To Black People Who Say Violence Isn't a Solution

Duane Townsend

The Root - May 31, 2020

Protest violence has surged in cities across America, fueled by the racist brutalization and attendant mental traumatization of black people in this country that has continued unabated even during a deadly pandemic.

Racist white people, Republicans, and the racist white Republican president have predictably responded to the not-so-peaceful protests with feigned disgust at violence—which they revere when performed by white people and in the name of “freedom”—and more outrage at the harm being visited on brick and mortar buildings than they’ve ever shown for the innumerable black lives lost due to racism.

But black people have also joined the outcry against protestors, with some like idiotic Shameik Moore positing that black people can save ourselves from the fate of being hunted by being better-behaved, like him.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Moore also had harsh words for black people who are contributing to what she described as “chaos” in the city this weekend, after rioters set fire to a building where a police precinct and the CNN Center are located.

“You are disgracing this city. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country,” Mayor Bottoms chided the protestors. “If you want change in America, go and register to vote.”

There’s a lot to unpack in the Mayor’s statements, especially the false premise that racism in America—an organized terror visited upon black bodies for centuries by people benefiting from institutions and systems built solidly on white supremacy—is something that can realistically be ended by those most trodden by it, and that it is the marginalized’s responsibility to navigate those same systems to do so.

In presenting this false premise that black people are responsible for ending racist violence and that violent responses to brutal bigotry are not the “right way” to fix the latter, black people who share these sentiments are being complicit in the negation of black people’s humanity—the very thing that undergirds anti-black racism in the first place.

On Wednesday night I cried harder and deeper than I have in a long while, and I wasn’t able to find sleep until the wee hours of Thursday morning. I didn’t know what to do with myself after a day of reading about George Floyd’s killing and seeing screenshots of a knee upon his neck in the moments before his death all over social media.

Earlier that day, a friend of mine called me distressed. She said she had so many feelings in response to this latest police killing that she didn’t know what to do with them, and one of the feelings was anger.

“Not just at this, at everything,” she added, referencing the racist microaggressions she’s been swimming in ever since she was a little girl attending grade school in Chicago.

The only advice I had for my friend was that she should give herself permission to feel the rage, sadness, grief, and everything other emotion that she had been hiding politely for however long.

I told her that I’d made a commitment to myself to do the same as an affirmation of my own humanity as a black woman, after an incident last year that left me feeling disquieted with myself.

I was in the elevator of a building in downtown Chicago having a conversation with two of my co-workers at the time (who were not black) on why I believe immigrants like me don’t have a place in the conversation between African-Americans and the U.S. Government about reparations, since the historic and systemic barriers struck up against the former means they have a unique experience as black people in this country. ...
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