Dear black youths of Baltimore and the poverty stricken inner cities of America,
You have no future. You will not be educated properly. There are no jobs for you. You will not have access to any resources or opportunities to better your life. You will spend the rest of your life living in a violent and dangerous urban jungle or better yet caged up like an animal in prison. No one whose job it is to be responsible for you will dare stand up for you and for what is right, so good luck, you’re going to need it.
Is this the message we wish to send to the black youths of America? Labeling them as “thugs” and condemning their so-called “violent” acts when they dare take a stand in defense of their own lives. Because this is exactly what we’re telling them when we adopt a strictly nonviolent and non-aggressive approach in addressing the issues oppressing black America. The current public sentiment condemning rioting is extremely hypocritical and counterproductive. In fact, it would better serve the nation to adopt an attitude of expecting, not condemning, riot behaviours when any of our fellow citizens are being oppressed.
In Defense of the Youth
When one is physically attacked, is it a crime to fight back in self-defense? When a criminal breaks into one’s home to steal, the “Make My Day” Law allows one to use violence in self-defense. But when the police unjustly shoot, strangle, brutalize and break the necks of black youths—we condemn them for fighting back with rocks. When we steal the futures from the neighborhoods of black youths by not educating them or offering any real opportunities—we label them criminals for using violence to take back their stolen futures.
In both black and white America, we use a mechanism called deterrence to keep potential criminals from breaking the laws. That is, we punish criminality through such methods as arrest (physical coercion), incarceration (disruption of normal life) and even capital punishment (death), all of which are naturally violent or disruptive methods. The fear of punishment deters most from engaging in criminal activity—commit the crime, do the time.
But what sort of deterrence is there to keep law workers themselves from using criminal behaviour against the citizens they are sworn to protect? Do the same deterrence methods work if they can simply be sidestepped? How can there be any possible justice when we leave it to the police, to police themselves? In the case of Walter Scott we’ve seen police blatantly lie on the police report. Without any video evidence we’ll never really know what happened to Michael Brown or Freddie Gray. Why then would the police indict and convict themselves—sending themselves to prison for life amongst the criminals they put away—when they could easily go free?
The fact is, it’s up to the public to police lawmakers and law enforcers when they go rogue. And when we ourselves take up this task, we enforce criminality with our own means of deterrence. To do so we use what resources we have at our disposal, e.g., throwing rocks at police (physical coercion), destroying police cars, burning pharmacies, looting liquor stores, blocking traffic and boycotting (disruption of normal life). These actions become necessary to deter criminals that are law workers. When citizens find it necessary to deter their own government it’s not called rioting, it’s called revolution. And it’s going to require a revolution in the education and criminal justice systems to end the oppression of black communities in America.
The founding fathers of this country understood this very well. Here’s how Orrin Hatch in serving as chairman of U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee interprets the Second Amendment:
Fighting back against one’s oppressors in self-defense is as American as it gets. If law workers expect somewhat of a tough fight from groups they choose to oppress, it does everyone a favor of deterring them from continuing their crimes against any group. Historically, disarming and taming a group of citizens is a good way to run a dictatorship, not a democracy. Hitler disarmed the Jews so they were not able to defend themselves against the Third Reich. Now in Baltimore we ask the black community not only to disarm, but to also refrain from any sort of aggressive, justified self-defense.
Hypocrisy on all Fronts
Are we such hypocrites that we praise our soldiers who brave the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to defend the liberty of this nation, just to turn around and deny many of these liberties to black communities? We cheer on our country when our soldiers protect us by means of force and decry our black youths for trying to protect themselves.
Are we such hypocrites that we encourage and support the violent uprisings in Egypt and Iran against their oppressive governments, but when the same reason for violence erupts on our home turf it suddenly becomes the wrong solution?
When under attack, warfare is and always has been justified. I ask, did the Civil War ever really end? It seems as though slave holder's whips have been traded in for billy clubs and their nooses for guns. Blacks have had to fight for their freedom in the Civil War, fight for equal rights in the Civil Rights Movement and now fight for equal opportunity in today’s struggle. The line of nonviolence was eclipsed long ago when the first slaves were shackled in chains and shipped to America.
Are we such hypocrites that we praise a Baltimore mother beating her child over the head—yeah, child abuse is a form of violent deterrence by the way—but when her child uses the same method to deter police brutality we condemn him? It’s understandable that a mother’s first duty is to protect her child, but it’s also a child’s duty to protect himself.
Are we such hypocrites that we accept laws that legalize dangerous substances such as alcohol and tobacco, but criminalize the drugs associated with minority groups we fear will run the country over? It seems as though when certain groups pose a threat of any kind to the established way of life in the privileged community, it’s quickly extinguished by means of legal channels, e.g., criminalizing opium because of its association with the Chinese (yellow peril), marijuana for its association with Mexicans, psychedelics for their association with hippies (60’s counterculture) and cocaine for its association with blacks (southern menace).
These particular substance laws and the subsequent “war on drugs” are largely responsible for the disproportionate amount of incarcerated blacks and the tensions between the black community and police. In the privileged world the same version of black market drug dealing is expressed in the form of legitimized drug dealing, a.k.a., pharmacies and liquor stores. Is it any wonder then why a CVS Pharmacy got burned down and a liquor store looted? Suddenly what seemed like senseless criminal rioting, now makes perfect sense. In a revolution these are legitimate targets because they are symbols that represent the oppressive, hypocritical forces at work in our criminal justice system. When will Americans have some integrity and consistency in their beliefs?
For both blacks and whites their confusion lies in the fallacy of equating similar actions in very dissimilar situations. We often see a group of privileged college students or sports fans flipping cars, burning couches and vandalizing neighborhoods, simply because their team won or lost or because it’s Halloween or for no reason whatsoever. We've grown accustomed to rightfully labeling these actions as senseless, criminal and violent. In mimicking these actions, revolts like those in Baltimore and Ferguson are often misconstrued as rioting. However, in the same way a U.S. soldier's kill of the enemy during wartime is not considered murder—the actions of Baltimore youths take on a very different meaning in the midst of a revolt.
From the safety of privileged America it’s easy to say violence doesn't solve anything, but for those fighting for their lives it may very well be the only thing. What does marching do? What do peaceful protest do? What did the Occupy movement do? Did the Million Man March 20 years ago deter the cops from strangling Eric Garner? There’s no time to wait another 20 years trying to play by the rules that we’re fighting to change.
By decrying rock throwing, protesters have thrown in the towel and they might as well be throwing block parties instead! By working together the people have the power to make this nation flow—and the same power to shut it down using aggressive civil disobedience. Yeah, it hurts everyone and no one wants this, but when it’s the only way it must be done. In Baltimore so far, the youths are the only ones engaging in any form of civil disobedience.
More can be done. Most people just don’t care unless events affect their lives directly—so why not take direct, disruptive action? An over 75% majority of black NBA athletes continue entertaining privileged America with its championship playoffs. Would it hurt anyone to disrupt the system with a boycott of these games? What a huge opportunity this could be to send a message. Instead former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis—an athlete who made his wealth and achieved role model status through legitimized violence by the way—encourages the youth, not the athletes to stay home.
Have our black leaders failed the black youth by taking a nonviolent stance and condemning the actions of black youths? Has the privileged community contributed to the oppression of the black community by hypocritically shaming their efforts to defend themselves? It’s time to stand together in defiance against curfews restricting liberty. It’s time to get arrested because a large enough group of blacks and whites sit together in the streets disrupting traffic. What would happen if we took to the streets together in our cars to slowly cruise, not march, through the streets of Baltimore in defiance of the curfew? Would we label the police vandals when they smash in our windows attempting to arrest us?
No more blood needs to be shed in this revolt. To be sure, it doesn't take terrorism to make a point or get things done. But there may be the need for many arrests to be made and some property to be righteously damaged. It’s a burden the public must bear, but hopefully a sacrifice we’re willing to make to do our public duty. Martin Luther King also had Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party fighting alongside him—the youths of Baltimore have no one. It’s time to unlock arms unified in compliance disguised as nonviolence and raise the black fist of defiance.