Violence Never Works? Really?

How do you think this country came to be?

Tim Wise

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Image by Fajrul Falah from Pixabay

The moralizing has begun.

Those who have rarely been the target of organized police gangsterism are once again lecturing those who have about how best to respond to it.

Be peaceful, they implore, as protesters rise up in Minneapolis and across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd. This, coming from the same people who melted down when Colin Kaepernick took a knee — a decidedly peaceful type of protest. Because apparently, when white folks say, “protest peacefully,” we mean “stop protesting.”

Everything is fine, nothing to see here.

It is telling that much of white America sees fit to lecture black people about the evils of violence, even as we enjoy the national bounty over which we claim possession solely as a result of the same. I beg to remind you, George Washington was not a practitioner of passive resistance. Neither the early colonists nor the nation’s founders fit within the Gandhian tradition. There were no sit-ins at King George’s palace, no horseback freedom rides to affect change. There were just guns, lots and lots of guns.

We are here because of blood, and mostly that of others. We are here because of our insatiable desire to take by force the land and labor of others. We are the last people on Earth with a right to ruminate upon the superior morality of peaceful protest. We have never believed in it and rarely practiced it. Instead, we have always taken what we desire, and when denied it, we have turned to means utterly genocidal to make it so.

Even in the modern era, the notion that we believe in non-violence or have some well-nurtured opposition to rioting is belied by the evidence. Indeed, white folks riot for far less legitimate reasons than those for which African Americans might decide to hoist a brick, a rock, or a bottle.

We have done so in the wake of Final Four games, or because of something called Pumpkin Festival in Keene, New Hampshire. We did it because of $10 veggie burritos at Woodstock ’99, and because there weren’t enough Porta-Potties after the Limp Bizkit set.

We did it when we couldn’t get enough beer at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, and…

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Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)