none of us threatened anyone (aside from our presence as Black), and no one was harmed. That being said, the action was not “peaceful” because it wasn’t intended to be. A few days later, amidst allegations that we “bullied and harassed” people, a former peer (and aspiring police officer) sent me a long message expressing his outrage at what we had done. (…)I responded that, any time a group of Black people go anywhere to do any thing, we are automatically assumed violent or suspect.
So in this case, the action consisted of going to a known hostile zone, where the response (even to a reasonable request, which was clearly not the case) would most likely have been negative. Going there with an entitled attitude, unabashedly not meaning to be peaceful, catching people by surprise and disrupting their day. I have a few questions, rhetorical, of course:
- Were those business owners responsible for the killings?
- Were the people seated at the tables responsible?
- Is it reasonable to expect apologies for crimes you had nothing to do with, from people who didn’t commit them?
- How would this person respond if someone barged into his business or home unannounced, with a hostile attitude?
- Would he not feel intimidated if a group of aggressive people targeted him for any reason at all?
- What was this supposed to accomplish in the first place?
- What response did they realistically expect and what response would have been ideal?
You don’t need to carry guns in order to make people feel threatened, whether they are racist assholes or not. Decent people would have felt threatened as well. You can’t complain about the automatic assumption of violence right after admitting your protest was not meant to be peaceful. You can’t have it both ways.
We are not allowed to take up space, and once we do – even if it is to beg that people see us as human and stop killing us – we are infringing upon the privilege and ignorance of those who who wish to remain blissfully unsympathetic.
The people seated at the tables or running those eating venues were not killing anybody or denying anybody’s humanity. They were going about their daily business. And racist or not, anyone would react poorly to such an undeserved accusation.
Most of us shutting down city council meetings, or interrupting President Obama’s press conferences, or blocking traffic to end incarceration and deportations, know what both the cost and benefits are.
I’d like to read more about the benefits and achievements of walking in on other people’s events – events which they took the time and money to organise -and diverting attention from what those gathered there were actually interested in. Why don’t they organise their own events and leave it at that? Events which don’t involve bullying and cornering others.
The days of going up to someone with a gun and nicely asking them to sop murdering our people are over. There is nothing “peaceful”about the murders of Black and Brown people – and asking folks to “remain calm and civilize” is nothing but a justification for that violence.
The answer is, therefore, indiscriminately targeting and holding responsible any person who is not Black or Brown, anywhere, with aggressive accusations of endorsing murder, and thinking this will actually solve something.
But most of the angry people I come face-to-face with are not upset about police brutality, mass incarceration, or the Charleston Massacre. They are upset that they cannot take their normal route to work or get their caramel macchiatos on time. In other words, they are being confronted with a reality they want to ignore.
In other words, they are confronted with your aggression, directed at them, without having done anything to you or anyone else. After all, why would normal, innocent people deserve to go about their day without being shamed for supposedly not caring about the problems of others? Why wouldn’t they just wallow in all the tragedy of this world (someone is being killed somewhere this very second, probably), even if there is nothing they can do about it?
If not doing anything wrong doesn’t entitle people to be left alone, why not go further and hijack weddings and funerals, like the Westboro Baptist Church?
These are folks that, when inconvenienced, not only make the extent of their frustration clear – they may also be violent and oppressive in their doing so. They have no other perspective than what their individual needs are in that moment.
What about you? Do you care at all about the chaos you are causing for no discernible purpose; do you care about the people you are disturbing, about their troubles and reason to be where they are, about their right to live their lives, to work, to speak etc?
There is a collapse of empathy in the people who spit at, yell at, and physically threaten people who are literally fighting for our right to live.
The only violence, verbal and physical, that is shown in recordings of such protests, comes from protesters themselves. If I may just mention a talk Ben Shapiro gave this year at a university, having to be escorted in through the back door, while a crowd was blocking the entrance, preventing participants from going inside and actually beating them up. Unable to stop the event, they set off the fire alarm
To condemn protestors (who destroy shit or not) as violent not only shows a lack of connection to their agony; it also shows me that folks don’t understand what violence is or isn’t.
May I point out that when someone near you is smashing up anything in their immediate proximity, with blind rage, there is nothing – nothing – guaranteeing you wont be next, simply for being there? May I also point out this has repeatedly happened? Is it OK to just smash things out of anger? If one person doing so might be understandable, can anyone see how fifty or a hundred joining in is dangerous and destructive? Aren’t we supposed to be better than animals? I can’t believe this isn’t obvious to everyone.
As for what is or isn’t violence, please click on the link in the quote; you will be amazed by the sheer idiocy. Apparently, looting isn’t violence as it’s experienced by inanimate objects, not human beings. As if those objects were placed there by mother nature and not by some bewildered fucker who sees his property destroyed or stolen just because it was in the way of angry people. What kind of bar does this set for the intelligence of those who engage in looting or rioting? How can it be excusable to smash up someone’s car just for being parked in the wrong place at the wrong time? Human beings might not be physically harmed by this (unless they harm themselves after their livelihood is ruined), but human beings will have to foot the bill for this “righteous indignation”. Someone will have to clean up their mess in the morning.
This is fucking unbelievable.
Violence has been used to colonize, enslave, sexualize, and destroy communities of color and other oppressed people for centuries. Asking a people who have long been the targets of violence to “calm down and be peaceful” is oppressive and silencing.
And in the name of what empires and slave traders have done, we have to break into a T-shirt store, smash a hot dog stand and a Chinese takeaway to pieces. And if we’re strong enough, a few street signs too. A troubled teen with carnage fantasies might’ve been the victim of violence as well, perhaps all his life. But when he takes a rifle to school, asking him not to shoot innocent people in the name of his stifled suffering is not asking too much.
You cannot simply harm anyone and break anything you come across because you form part of an oppressed minority. Innocent people deserve all the protection and consideration imposed by common sense.