2014/12/01

How do we get from here to liberation?


Some thoughts on property destruction, violence against the police, and the Black Friday Ferguson solidarity protest (#BlackoutBlackFriday) in San Francisco.

After the non-indictment of Darren Wilson on Monday, November 24th, 2014, very militant protests erupted all over the country, with more the next night and in the days following. The protests explicitly aim to "shut it down", to interfere with business as usual. Protestors blocked many freeways, closed many a mall, halted BART service across the Bay for two and a half hours on Friday, and some protestors damaged and/or looted property in Ferguson, Oakland, and San Francisco. And in San Francisco there was definitely violence against individual police officers.


The cries of outrage against the response are weaker than usual. We seem to be at a very interesting moment in history in which more people seem sympathetic to property destruction and rioting as a response to the consistent, long-standing dehumanization of African-Americans and their mistreatment at the hands of police. The excellent piece Hey, Step Back with the Riot Shaming has been shared on Facebook tens of thousands of times, and even Time magazine — Time! — has an article entitled Ferguson: In Defense of Rioting.

Late Thursday night I re-watched Do the Right Thing (which I last saw as a teenager around the time it came out). I'm glad I did, as it helped me manage my anger and leaven it with an understanding of the tragic results of acting too directly on that anger. The title of the movie comes from this short clip, that at first reflection seems otherwise unrelated to the rest of the movie:



It's a good motto to live by, and one that arguably Mookie fails to heed when he calmly and deliberately fetches a garbage can to throw through the window of the pizzeria, sparking a riot that ends in the building burning down.