I am much bothered by the chorus of voices that seem to be so upset by the violence, fires, and looting that has accompanied the protest movements of the past weeks. There is a refrain that asserts that “they have a right to protest, but they should do it peacefully.”
Of course, the chorus does not say they want it peaceful because they can ignore it, mock it or suppress it. The two black fists in the air in the Olympics were attacked as unpatriotic. The NFL football players protested peacefully and they got attacked, vilified and blackballed. Peaceful protests do not have a great history of success.
But more importantly, there is violence done outside the law and there is great violence that is done inside, or in the name of law. The damage done in the recent episodes of violence, fires and looting in these protest is a tiny, tiny fraction of the violence that has been done to minorities and black for the last 200 years.
There is a long history of white power doing violence outside the law, or ignored by the law, to blacks. One can point to the lynchings, (which still is not a federal crime because Sen. Rand Paul wants his publicity stunt), the destruction of Black Wall Street, the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, and the raids and fires of the KKK. That is just a sample.
But even that is small compared to the violence and destruction done by the laws. The whole history of slavery was violence done to blacks. The whole creation of the Jim Crow laws was violence done in the name of the law. Red Lining real estate developments, segregation of schools was violence, lack of adequate funding of those separate schools was violence, and the list could go on. These do not include the number of violent deaths of individuals who have been killed by law enforcement. The violence done to George Floyd was just one of so many.
Power is never given away by those who have it. It has to be taken. The one peaceful protest I can remember is the Birmingham Bus Boycott. But it took more than a year, if I remember correctly.
The current protests have been impressive, but the struggle must go on and the best place for immediate action is at the ballot box in November. Maybe the standard for the candidates ought to be how they respond to “Black Lives Matter,” not all lives matter, not right now. This is a fight against racism.
Richard Brand is a Henderson resident.