Past Is Prologue
The Irony of Lecturing Protesters About Nonviolence
To paraphrase Tupac, White folks love to scream peace after we start some shit
Don’t misunderstand. As a strategic matter, I believe nonviolence is the preferred method of political protest. As such, I am heartened by the fact — and it is a fact, no matter how much some suggest otherwise — that the recent national uprising has been almost entirely nonviolent. What violence we’ve seen has come mostly from police, from right-wing provocateurs trying to sabotage the movement, from opponents of the movement trying to run over protesters in their vehicles, or from aimless individuals with no connection to the broader struggle.
Whatever one thinks of graffiti, it isn’t in the same universe as the brutal treatment of demonstrators by police in video after video — over 600 strong now and growing. As for looting, it too has been rare given the millions of people who have poured into the streets. Not to mention, much of that activity was the work of the infiltrators and hangers-on mentioned above. Even the portion attributable to protesters could have been avoided had the officers who killed George Floyd been arrested immediately — as any of us would have been for doing the same thing they did — rather than several days later.
But putting aside questions of strategy, it is fascinating to hear White Americans cluck our tongues about violence. White people moralizing about the subject — when we would not be here but for looting on a grand scale and genocidal violence — is almost too perfect an irony to put into words.
We celebrate violence as heritage, ignoring its racialized subtext, and not only on Columbus Day.
One would think we had come by this place as a result of negotiation, chance, or perhaps a voter registration drive that ultimately toppled the loyalists and drove them from the colonies as losers of a simple plebiscite.
But not only was this nation founded in violence; it marinates in it daily. We bask in the glory of violence, from our statuary to our textbooks to our holidays — paeans to war and militarism and conquest. We celebrate violence…