Violent protests demand understanding of context

Misbah Awan
Queens, N.Y.

Mainstream media is a dominant tool of white supremacy. Oftentimes, the media is far more respectful towards white serial killers and mass murderers than unarmed black folks. However, America gets an F when it comes to understanding black political strategy, let alone the value of black life. In the “white imagination,” violence is considered to be highly radical and terrifying.

The media, as we know it, perpetuates this false dichotomy between non-violent protests as being effective and noble and violent protests as being ineffective, immoral, and “bad.” However, violent protests are just as potent as non-violent protests because they help in giving a voice to individuals being misrepresented in mainstream media or underrepresented at large.

The elite have delegitimized the ideology that violence is, in fact, a political strategy. This is because they fear the black community and benefit from their demonization. The reactions of black folk in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, especially in places like Ferguson and Baltimore where racism is deeply embedded in their history, is understandable.

When one constantly has to deal with a system that continually demonstrates zero care or investment in defending the oppressed, non-violent protesting becomes a political strategy that is pointless and will put the oppressed (in this face, the black communities) in further violence. That is why direct action is necessary, because it protects blacks from violence. There comes a time when one must say no in firmness, especially if the white structure power above believes that you are the greatest violence they face. They refuse to see “ghettos” and crimes and absent parents as products of communities actively struggling against premeditated economic exploitation and mental health crises.

People will only see police cars being smashed and corporate property being destroyed because that will be the only narrative that the dominant media will show. In reality, the situation behind these actions should help one recognize that these are responses — reasonable ones, at that — to generations of state violence.

There is a huge double standard in history because the narrative of heroism is in favor of whiteness. 

The death of the towering young black man, Radio Raheem, who carried around a huge boom box that continuously plays Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in Spike Lee’s remarkable 1989 film, Do The Right Thing, and the death of Staten Island resident, Eric Garner, are both eerily the same. Above all, they are both black, both forgotten, both lynched, and both catalysts of a revolution. They both show how riots and destruction of white property are treated as failures rather than eulogies. Doing the right thing is never a question raised to the white cop, though.

Although both Radio Raheem and Eric Garner are singularly targeted, they are both metonymies for all black victims under a white supremacist violence.

Likewise, if it were not for those individuals who were isolated because they attacked property at the protests, the dominant media would not have given the time of day to these people. The black protesters, in specific, would not be represented in the message that they want to project: to be their own media and reveal America’s superficial post-racial society where property is still valued over black lives.

Would Ferguson, for example, have gotten worldwide media attention if they non-violently protested? Ferguson needed to take control of the narrative. Baltimore needed to take control of the narrative. New Yorkers needed to take control of the narrative. Misrepresentation is not okay and protestors should not stay complacent to it. If you take a look at dominant media, you will see that they have their own warped procedure in which they are instructing that riots and “looting” are more ineffective at attracting attention to a cause than peacefully protesting. They themselves disprove this theory.

However, let’s be clear: media attention should not be the ultimate goal. The goal is justice, by any means necessary.

In truth, the context behind terms like “violence” and “peaceful” need to be further explored and understood. Violence is the murder and assault of the marginalized community. Therefore, it is wrong to tell someone to “be peaceful” and “civilized” as this not only reveals how the individual lacks a nuanced political understanding in saying so, but it is a lethal command.

Of course, not every protester will be for the same philosophy, but one must realize that if window glass and car doors being broken is being prioritized over the black youth, there is a problem. Why is property—white established property—above human—black—life? How come when white people riot over sports, there less concern than when black individuals fight for their lives?

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