There’s been a lot of talk about peace lately. In the midst of the Baltimore uprisings, and over the past year of demonstrations in cities across the country due to the killings of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Rekia Boyd, Brandon Tate-Brown and unfortunately countless others, it’s become a common reaction for mainstream media and scary folks alike to put the call for peace on the shoulders of protesters while coincidentally ignoring the true issue at hand – police brutality.
Once again, cries for justice have been met with news of a non-indictment in the killing of Tony Robinson in Wisconsin and city officials have called for “responsible activism,” though it seems no one will be held responsible for this young man’s senseless death.
This ongoing discourse on the nobility of remaining peaceful in protest has ironically come at the dismissal of what’s triggered the unrest, so much so that the silence on police terrorism has almost become deafening.
I could feel the pain and outrage that boiled over into the streets as the events in Baltimore unfolded last month. Yet somewhere along the way, the outcry in response to the violent murder of 26-year-old Freddie Gray and the ugly pattern of excessive force in the city, turned into a trivial conversation of “But why are they tearing up their neighborhoods?”
Jamilah Lemieux has already dropped an astute counter to this in her recent piece “Baltimore Been Burning,”and to add I have a hard time believing folks who want to condescendingly throw this question out without acknowledging the cause of the social unrest. This is not a college mob wildin’ out because they lost a game (which, in that case, would be all good), the people taking to the street in Baltimore have lost family and friends to police brutality and/or have likely been harassed themselves. And if you’re Black in America, chances are you easily fall into one of these categories no matter where you reside; thus, the problem at hand.
As news stations pushed the inaccurate narrative of looting and rock throwing, city officials added to the propaganda by referring to Black youth as “thugs” while in the same breath upholding a system that has historically allowed thugs with badges to get away with murder.
As activist Deray McKenson sharply pointed out in a recent CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer: “Broken windows are not broken spines.” And though the lost of a life would seem to be the clear priority and concern, the affirmation that “Black Lives Matter” was once again qualified as #PrayForBaltimore started trending and journalist, out-of-touch celebrities, CVS sympathizers and everyday people drinking the Kool-Aid made it their business to chide the youth taking to the streets to express pain and frustration, yet many of these same criticizers have turned a blind-eye at to what initiated these reactions.
In times that challenge rosy-shaded worldviews with the reality that generations have been ill-affected through socio-economic injustice, poverty, and educational inequalities, the “can’t we all just get along?” sentiment may be easy to to turn to but it holds no weight and simply exposes an inability to engage the complexities of institutionalized racism.
The insulting attempts to co-opt the meaning of peace to fit into a going-along-to-get-along mentality, in a way reminds of the conversations around cultural appropriation. If you’re more upset about clips of looting rather than footage of a lives viciously being taken by the law then I can’t believe in your version of peace no more than I can believe cultural pirates somehow don’t recognize why their lack of authenticity and homage has garnered so much backlash – both are easy ways out of an uncomfortable conversation, and I feel no need to Q-Tip a historical breakdown for your Iggy Azalea-esque evading. In the constant flux of recorded cop shootings and victim names trending social media, scratching the surface is a choice.
Peace at the expense of Black pain and suffering, that offers no solution or push to hold those in authority accountable, is no kind of peace I know or want, and sounds a lot like cowardice hiding behind an acceptable word.
So for those squirming at the sight of Black people standing up against oppression, searching for Martin Luther King Jr. quotes to call for calm, remember that we (yes, we) are up against a system that did not discriminate on ideologies when assassinating MLK and other leaders of his time. Blackness will always be a threat to the insecurity that comes with upholding White Supremacy, so even if you Don Lemon your way through the uprisings and ride the fence in the name of being “peaceful”, it won’t protect you.
And since it’s the current trend, I guess it’s only right to end with a quote from Dr. King – one of many that tend to be overlooked: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”