I understand some white people are upset about recent riots and property damage. I understand you don’t like broken glass and you don’t see the purpose of riots and uprisings.
A quick look at history shows us change is often impossible without civil disobedience. Yes, agent provocateurs and outside sources are a possibility. No, white people should not bring chaos but should follow Black leadership. At the same time, historically, rioting and revolting is an effective means for change. The women who fought for your right to vote broke windows and smashed things.
I really need the pearl-clutching white ladies to understand this. You would not be able to vote if it wasn’t for women who fucked shit up, got arrested, and made things so difficult and inconvenient that life could not continue as usual until justice was achieved. The Women’s Social and Political Union frequently used forms of direct action — throwing rocks and breaking windows — to demand our right to vote. (This isn’t praise for suffragettes; many of them were racist.)
Most other strides towards human rights have been similar. Why? Because it is incredibly powerful for oppressed people to remind the powers-that-be that if we don’t have justice, we will burn it all down. We will disrupt society. We will shut down the whole operation.
It is the history of going on strike; it is the history of the 5-day workweek and labor laws. The fight for LGBTQ rights was a violent and bloody uprising against cops. It is messy and disruptive and dangerous because it has to be.
Ever seen the Disney musical Newsies? It’s based on real events, the newsboy strike of 1899. It was a bunch of kids who fought for fairer wages and paper buybacks. It was violent. They smashed things. People hated them. They effectively made progress due to their strike which inconvenienced everyone.
Property damage is unfortunately an effective and valid tool for protest and I promise you that if you familiarize yourself with history, you will see this is the case.
I know it can be startling to see, but instead of directing your anger at the people fighting for liberation, why don’t you ask yourself and anyone who will listen why justice is unachievable without revolting?
Why won’t the masters hand over power until things start getting smashed? Why, historically, is bloody revolution always necessary to achieve human rights?
I know some of you have never once spoken out against police brutality, and I see you. I see that cops can asphyxiate innocent Black men in public, on video, and you won’t say a word. But god forbid someone smash the window of your favorite boutique. I see you upholding the value of property over human life. I see that you are a tool of white supremacy.
I also know some of you have never been to a protest, so please let me help you understand. A protest in which people arrive, march with signs, and then leave — while it can provide temporary feelings of empowerment and solidarity — most often changes nothing. The women’s march was an awesome movement to be a part of and it made no discernible systemic changes. I know some folks have been touched by photos of police officers marching with protestors. It is a sweet symbolic gesture and it creates no systemic change. We want total reform or abolition of the police force. At the very least, we want immediate anti-racist, anti-bias, de-escalation training provided and overseen by people who are not cops.
Quietly protesting and going back to the comfort of our homes is not an effective tool for change. Even if it’s not violent, disruption of society is necessary. That is why workers go on strike. That is why Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and Martin Luther King was arrested 29 times. Civil disobedience is essential.
That, and, cops are often responsible for starting trouble. It is a documented tactic. They arrive in riot gear. Many of us who have attended protests have witnessed cops using shields to start pushing the crowd. It starts out subtle and then people get knocked over and then someone pushes back and then the cops unleash because the protest “got violent.”
I want you to know that Martin Luther King Jr — the one who wrote the “darkness cannot drive out darkness” quote you love to share so much — he wrote about you. He wrote about people who care more about order than justice.
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
What if in the “darkness cannot drive out darkness” quote, the darkness is YOU? What if your apathy is the darkness? What if your tsk-tsking is the darkness?
We can have empathy towards local businesses AND have rage towards the system which pushes people to the point of uprising. It is sad if local businesses, small business, innocent businesses and organizations and homes and people are negatively affected. After recognizing that this is, historically and unfortunately, often the only way to create change, what are you prepared to do to fight police brutality and systemic racism, without resorting to property damage? What is your solution, knowing that striking and smashing things often does work?
Some Black folks have asked white people not to riot or smash things. That is valid too, especially because it’s usually Black bodies that bear the brunt of it. Things can be both. Riots, uprisings, revolutions can be an effective tool for change, AND white people shouldn’t start randomly looting. Smashing things can be effective, AND white women should strike for racial justice so citizens don’t have to riot.
***White people: do not start randomly rioting. Put your body between cops and Black protestors.***
What do you think would happen if white women across the USA went on strike, demanded racial justice, and put our bodies on the line? All of us? Just stop participating, stop mothering, stop working, stop the functioning of society until the demands are met of the people of color who have already been working tirelessly in many non-violent, non-disruptive ways for racial justice? What if we cared about Black lives as much as we cared about broken glass?