Many say that violence is not the answer; that the violence which commences at the outset of a peaceful protest does nothing but deter the main focus or objective of said protest; that violence leads us nowhere.
Rhetoric against violence is merited and justly warranted; however, with the persistent nature of injustice and the lack of resolution from those in power, anger within oppressed communities will inevitably build up.
Exclaiming this does not excuse the perpetuators of violent actions, rather it points out the ineluctable nature of violence when juxtaposed with the mayhemic, atrocious twilight in which the black community, in particular, have been in whirl of for the past 400 years. From being stolen from their homeland and forced across the Middle Passage, to years of being beaten and sold and overtly abused, to facing a system which blatantly placed them as second class citizens, to today – where blacks are systematically and systemically oppressed through haphazard implementation of laws with historical precedent, through the byproducts of historical continuities, to blatant laws which are demeaning and discriminate under the umbrella of taking the “bad guys” off of the streets.
Contemporarily, the twilight in which the black community appears to find itself under is that of having their loved ones unjustly killed by those assigned to protect us – while the murderers face light consequences, if any consequences at all. From the 12 year old Tamir Rice being murdered in cold blood and his slayer not facing any charges to Freddie Gray’s murderer being acquitted of all charges to Michael Brown to so many others. On top of that, little to no reformation of the police department has been implemented and inadequate police training still persists – forthgoing the number of people being innocently slaughtered at the governmental authority’s mercy.
At the wake of the murdering of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, it is logical for the black community to conclude that no justice will be met and that this will only be a case of “Wash, rinse and repeat” – outrage now, forgotten tomorrow and relived in the near future. When faced with such a daunting reality of stagnant progress and interminable misfortunes, anger is likely to rile up and violence dispel.
In the past, violence dispelling at the outset of peaceful protests have had one of two effects. One side of the coin can be observed from the general public’s reaction to the riots which occurred with an uproar following the killing of Michael Brown.
As to have been expected, the media reacted negatively to this incident; however, they allowed this negative coverage to overshadow the main issue – a black man being executed by governmental authority.
Similarly, during the well renowned Civil Rights Movement, racial tensions were high and violence transpired – arguably in a more devastating manor than what has been seen today. Moreover, during this particular time period there were two fights being fought by two separate groups who had the same end goal in mind. On one hand, there was Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP and on the other hand there was Elijah Mohammed, Malcolm X and The Nation of Islam(NOI.) What commonly goes untold is the significance of the perceived threat the Nation of Islam posed toward the the American government.
In the beginning, MLK Jr. and the nonviolent protesters were barely gaining any traction in receiving any national attention or publicity. It was not until 1959, when a New York television network released a documentary which (falsely) portrayed NOI’s goals as being the taking of five southern states for blacks to inhabit, that the American government was forced to seek an alternate option when addressing the inarguable violations of Civil Liberties and Rights of African Americans. By this time, the NOI had already possessed thousands of followers/supporters – the American government could no longer ignore the perceived threat they faced in the form of militant Black Muslims who did not exactly shy away from the idea of violent retaliation. The alternate option which the government deemed most plausible came in the form of MLK Jr. and the NAACP; as the threat in which they posed was nowhere near as incriminating as the governments other option.
In the case of the Civil Rights Movement, violence and intimidation and fear played a prominent role – regardless of what the textbooks or media outlets may want you to know. If it had not been two fights being had – which totaled and essentially united the entire black population – Martin Luther King Jr. would not have been able to form the formidable and constructive connections with the Establishment; the media would have continued to drown out the weeping cries of the black community; and most importantly, change would not have happened.
What distinguishes the New Civil Rights Movement (BlackLivesMatter) from the original is that of not having a connection to the establishment or having any eminent political figures lead the movement. The plight which gravely affects all African American (and several other minorities) has effectively been placed on the shoulders of mere high school and college students with little to no knowledge of how to draft legislation and no level of affluence to have a resounding impact in the realm of the White House.
The only way substantive change will take place in our era is if we band together in solidarity – completely; as an entire race and also as an afflicted minority.