Ferguson, Madison, Baltimore

When will it end? When will police violence against unarmed African-American men stop? When will we understand that the institutional racism and institutionalized violence against African-Americans, so deeply entwined in America’s history for four hundred years, results in deaths, violence, and destruction?

I’ve been watching my twitter feed burn as Baltimore burns. African-Americans use Twitter to cry out about the injustice and oppression. Well-meaning white clergy, celebrities, and politicians, plead for calm and non-violent protest. My twitter feed burns, Baltimore burns, America burns. Ferguson, Madison, Baltimore.

It’s heartbreaking to watch, and it’s heartbreaking to see well meaning whites plead for nonviolence when injustice and oppression persist; when lives are ground down by the institutional violence and racism of everyday existence; when there is no hope, no future.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in Baltimore writes powerfully about how Baltimore has come to this point and why we on the outside who call for nonviolence are wrong:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point, tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

Read it all here. And read this about the Baltimore Police Department’s history of criminal behavior and violence. The Baltimore Police Department has paid out $5.7 million in recent years in lawsuits over the use of force. That’s a lot of money, but a drop in the bucket compared to the City of Chicago, which paid out more than $500 million between 2004 and 2014.

And these statistics about Freddy Gray’s neighborhood.

It’s not just Ferguson, or Baltimore, or Madison. It’s the USA. Our nation was founded on slavery and oppression. It has thrived on racism and oppression, and unless we can confront our past and present sin now, we will continue to exist thanks to state-sponsored violence, racism, and oppression.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Non-Violence, Ferguson and American Society

What clearly cannot be said is that American society’s affection for nonviolence is notional. What cannot be said is that American society’s admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. increases with distance, that the movement he led was bugged, smeared, harassed, and attacked by the same country that now celebrates him. King had the courage to condemn not merely the violence of blacks, nor the violence of the Klan, but the violence of the American state itself.

What clearly cannot be said is that violence and nonviolence are tools, and that violence—like nonviolence—sometimes works. “Property damage and looting impede social progress,” Jonathan Chait wrote Tuesday. He delivered this sentence with unearned authority. Taken together, Property damage and looting have been the most effective tools of social progress for white people in America. It describes everything from enslavement to Jim Crow laws to lynching to red-lining.

Read it all. Read it all here.