When Violence Begets Peace

…in the fight for justice

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

The United States is still reeling from the events surrounding the death of George Floyd, the unarmed Black American man pinned down and brutally murdered by now ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, events that have thrown the US into a state of pandemonium, sending shock waves all over the world with ripple effects felt in all circles. Thousands have protested, demanding justice for Floyd and more importantly bringing attention to the fact that indeed black lives matter, and that no one should suffer discrimination or injustice based on the color of his/her skin.

The protests were largely peaceful, to begin with, but have increasingly become forceful, aggressive, and violent as many are adamant that this time their voices will not be silenced, no matter the cost. Since the incident the city of Minneapolis has been on fire, a raging inferno with no signs of abating anytime soon. There have been riots and violence against the police, as well as looting and destruction of businesses and property across the United States.

These actions have divided public opinion, but protagonists insist that no stone must be left unturned in the fight for justice, a position strengthened by the fact that Derek Chauvin was ‘coincidentally’ arrested a day after the initial uprising, with subsequent arrests of the other cops involved and upgrade of the initial charge from third to second-degree murder only occurring after a further escalation of protests and violence. This makes us wonder about the effectiveness of “peace” in the fight for social justice.

At times like these, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. are reverberated: “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.” Bible verses and other passages of scripture may also be quoted, but sometimes, war may be a necessary chapter in the book of peace.

Such quotes remind me of how the slave masters used Nat Turner to prevent the slaves from rebelling against their owners. Nat Turner was an African American slave and a respected preacher among the slaves before he led the Southampton rebellion of 1831. The slave masters paid Nat to travel from one farm to another, preaching to fellow slaves that the Bible required them to be loyal and obedient to their owners. After they raped his wife, he became frustrated and led the rebellion against the slave masters.

“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that one day, there is sure to be one of them who rises against them and strike back.”

J.K Rowling

Breaking news: History repeats itself

The oppressor wants the oppressed to remain caged. He doesn’t want a fightback. He creates a system that sustains the status quo. Systemic injustice creates a society of the “animal farm”: all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

This is a system that put Muhamed Noor behind bars for the same crime that saw Blane Salamon and Howie Lake walk as free men; a system that reduced a 12-year sentence for Senator Orji Kalu to a mere 6 months, while thousands are left to rot in jail without as much as a single court hearing; a system where rape perpetrators can play the victim and escape the consequences of their actions.

History has shown time and time again that this crooked and unjust system cannot be destroyed by frolicking with the oppressor. No one wants to promote violence so we will rather talk about Martin Luther King, peaceful protests, and love for the oppressor but not about Malcolm X or the riots during the fight for civil rights in America. We will rather read about Nelson Mandela and his peaceful protest but turn a blind eye to the ANC (African National Congress) and the PAC (Pan African Congress of Azania) anti-apartheid movements that shifted from peaceful protests to the formation of an armed wing (Umkhonto we Sizwe) during the anti-apartheid fight in south-Africa. We will recount tales of Mahatma Gandhi and non-violence but will remain silent about the revolutionary movements that adopted a different approach. Above all, we undermine the efficacy of the fist in all of these battles, especially when voices were not being heard.

No justice, no peace.

The devil is in the details as always. Due diligence on the fight for justice through history reveals an original picture, much different from what is marketed by the media and the men who are twisting history: rioting, looting, and violence though never the best approaches have become the last resort for a people who have not been heard for a long time. If peace must reign, we must create a better system for everyone to access justice.

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