Saturday, August 15, 2015

Nonviolent Direct Action to Stop Police Crimes: Effective?

As I write this, 486 people have retweeted the following message:

@BlakeDontCrack on Twitter:
Non-violent civil disobedience has never been non-violent for Black People.

It seems perfectly timed because of what is about to happen in a few weeks in Chicago.

Is non-violence just a dream?

Freedom Riders Bus Burned near Anniston, Alabama, 1961
The message immediately reminded me of a question raised in Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates:  "Why were only our heroes nonviolent?" It's part of a longer passage:

Every February my classmates and I were herded into assemblies for a ritual review of the Civil Rights Movement. Our teachers urged us toward the example of freedom marchers, Freedom Riders, and Freedom Summers, and it seemed that the month could not pass without a series of films dedicated to the glories of being beaten on camera. The black people in these films seemed to love the worst things in life -- love the dogs that rent their children apart, the tear gas that clawed at their lungs, the firehoses that tore off their clothes and tumbled them into the streets.  They seemed to love the men who raped them, the women who cursed them, love the children who spat on them, the terrorists that bombed them. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?  . . . " (Between the World and Me, p. 31-2)

Ever since I have become involved in activism, this is a dilemma I have seen over and over again. People reject individual violence, but tolerate massive doses of state violence. (See War, War Protests, and "Technology" )

It is a dilemma that is central to Coates' book, and to his contention that US society will never be able to ease its way out of institutionalized racism (as adherents of "the Dream" hope).

It seems closely related to the question raised by Charles Blow (and retweeted over 3000 times):

@CharlesMBlow on Twitter:
Why did that reporter just ask #SamDubose's mother if she could forgive
the officer?! Why r we, but no one else, called 1st to forgiveness?!

What is the point of nonviolence, anyway?

Woolworth lunch counter sit-in in Jackson, Mississippi.
Last week, I watched hours of coverage of the Campaign Nonviolence conference taking place in Los Alamos, NM.  The keynote speaker was someone who knows something about those Freedom Summer protests: Rev. James Lawson.

I particularly liked the presentation given by Prof. Erica Chenoweth at that conference.  I found it so compelling, I tweeted the key points, just as fast as I could type.  (You can watch the video of the full Chenoweth presentation or read a summary here.) The big idea that I got from Prof. Chenoweth's presentation: mass participation is what's needed to bring about change, and nonviolent tactics are proven to be more successful at bringing about mass participation (and making it effective).

Inherent in the Chenoweth presentation, is a big question: where does the mental toughness -- some people would call it "grounding" -- come from that enables people to continue following the more effective nonviolent course, particularly when confronted by a state that just keeps committing acts of violence?

Stopping state violence in Chicago

A 17-year-old civil rights demonstrator being
attacked by a police dog during protests.
(See NY Daily News.)
On August 29, a coalition of groups in Chicago will march for community control of the Chicago police.

Thousands are expected to march.

It is a significant example of the use of nonviolent protest to bring about an end to state violence.

I think everyone -- and particularly anyone who lays claim to being a political leader -- should be asking themselves the question, "How many hoops of nonviolent protest do people need to jump through before it's enough?" Put another way, "Just how much longer do you expect people to keep their righteous anger in check?"


Participate in, promote, support

Related posts

We can't imagine that anti-racism work is just about specific police officers or even specific departments. Entire institutions of racist law enforcement need to be brought to heel in real time. It's a task worthy of a society-wide, national, federal effort. And it's top priority. No leader can ignore this reality . . . .

(See "If elected . . . ." (The Election 2016 and #BlackLivesMatter Nexus) )

It's time for Chicago's Progressive Caucus as a whole -- and all its members individually -- to come out strongly in favor of a democratically-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) for Chicago.

(See A Modest Proposal for Chicago's Progressive Caucus: Support CPAC )

#BlackLivesMatter: When all is said and done, how many career politicians in Chicago will have crashed and burned along the way because they couldn't or wouldn't step up and lead on this issue?

(See #PeopleOverPolice: Is This What Democracy Looks Like? )

I wonder if the outrage that many Muslims seem to feel at the suffering of other Muslims doesn't put us Christians to shame.

(See Fighting Back: It's alright as long as you're a Christian, right? )

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