We Don’t Have To Say That Violence Isn’t The Answer

In the wake of the horrific shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge this past two weeks, I’ve seen a lot of posts from Black activists reminding people that violence is never the answer. Some posts often seem forced, in the vein of compulsory statements from political candidates. Others seem filled with worry and dismay at the harm these shootings can do to our movement for criminal justice reform. But even more than I see these statements, I see expectations from allies and enemies alike that we refute these killings.

“You think these killings are wrong too — right? Right?”

“You agree that violence is never the answer — right?”

“You are just as sad about these cops — right?”

From friends, these questions are pleas for reassurance that they are still on the right side, that they still hold the moral high ground in their support of us. From foes, these questions are used to tie us to these shootings, to place blame and force us to separate ourselves from factions of our movement deemed “too loud,” “too angry,” and “too demanding” — even though they have no part in these killings whatsoever.

But regardless of intention, these questions — this need for reassurance that we who fight to end police brutality do not support the murder of cops — simply show that those asking have not been listening.

We don’t have to say violence isn’t the answer. Not again. We’ve been saying it this entire time.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for when we have been pulled over for a broken taillight.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for when we dare to ask why we’ve been pulled over.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for when we run away.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for us reaching for our wallets.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for us selling loose cigarettes in the street.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for when we sell CDs in front of stores.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for our mental health emergencies.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for our toy guns.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for our toy swords.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for disciplining our schoolchildren.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for our belligerence.

We’ve been saying that violence isn’t the answer for us daring to walk the streets in our own dark skin.

We know that violence isn’t the answer. We’ve been begging you to see that, too.

So to ask us — when we’ve been crying for our lost kin, begging for change that would save the lives of all those impacted by police brutality and a corrupt criminal justice system, begging to be seen as people and not targets — to reaffirm for you that we believe violence isn’t the answer is not just ignorant, it’s cruel. Everything we have worked for is put at risk with these police shootings, every scrap of progress we’ve made on getting the world to see that we are human beings who don’t deserve to be shot like dogs in the street is at risk with these shootings — and people ask us, “Don’t you think these shootings are just as bad?”

Why do you need to hear us say that the murder of these cops is bad in order to continue to believe that we deserve to live? Why do you need to hear us say that we mourn for these cops as much as the thousands of brothers and sisters murdered by cops in order for you to continue to believe that we deserve justice and protection under the law? Why must we carry the weight of all of our slain brothers and sisters and also these cops before you will help lift the burden?

Do you believe Black Lives Matter?

No, not: “Do you support an organization?” “Do you like everyone marching in the streets?” “Do you like having your name attached to a movement?”

Do you believe Black Lives Matter?

If you do, then that should be all you need.

***

Lead image: flickr/Chris Wieland

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