When Hungarians took to the streets in 1956, with fire and violence, it was called a "revolution" and hailed in Western news sources. When African Americans take to the streets, with fire and violence, it's called a "riot."
Have been reflecting on how many people I know who have spent their daily lives for years working in different ways to affirm that Baltimore's#BlackLivesMatter, and how much those people inspired me growing up to become an activist.
The African-American activist and public intellectual, Cornel West, says that “justice is what love looks like in public.” For me last week, putting love into action looked like joining in a nonviolent march for justice for Freddie Gray. We were black and white, young and old, Christians, Jews, and Muslims – all marching together.
Violence is what happens when grief has nowhere else to go and black Baltimore is tired of grieving its young men.
Trying to understand violence is not the same thing as justifying it.
I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I’m absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention.
- As reported last fall by the Baltimore Sun, “Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won [a total of $5.7 million in] court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.”
- According to the ACLU, from 2010 to 2014, 31 people died following encounters with the Baltimore police.