As much as I hate to think of violence as a solution,
these riots really are this rebellion really is necessary for change. On a personal level, I totally get it that if somebody isn’t respecting a peacefully expressed boundary, sometimes the only way to enforce that boundary is violence. Everything I have ever been taught says to never escalate.
But one thing I’ve learned is that the concept of “escalation” has to be weighted according not only to the moment you’re in, but according to the relative power levels of those involved, and the larger pattern between them. My Mom taught me that if a man beats his wife with his fists, she’s not escalating if she hits back with a frying pan – and if he can hit her with his fists at any time, maybe it’s fair if she has to wait until he’s not hitting her to get her swing in. Not that our culture accepts even that level of self-defense when the marginalized are up against the mainstream. (And yes, I’m counting men who are abused by their partners as marginalized, as they are effectively invisible in our culture.)
As for the
riots uprising, it’s clear that these police jurisdictions, under the sanction of larger city, state, county, and federal governments, much less the overarching cultural systems in the US, are abusing the populations in their care. Is it really escalating if those populations respond with a fraction of the force they’ve been dealt?
The first response that comes to mind is, of course, “But the store owners aren’t the police,” and no, of course they’re not. And I don’t necessarily think it’s ethical to punish one person for another person’s crime. But loss of property also isn’t loss of life. And this problem isn’t really just between the police and a single marginalized community. None of this invalidates the real message that when you push someone too hard for too long, some people break, but others retaliate.
Obviously I grieve anyone who is harmed in these
riots conflicts, especially if they’re not even directly involved. But I don’t grieve them any more than I grieve the innocent black people killed by police officers.
Or even the guilty ones.
That’s a huge part of this skewed narrative, isn’t it?
“Well, those black people deserved it because they’re criminals, and when they “riot”, they become criminals, and when they disturb the “peace” they’re criminals, and when they disagree with the police they’re criminals. We all know criminals deserve what they get. And really, with so many black people who are criminals, how can we be blamed for expecting this one is a criminal too? And we all know that you’re a criminal once you’ve done something wrong, no trial or proof required. The police are just doing their jobs, right? ”
“Criminal” is a word we use to replace the concept of “Human”.
Some of the inmates I meet with while doing jail ministry are already sentenced, others are still awaiting trial. If I honestly believed that being guilty of a crime – much less merely suspected of one – was enough to erase someone’s humanity, why would I bother?
P.S. Still reading, still learning. “Riot” necessarily reinforces the marginalization of the responding population. Whose peace are we really disrupting when we defend ourselves?