Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Injustice Anywhere

I am still trying to process and respond to the news that Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot multiple times and killed Saturday in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, MO. 

I was in St. Louis at the time and didn't hear about the issue until I saw militarized police responding to unrest on the news while traveling home on Sunday. Truly, there are two Americas. 

Watching and reading the news of response to this latest atrocity, especially the rioting in Missouri, I was reminded of Frantz Fanon's assertion that violent subjugation leads to violent freedom. I'm not content to leave the issue here though, because to do so seems to remove other options for agency, especially nonviolent response such as was advocated by Dr. Martin Lither King, Jr. 

The essence of waging nonviolence, or satyagraha as Ghandi called it, depends on a moral consciousness that can be shocked into action. I am not convinced that the fourth estate is robust enough or its American audience sensitive and attentive enough to be moved. I hope I'm wrong, but even Dr. King recognized the limits of his tactics:

"And 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. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard."

Excerpted from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's speech "The Other America" delivered at Grosse Point High School March 14, 1968. Read the entire speech at http://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/

Merely condemning riots or condemning systematic violence against black and brown bodies is not enough. Are we willing to be personally invested (and then stand to be personally divested of comfort and freedom) in the hardship we don't yet face ourselves?

1 comment:

Jonathan Kotinek said...

It's not a riot: