First and foremost, I would like to say Black Lives Matter. George Floyd’s death joins the unnecessary and cruel deaths of many black people by the hands of the police. It is important everyone show their support not just now, but throughout their entire existence. As with any cause, and now, we cannot let it fade and disappear like how headlines disappear in the media. I’d like to engage in the discussion of violent, and nonviolent, protests as well as some other relevant information.
With all the violent protesting that has occurred, it’s spurned quite the debate: Is peaceful protesting not enough? In itself, so long as you’re not creating significant disturbance to the system, peaceful protests may not do anything. That’s not to say peaceful protests are completely ineffective. They just have to have a significant impact on the status quo. For example, during segregation as a person of color, merely holding your ground caused significant disturbance by 1) Not being complacent and 2) Disrupting “business”. Today, and especially for the younger, more impatient generations, it appears as if peace protests take too long to get something done. They also seem to not know if its working or not. Occupying streets while holding signs to complete strangers seems like nothing is getting done.
Then comes the violence. It results in immediate, fast paced action. It certainly did get the police to finally arrest the police officers involved in George Floy’s death. Violence is familiar ground to people in general, as it is “natural”. Simply put, Nonviolent protesting is a skill and an art that must be taught and learned. Nevertheless, not all significant protests have been nonviolent in their entirety either. For example, the Stonewall Riots. It took a rather violent event for the gay community to be taken seriously. Out of the ashes of the riot, gay rights organizations and Gay Pride was born. While violent protests/riots may come as a surprise, the circumstances that led up to to aren’t. In summary, violence is like a long burning cauldron of hatred and angst that eventually boils over. The gay community has been persecuted for centuries. We have our fair share of horrifying events. At some point, it gets frustrating, especially in a country that claims to be the land of the free (and where individuals have inalienable rights). To this day, we still have to fight for our rights, but that fighting chance was given to us by that fateful Stonewall Riot.
Now for the black community. It is no secret that the police beat up on black people as if it’s on daily to-do list. There is absolutely no shortage of videos, news articles, and names of black people that are victims to the police, the system, and plain racism. The police are just one aspect of the system that is hopelessly corrupt. The justice system itself is even more heinous. It works hand in hand with the police; arrest a black person at random, then charge them with crimes (that they likely didn’t even commit) so that they’ll end up in prison for life. It was just easy to do, to pin all the blame on a black person. It was also profitable, especially for the prisons. When the Innocence Project booted up in 1992, the extent of how corrupt the justice system is was seen. They estimate that 5% of all prisoners are innocent, a disturbing statistic. So far, they’ve also managed to exonerate around 300 people, most of whom are black.
How violent should violent be, anyway? Many (including me) won’t condone it, yet a line can still be drawn. Violence is absolutely unacceptable when endangering the lives of random people, destroying businesses, is just plain immoral, unethical, irresponsible, selfish, and a step back for the cause as a whole. Making more victims out of everyday people is not going to help anyone. So long violence is directed at the “relevant” parties, I think it’s better than doing the above. Ultimately, we have to think about to bigger picture. Gaining support is political, and that means it has to be theatrical. Be that as it may, nonviolence acts, as in civil disobedience, holding your ground, and fighting the real problems at hand (the system) is just more likely to command more respect and support from people.
The circumstances that led to the violent protests we see today are no secret either. Having Trump as the president of the US simply served to exacerbate already existing tensions and problems in this country. He has enabled white supremacy, ruthless dictators, police brutality, a corrupt justice system, and has thus been a catalyst for what we see now. Nothing can undo the damage done that led to the violence or the damage done by the violence, but what we can do is move forward, and to do so more responsibly. It is up to us to tell these anxious people that we can do better, and do more with less. It is up to older/wiser people to train the younger generations on how to effectively protest nonviolently, and to think long term, not short term.