by Paul C. Gorski
Consider how angry you are just from observing what people you don't know are doing in a place you're not from.
Now think about how angry you might be if generation after generation after generation of your family and friends had been treated with disdain and racism--denied the right to live where they want to live (still today, despite redlining being illegal), denied the same educational opportunities that most white people take for granted (still today, as schools are more racially segregated in many places than they were before Brown vs. Board of Ed), denied the ability to walk down the street without the threat of police violence, denied access to an equitable legal and justice system (still today when African Americans represent 15% of overall drug users and the US and 60% of people in prison for drug crimes).
Imagine how infuriating it could be for some African Americans to see your posts of disdain toward them when you inexplicably (except through white privilege) were not posting messages of disdain toward white people who were doing the same things at a friggin' pumpkin festival or who have done the same things when their universities have won meaningless football games. You don't understand because you haven't been the target of racism your entire life.
Yes, there will always be a few people who turn protests into opportunities to do whatever they want to do, but that's not mostly what's happening, and the fact that you're acting as if that's the real issue here is a demonstration of why people who are targeted by racial oppression need to raise these issues in more and more serious ways. The fact that you're choosing to point your anger toward them reveals something about you. What do you think that might be?
Violence begets violence. Read history. Revolutionary War. Violence begets violence. Civil War. Violence begets violence. The Revolutionary War was a situation in which repressed people used violence to free themselves from repression. It was a violent protest. Violence begets violence. Almost always people in the US who are analyzing these situations through lenses of whiteness omit every bit of history and react only to people who feel so silenced and repressed that they finally, finally are responding with some measure of violence that just barely captures the tip of the iceberg of the violence they and their families have experienced for generations.
Unless you've experienced that--unless you know what that feels like--what you're doing through your judgments about "violent protesters" is piling on the violence. (Do you wonder why nobody calls white people "looters" when they're doing the same things that some of the Ferguson protesters are doing? Violence.)
Why are so many white people more pissed off about how some people in communities of color are responding than to the issue to which they're responding? That's violence. When the hell are any of you going to post a series of rants on Facebook about the reality that on average African Americans, who don't now and never have committed more crimes than white people, live with the constant threat of racism, even today, in the US, where we pretend everyone gets an equal shot? That's violence.
Why aren't you angry about that?
Paul C. Gorski is the Founder of EdChange and an Associate Professor of Integrative Studies at George Mason University where he teaches in the Social Justice and Human Rights programs. For more of his writing visit the EdChange.org. For free resources on educational equity visit EdChange.org/multicultural. To contact Paul directly email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am an activist and author devoting most of my time to social justice causes such as poverty and economic justice, racism and racial justice, educational justice, and animal rights. In my spare time I am an Associate Professor, teaching classes on these same topics in George Mason University's New Century College.