The force that breeds unrest

Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Building anger over police brutality blew up in Baltimore as riots overtook what had been peaceful protests. The destruction is a shame, but the violence from police that triggered it is the story. In this piece, I take down three short-sighted reactions to the uprising and refocus on the real problem.

“Violence is not the answer”

What even is this phrase? There’s never any justification for violence, chaos, and destruction. But why do we stop there? We forget these riots have a cause: Unending neglect, brutality, and provocation. In other words, violence. Decades of state-sponsored, sanctioned, and excused violence by the police against the communities they were hired to protect and serve. Not destruction of property by the powerless, but destruction of life by the powerful.

We have a power structure that completely devalues its most vulnerable citizens and routinely eliminates their lives, sometimes seemingly for fun, leaving them hopeless. And then we wonder why some of them, the youngest ones who see no future for themselves, might have the audacity to be so opportunist and nihilistic. In our shock, we ignore what’s creating the problem. We blame the fire for spreading and let the arsonist off the hook. We pretend the branch is the root.

“This is not Martin Luther King’s dream”

Oh, I’m so sorry you’re disappointed. Because sure, MLK was just some nice guy who never disrupted anything. Remember? He politely asked for racism to stop and then it was solved forever. And that’s why we haven’t had racism since 1968! And young black people in the inner city these days really need to stop making excuses and take personal responsibility for the situation they got themselves in *head explodes* — I’ve had it with the whitewashing of MLK’s legacy.

“Thugs”

Everybody knows what that word really means. Funny how throwing a guy in the back of a van, speeding down the road and breaking his spine doesn’t make you a thug. Funny how ganging up on a man and choking him to death doesn’t make you a thug. Funny how rolling up to a kid in a park and shooting him in three seconds doesn’t make you a thug. Funny how putting bullets right in the back of someone running away from you doesn’t make you a thug. Funny how ending lives on the public payroll and with virtual impunity doesn’t make you a thug.

But seeing this happen over and over, getting pushed to your boiling point, and searching desperately for any sign that the society you live in puts any worth on your life or even considers you a real human being… now, now. Calm down. [Medium | Tumblr]

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