“I was attempting to point out that questions about the validity of violence should have been directed to those institutions that held and continue to hold a monopoly on violence: the police, the prisons, the military… Placing the question of violence at the forefront almost inevitably serves to obscure the issues that are at the center of struggles for justice.” -Angela Davis
I’ve received inquiry after inquiry concerning my opinion on the use of violence as a means to ignite the revolution, and in short, I agree with quote above. A more complex answer, and I suppose the one which is being asked for would be that I believe that both violence and peace have their place in historic moments such as this. What I do find intriguing is that they never tell the judicial system to be non-violent. They never tell the educational system or any of the systems of oppression working against us to be nonviolent, and they most certainly do not tell the police force to be non-violent. In the words of Stokely Carmichael, “Dr. King’s policy was that nonviolence would achieve gains for black people in the United States. His major assumption was that if you are nonviolent, if you suffer, your opponent will see your suffering and will be moved to change his heart. That’s very good. He only made one fallacious assumption: In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.” So while I believe in peace as a means of keeping Black folks safe during these demonstrations, I think it asinine to tell the oppressed that they are the ones which should be nonviolent. I do think that in our efforts, we must maintain a standard of morality higher than what white america has, but I encourage you all that do believe in remaining at all times peaceful, to re-imagine your definition of it. I challenge you to imagine a peacefulness that does not mean silence, and that does not mean quiet. One that does not mean without anger. One that does not mean hugging and fist bumping the police force. I implore you all to be peaceful if you so choose, but not in the sense of tolerating your oppressor by allowing his violence against you to go without retaliation. Do it in the sense that you are at peace within yourself and are therefore able to dismantle this establishment without remorse. Be peaceful, but not without justice. Our people are both visibly and justifiably irate, and a better ideology, and what I think is being implied by the question of peace would be that it is not enough to be angry, we must also be deliberate in our actions. With that being said, I think that the idea of “peaceful protesting” should instead be replaced with “strategic protesting” because both peace and violence do have their place in a revolution.
So, as for questions of peace, I think it better to shift your inquiries of whether or not violence is justified to the system which in and of itself is inherently violent towards Black and other people of color. This is about state violence creating violence on our streets. This is about disparities in sentencing, about disproportional targeting of our communities. This is about a system which constantly demeans, disrespects, disregards and destroys the lives of black people in this United States. It is about a constant state of war on our people, on our lives, on our children and on our spirits- and in the midst of all of this, we are told to be “peaceful”. It is absurd to direct questions of violence at the oppressed when we find ourselves surrounded by instances of performative activism, companies which continue to put out letters and statements that show no true solidarity-ones solely done for means of PR, and we encounter counter protesters who are quite literally running over freedom fighters with their vehicles. There are those who come out for the sole purpose of using the Black struggle as a backdrop for their social media aesthetic, and instead of directing questions of morality at them, your first instinct is to direct it at us. How interesting.
There is a quote from A Tale of Two Cities which reads “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us” and I know that those words may sum up how you feel in this moment. There is no better feeling than fighting for equity, and no worse feeling than knowing that our children may have to do the same. But this fight, whether through “peace” or through “violence”, is one we are obligated to win. It is one which we must continue no matter the adversity…no matter if the media stops coverage…no matter if the masses dwindle to a few. We must organize. We must advocate. We must educate. I know that you may feel overwhelmed in this moment, but this is worth it. This fight is worth it. Our liberation is worth it.