[News] Processing my anger in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Aug 12 12:07:21 EDT 2014


*http://www.maskmagazine.com/the-substance-issue/struggle/step-back-with-the-riot-shamin* 


As you may have heard, a young black man named Michael Brown from 
Ferguson, Missouri was shot many times and killed by a police officer on 
August 9 of this year. A bit of a caveat before my rant: I'm angry and 
it comes out a bit here. Sorry not sorry.


    Processing my anger in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder.

On August 11, 1965, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles exploded after 
a confrontation with police grew to a critical mass. The neighborhood 
smoldered for six days <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watts_Riots>. 
Almost a thousand buildings were looted and burned to the ground. The 
unrest marked an important turn in the struggle against an overtly 
racist America. That was forty-nine years ago today.

Listen: police in this country attack poor people of color. It’s 
happening 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_brutality_%28United_States%29>. 
Like, it’s /still/ happening. Every day. All across the country. It’s 
been happening. The story of America is an /uninterrupted/ chapter book 
of brutality and horrific violence. Racist violence in America is a 
story with no interludes.

The narrative of “progress” steadily advances divorced from the reality 
on the streets. For all the online discourse about oppression, identity, 
and ‘shaming’, there is a disturbing lack of insight and nuance when it 
comes to riots, vandalism, and looting in the wake of these unsettling 
acts of violence against people of color. So I thought I’d put together 
my responses to the phenomenon of “riot shaming” – the policing of young 
black and brown bodies in the aftermath of police murder.


    Five Rebuttals for the Riot Shamers


      1. “This distracts from the message.”

No it doesn’t. If you think this is a distraction, take a deep breath 
and focus. It’s not “about one person”. It’s about fearing the loss of 
your family and friends at the hands of police. It could happen at any 
moment, and Michael Brown’s murder reminds us of this. He was quite 
literally supposed to start college /today/. It’s possible to have 
compassion and sympathy for the bereaved and still act out against the 
systematic exploitation of communities of color. If you can’t do these 
two things at once, it’s time to examine your commitment to a world 
without this terrifying syncopation of police violence and economic 
starvation.

As for distracting the media, well ... Attempting to appeal for 
mainstream media visibility in this age of instant information is a 
pathetic neutralization of our capacity. Let them cover the sensation if 
that’s what they’ll do. Our resentment should not be engineered by their 
attention span.


      2. “Destroying ‘your own neighborhood’ won’t help.”

I’m not sure how people who make this argument imagine ‘owning’ a 
neighborhood works, but I’ll try to break it down: we don’t own 
neighborhoods. Black businesses exist, it’s true. But the emancipation 
of impoverished communities is not measured in corner-store revenue. 
It’s not measured in minimum-wage jobs. And no, it’s especially not 
measured in how many black people are allowed to become police officers. 
Here is a local discussing why area businesses might have been targeted 
<http://fox2now.com/2014/08/11/video-protester-justifies-the-looting-in-ferguson/>.

White flight really happened. Go look it up 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight>. And insinuating that simply 
because all the white people left certain neighborhoods following 
desegregation doesn’t mean they are suddenly ‘ours’. This kind of de 
facto ‘self-determination’ is so short-sighted it makes me wonder how we 
can even talk about gentrification and segregation usefully if we think 
black people somehow ‘have all these neighborhoods’. We don’t have 
ghettos. Ghettos have us. Prisons have us. Sports teams own us. Record 
labels own us. We don’t have shit.


      3. “Looters and vandals are criminals.”

I grew up afraid to put my hands in my pockets at the store. For us “can 
I help you find something?” means something /very specific/. Young 
people of color are presumed guilty. Police cars slow down when they 
pass us on the street. They search our pockets and dump out our bags. On 
our way to and from school. To and from work. If we walk through a 
wealthy neighborhood, we might get shot. A third of us have been to 
jail. The law protects this kind of targeting, so yeah, we’re criminals. 
We are criminals because we are /seen as criminals/. We were criminals 
long before we climbed through broken windows. We were criminals long 
before we ‘refused to disperse’.


      4. “Black community leaders oppose violence.”

First of all, this is kind of a baseless generalization. One of Martin 
Luther King Jr.’s lesser known quotes ‘riot is the language of the 
unheard’ keeps me grounded here. In fact, did you know that MLK and many 
other non-violent black activists employed armed guards 
<http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_for_the_study_of_radicalism/v001/1.1dirks.html> 
in the 60s?

Besides, all of this talk about ‘violence’ this and stereotypes that is 
just so unhelpful. Let’s maybe talk about the fact that in cases like 
this police deliberately censor footage gathered, in some cases 
arresting photographers 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/04/nyregion/after-recording-eric-garner-chokehold-ramsey-orta-gets-charged-with-gun-possession.html> 
for fear of sparking unrest. You know why that is? Because they 
understand what most riot shamers don’t: if you corner injured people, 
there is no where to go but /against/. Judging people’s commitment to 
‘the cause’ based on whether they can bottle up their reasonable 
frustrations, and finding selective affinity with only those who can say 
from safe distance to ‘turn the other cheek’ is part of what sparks 
these riots in the first place.


      5. “Reform the justice system, don’t riot.”

Something tells me people who make this argument haven’t really looked 
into the prospects of this task. Let’s be real, this ‘justice system’ 
people suppose is possible has been the subject of political and 
economic philosophy for hundreds of years. I got news for you: it’s not 
looking up. The ‘fair’ economic system that a reformed justice system 
would require is a myth.

“So are you saying we should just give up?” That’s what people ask me 
when I say things like this. My response: “eh, how about just not 
reducing everything to patience and progress?” Don’t ask kids to wait 
around and dodge bullets until the system treats us fairly. Just stop 
putting that on them. Believe it or not, you don’t have to save the 
world. And you sure as hell ain’t going to do it on Twitter. Just step 
back with the riot shaming, and work on your perspective.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

In closing, I’d like to offer a message to the youth: with murderous 
cops on the loose, the safest place to be a young black or brown person 
in America is in the streets with all of your friends. Stay tight.

Police apologists: if you still think a few looted shops ‘distract from 
the message’, wait until you see the guillotines.


Authors
Tyler Reinhard <http://www.maskmagazine.com/writers/tyler-reinhard> [ 
@abolishme <https://twitter.com/abolishme> ] builds Mask Magazine, and 
studies the historical intersection of design systems and social 
upheaval. He is the author of the Semantic Notes <http://semanot.es> 
methodology, designer of numerous stupid anarchist zines and posters, 
and a contributor to Open Whisper Systems <https://whispersystems.org/> 
cryptography-usability project.
-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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