On the immorality and ineffectiveness of violent protests

While long supporting the right of Americans to protest injustices peacefully, I’ve also decried the use of violence, whether that be hurting other people without provocation (including both demonstrators and police), destroying property, or looting. I consider this immoral because you are hurting others, or destroying their property, with no justification. Further, it’s also ineffective, at least judging by the several studies cited in the CNN report below.

While violent protests may in some cases achieve their aim, there’s no control experiment here: who knows whether peaceful protests might be even more effective? In fact, I can’t imagine a situation in which scenes of protestors burning cars or police stations, beating up people without provocation, or looting stores could move people to rectify injustices more strongly than when seeing many peaceful demonstrations that are, for instance, occurring now. Indeed, many people have warned—and I think this is true—that violence turns off Americans in the middle, forcing them to support “law and order” politicians. Donald Trump has described himself as one of these, and who would want to sway people into voting for him again?

And who could claim, for instance, that if the lunch-counter protestors or Freedom Riders of the Sixties simply trashed Woolworth stores, or looted, they would have gotten the sympathy that they did from Americans. The sight of a peaceful black student sitting at a lunch counter, ad having a milkshake dumped over her head, is infinitely more moving than if the protestors were seen trashing the lunch counters and looting the stores.

However, the George Floyd protests have differed from the many peaceful protests that brought about the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Going back, we know that nonviolence, filtered through Mohandas Gandhi’s satyagraha tactics, was pivotal in turning Americans against institutionalized segregation. Granted, many (but not all) of the protestors, unlike the ones of today, were trained in nonviolent resistance, and, indeed, were counting on brutal violent police responses to make their case, but none of that excuses the rioting, looting, and violence on the part of the protestors today. (Let me add here, as I have before, that I’ve seen many cases of violent responses by police to George Floyd demonstrators, and I deplore them even more, as the police are authorities.) Even without training, rioting is simply illegal, reprehensible, and cannot be condoned.

Nevertheless, at least in my view, the media has been quick (and correct) to protest police violence, but curiously silent on the violence of protestors. (Leaders like Barack Obama, John Lewis, and Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have, however, decried violence.) Yes, the media shows videos of that violence, but you’ll find criticism of that violence only from Trumpsters or other right wingers. Since nonviolence and civil disobedience are pillars of progressive liberalism, I want to defend them today, and criticize those who, explicitly or implicitly, try to justify violence.

You can see some of the justification in the article below, as well as in a discussion between Glenn Loury and John McWhorter (the justifier) that I’ll post later today.

Here’s the article (click on screenshot to read):

While naming and quoting civil rights leaders who don’t countenance violence, and citing studies that nonviolent protests are more effective than violent ones in changing people’s minds and actions, the CNN article, under the heading “Some are arguing nonviolent protest has not worked for black people”, also gives examples of those who seem to think violent protests are okay, including Nikole Hannah-Jones, head of the New York Times’s 1619 Project:

But some black intellectual leaders are offering a different — and startling — view of what has worked for black protesters in the past.

“But the fact of history is non-violent protest has not been successful for blk Americans,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with the New York Times, said in a much-debated Twitter thread.

“The Civil Rights Movement was not non-violent,” she wrote, adding she believes black protesters courted violence by whites as a strategy.

“Peaceful protest did not bring about the great civil rights legislation of the 1960s,” she added. “Black people being firebombed, water-hosed, lynched, bitten by dogs, beaten to a pulp by police trying to march across a bridge is what brought the changes. Violence.”

And here are two of her tweets (she posts under the name “Ida Bae Wells”)

I can’t help but think that Hannah-Jones is being disingenuous here, and on two counts. First, these were peaceful protests; it was the police response that was sometimes violent.  She seems to be conflating the violence of the police with the violence of some of the George Floyd demonstrators. This appears to be a deliberate move. After all, surely Hannah-Jones is not calling for more police violence!

Second, as the article reports, fully peaceful protests have been effective in the past, including many of the ones led by Gandhi and, in our own time, the Montgomery bus boycott, which worked very well, and the kneeling of Colin Kapernick, which has led to sports teams rethinking their rules.

Another person who seems to justify the violence is, surprisingly, former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in an interview with CNN:

As US President Donald Trump vowed to return order to America’s streets using the military if widespread violence isn’t quelled, one NBA Hall of Fame player says that the rioting that is taking place all across the country is “the voices of people who have no voice.”

“These are people that have no other voice now,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told CNN.

“They don’t get the political power or the financial power to change the circumstances, so what are they going to do? The rioting is the voices of people who have no voice. That’s how they have made their presence known.

“I just remember seeing a sign that someone held up in Minneapolis that said, ‘Can you hear us now?’ I think that’s a very poignant statement.”

Yes, we can hear you now, but will America heed you now? Maybe it would heed you more if there were no violence or looting on the part of protestors.

I hasten to add that the protests did attract some who weren’t politically motivated to riot, loot or burn, including white anarchists taking advantage of the situation. But it would be disingenuous to say that none of the rioters or looters were “true George Floyd protestors.”  Many of them were probably so agitated or full of rage that they turned on other people, buildings, or stores. This is tacitly admitted by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John McWhorter (later today in a video), and by anyone who tries to justify the violence as inherent in George Floyd protests. (I call this the “no true rioters” argument.)

I’m not able to access Abdul-Jabbar’s piece in the Los Angeles Timesbut, as summarized in another CNN piece, it waffles on the issue of violence:

But Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar defended the protests in a powerful op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, writing that while he doesn’t want to see stores looted or buildings burned, the protests are the result of what happens when black Americans have been pushed to their tipping point.

“African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote.

Those who criticize the looting and fires, saying that those actions are hurting the protesters’ cause aren’t wrong, but they’re not right, either, the former Lakers star said.
No, they’re wrong. There is no justification for looting and fires, and it’s simply the right thing to do to criticize them. Here we see a masterpiece of equivocation.

Here’s another person tacitly defending violence:

Melanye Price has a message for people invoking King and nonviolence to condemn recent protesters — stop it.

They forget that 1960s activists endured arduous nonviolent training, says Price, a professor of political science at Prairie View A&M University.

Turning the other cheek to violence is “not instinctual,” says Price, author of “The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race.” She says critics talk about black people as if “nonviolence was genetically implanted in us.”

“People are using Martin Luther King as a weapon against them (today’s protesters). If King were alive today, we don’t know where he would be,” she says. “To use this cultural icon to be a hammer against these kids is completely unfair. Of course, these kids are not going to have good control of their emotions.”

I’m pretty sure where Dr. King would be were he here today: right beside Barack Obama and John Lewis.  Price cannot distinguish a hammer from an admonition, a weapon from well-meant advice.

So let me sum up: The protestors’ cause is just and they have not just the right but the moral imperative to call out racism. The actions of the police that motivated the protests need to be scrutinized very closely by independent reviews aimed at restructuring how the police work. And the police brutality against some of the protestors—people who were doing nothing wrong—is inexcusable, and those cops need to be disciplined or tried (this is in fact happening now).

But not all of the looting, rioting, and violence on the part of the protestors was done by outside agitators. And any form of violence by the protestors, including physical harm to people, damage to cars, buildings and stores (including many stores owned by minorities), and looting, is not only counterproductive, but inexcusable and reprehensible. Yes, we might understand why people became violent, but understanding is not equivalent to excusing.

45 thoughts on “On the immorality and ineffectiveness of violent protests

  1. Violence in the context of the current protests is a side show. The scale of today’s demonstration dwarfs previous protests and as they have continued there has been less and less demonstrator-generated violence. Plenty of examples of unwarranted police violence, though.

  2. Excuse me? You say there have been “plenty of examples of unwarranted police violence”, but do they outnumber examples of demonstrator violence?

    Take this up with Glenn Loury and John McWhorter in today’s post (later), who seem to think that demonstrator violence is not only unconscionable, but counterproductive. I disagree with your characterization of it as a “side show”, which is your subjective take on demonstrator violence

    1. I don’ have numbers, but I doubt any of us here do. Here in Milwaukee if you were to count the number of incidents where police have attacked for no reason against the number of protestor-initiated incidents, the police would be the “winners”.

  3. I certainly do not have the answer to this argument. Is violence hurting or helping in this specific case today? I would not think so but again, that is from a white person.

    I think it is more likely that real change happening is due to generational change. All of the people from my generation and older have been replaced by much younger folks. People are what must change before real corrective change can happen. It also has helped a great deal to have this violence against individuals on film. This one was a 17 year old with a smart phone. This video is what makes the difference. Not all the speeches or marches or violent riots.

  4. With you, Jerry. The peaceful protests are inspiring, but I am surprised at the number of voices justifying the violent spinoffs. Worst of all is viral social media misuse of Dr. King’s quote that “riots are the language of the unheard.” Of course, every advocate of non-violent resistance would agree that riots are most often the result of social injustices that have not been addressed. But there is a HUGE difference between saying riots/violence are explicable and saying they are justified as a valid tool for change. (By comparison, if someone has been long-abused and responds by abusing someone else, that response is explicable but not acceptable.) I find it unfortunate that some people this week are taking Dr. King’s fine point about riots being explicable and using it to negate his overarching philosophy of non-violent social transformation. The current trend to conflate “explaining violence” with “advocating/justifying violence” is not only demoralizing but (as you say) counterproductive. If Dr. King had ended the “I Have a Dream” speech with “now let’s go loot and burn some mom and pop shops,” he would not have effected the collective shift in consciousness as he did. This trending meme telling us to quit citing him a great inspiration for nonviolent social change does nothing for the cause of justice.

  5. I agree that we should all condemn the violence. If talk about it is suppressed in some circles, it’s because pointing to the violence is historically used to justify ignoring the demonstrators’ message by those that would prefer not to hear it. Besides, with the huge number of protestors participating, it would be virtually impossible for there to be no violence at all. It is also pointless to argue about which side, the police or the demonstrators, does more violence. Both sides are doing it but the police should be held to a much higher standard as they are paid, and supposedly trained, to do their job properly.

    1. “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government”

      I’m with Jefferson there. I don’t believe violence is always wrong. There is such a thing as injustice so grave, so pervasive, and endured for so long, that a violent struggle against it is not only justifiable but even morally obligatory. I’m not, of course, saying that such injustice would justify any and all kinds of violence regardless of their targets and tactics. But I do wonder how the racial injustice in today’s America compares, say, to the injustice (such as it was) that the slave-owning founding fathers suffered at the hands of the British.

      1. But who, and where, is this violence directed against? It seems overly concentrated in urban and lower income areas, which of course only further injures the people that we are trying to help.

        Many seem ok with this violence, as long as it is “over there”.

        But if the violence was more concentrated in the living spaces and businesses of the rich, liberal elite, we might see a totally different attitude from the left.

        1. Plenty of the looting was in affluent areas here in Long Beach, CA. The demonstrations are in areas not especially poor. I think they’ve gotten the attention of the well-off. After all, there’s not much point in complaining to the poor.

          1. Well, I live near NYC, and I have read that over 400K of the city’s richest folks have fled to their second (or third or fourth) residences. Not sure that looting extended anywhere near the richer areas of surrounding Westchester County either.

            And I was not referring to the peaceful demonstrations (which have occurred in my town), but to the looting and property damage.

        2. “… which of course only further injures the people that we are trying to help.”

          The poor do not own Target, or the patrol cars, or the precinct building. How are they injured? (Not all violence and looting target the police and big businesses, but that’s the majority of what I’ve seen.)

          “But if the violence was more concentrated in the living spaces and businesses of the rich, liberal elite, we might see a totally different attitude from the left.”

          Given how little the liberal elite have done to reform the police despite being in power in almost every major city forever, they are clearly either incompetent or unwilling to do the job. Their attitude to the protests doesn’t matter. I think most protesters have realized this, if only instinctively.

          (And liberal != left. Think of the difference between FDR and Eugene Debs.)

          1. “How are they injured?”

            Where do you think they shop for food, clothing, and other essentials?

              1. If your argument is that in general the destruction of businesses in poor communities doesn’t hurt the communities because sometimes people respond charitably for a while, then I can only conclude that you’re probably not familiar with life in such communities.

              2. I think we were talking about the short run. In the long run things will be back to normal, perhaps (one hopes) somewhat better.

                I admit I’m not familiar with life in a poor community in the mid west (I’m not even American), so I don’t presume to be able to judge what’s best for them. But I wouldn’t be surprised if people are willing to endure a little inconvenience for the sake of a greater cause.

  6. I’ve also decried the use of violence, whether that be hurting other people without provocation (including both demonstrators and police) …

    Speaking of police violence, Dear Leader this morning tweeted a crazy conspiracy theory he picked up from the batshit One America News Network (the Fox News di tutti Fox Newses) that the 75-year-old man badly injured after being shoved to the ground by Buffalo Police was actually an ANTIFA provocateur who was trying to scan police communications devices in an effort to disable them.

    I expect we’ll soon see a Trump tweet claiming that calls to “defund” the police mean the Left wants to cede Gotham City to the depredations of the Joker.

    1. These kinds of mind bogglingly ludicrous “conspiracy theories” really demonstrate the difference in attitudes on either side of this. To the people who believe them committing violence against the old man is justified because he’s doing something bad. Not because it is the only way to stop him but because he deserves to be physically beaten and or the cops deserve to be granted leniency when they do beat him because he is bad. This is an ancient attitude. These people are holding us back.

      1. Exactly. If he were trying to jam police communications, he should have been arrested without any violence and charged with the offence, not summarily pushed to the ground. Trump implies that he deliberately fell. Speaking as someone of a similar age, I know how easy it is to fall badly when pushed backwards.

  7. Somehow, the majority of big changes in history have been pushed by violence. Usually only to tip a balance to one side or another of the human nature scale. As long as humans haven’t evolved out of our current state, changes won’t happen. They will only shift the scale a bit.

  8. I will just add one simple thing.

    If the huge numbers of peaceful protesters were seen lining up at stations to register to vote, and get accurate information about upcoming ‘down-ballot’ elections, then the various authorities would wake up real fast.

    I don’t recall seeing that, however. All that youthful energy, not being directed in a way that will have its strongest influence.

  9. Those who think that violence can somehow precipitate swift social or political change are terribly naïve. Advocates of violence can only precipitate an even greater backlash, which is inevitably coming, by those on the right who thinks they can use the violence (the vast majority committed by looters whose commitment to social justice was probably negligible) for political advantage. Trump has already proclaimed himself the law and order candidate. Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic strategist, has asked, “On What Planet Does It Make Sense Not to Condemn Looting?” He argues that it makes no moral or political sense not to condemn the looting. He is concerned with justification that Trump will portray Democrats as soft on crime. To the degree the Trump strategy will work remains to be seen, but the calling for or failing to condemn violence in all its forms cannot help Democrats.

    Virtually all political and social movements start out with relatively modest goals believing in incremental change. Inevitably, radical elements try to take them over, sometimes succeeding. We see that happening here where advocates of change through violence are attempting a takeover. This must be stopped because the movement will be crushed by the right wing that will remain in power by a Trump victory. Democrats must take Teixeira’s advice and condemn the violence. There is evidence that this has now begun. Only with Trump out of office do the protestors have the least chance of having their goals achieved.


  10. A little over a month ago, in your post here, you linked to and quoted my Amazon review of Angela Saini’s Superior: The Return of Race Science. The part of my review that you quoted was about Saini’s doubt that there is a genetic basis for individual variation in cognitive ability, but the final paragraph of my review is particularly relevant at the moment:

    When defenders of these sorts of tactics justify their actions, they inevitably point to racial disparities in various areas of society as proof of the pervasiveness of white supremacy, and of the need for drastic measures to counteract it, with the assumption that any observed difference between races must be directly or indirectly the result of white racism. These assertions about the causes of racial disparities are empirical claims, that could potentially be proven or disproven by research about race, and it’s essential to critically examine such claims before using them as a basis for the sort of social revolution that’s being attempted. This is the most important reason society currently needs research about race and genetics, and why books such as Saini’s are dangerous. If individuals such as Saini succeed at suppressing this research, and Whiteness Studies becomes an intellectual orthodoxy without its premises ever being challenged, I fear that the events at Evergreen State College may foreshadow the future of Britain and the United States.

    This review was published in May of 2019, so I think that my comment about the Evergreen protests foreshadowing the future of broader society was somewhat prescient. Not many people have made this point, but it’s a very important one. Whiteness studies and critical race theory, which are the basis for the current riots and calls to shut down police departments, depend heavily on the suppression of research that might show racial disparities in any area of society to be caused by something other than white racism.

  11. … one NBA Hall of Fame player says that the rioting that is taking place all across the country is “the voices of people who have no voice.”

    Kareem is correct as far as it goes — in the same sense that guerrilla warfare is the military action of those who have no military.

    But that’s hardly the case here. Violent protest is warranted, in my view, only where peaceful protest has been made unlawful by the powers that be (as has happened under brutal autocracies throughout history). In the United States, the right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the constitution (and will be in perpetuity, let us hope). Accordingly, it is (including in its manifestations as civil disobedience) the only justifiable form of protest.

  12. First I’ll say, I think violence is wrong except in the context of self-defense or defense of others (for example, shooting a school shooter). The idea that “it’s not wrong as long as _____” is typically a terrible precedent to set. How long will it take for others to decide that they, too, meet the criteria for “people who are excused from violence”? Isn’t this thinking how we got ‘white identity politics’ not that long ago?

    Another worry is that Democrats seemed to have moved their position not only on this but on a number of issues in the recent past, without many if any election “test cycles” in between to see how this plays out. From Medicare For All to Open Borders to Defund The Police, and now, perhaps at the most extreme end of all, openly condoning violence so long as it’s populist violence. It feels as if people ricochet to a new, previously out-of-the-mainstream stance every time the news cycle shifts. Anecdotally, I’ve already heard one person say they are shifting to voting to “Straight Republican, except for Trump”. I think it will take a couple of election cycles to see if this is a common sentiment, and I suspect it might be.

    I think people get frustrated because it seems some problems have no easy or clear solution. Things like poverty, xenophobia in various forms, corruption, etc. – they are extremely frustrating, and the solutions seem vague and diffuse. I think there is satisfaction in feeling as if they are doing something ‘big’ to tackle said problems – but I also think this thinking is youthful idealism. Real solutions are, I think, painfully slow and take a ton of time and effort, but they are what create real change.

  13. We have no comprehensive demographic data on the demonstrators, but I have formed an impression from a little direct observation and from watching videos. My impression is that participation in the demonstrations is heavily, disproportionately weighted toward PRECISELY the age group (18-29) which shows the least participation in voting.

    1. That’s correct, I think, and it was one of the things Obama pointed to for hope; these people who didn’t show up at the polls in the past are energized now to do so. We’ll see.

  14. Dear Professor Ceiling Cat,

    I love and enjoy your website, so please believe me that I ask this sincerely and not intending to troll:

    You say, “I consider this [rioting/looting] immoral because you are hurting others, or destroying their property, with no justification.”

    I don’t remember the exact post now, but I remember that you previously had several posts wherein you argued that there is no such thing as objective morality, that what we call “morality” is simply our subjective preferences. (You disagree with Sam Harris on this.) If I understand you correctly, you believe that preferring non-looting over looting is indistinguishable from preferring, say, Annie Hall over Star Wars, or Boston Cream donuts over rhubarb pie.

    And yet, today you write of looting in very – dare I say it? – moralistic terms, claiming that looting is wrong, period. Nowhere in your post do I detect a hint of “I don’t like looting personally, but I understand that some people do, and that’s perfectly fine with me.” How do you square this circle?

    1. No, I believe I’ve made my position clear. Morality is subjective, but it’s not like preferring one kind of ice cream over another, because the morality that has hegemony in a given society has real consequences for everyone.

      I am more or less a consequentialist in my morality; that is, I think that “moral” acts are the ones that in general increase total well being. (That’s the same metric Sam Harris uses in his “objective” morality, though I don’t think it’s “objective”). Nevertheless, I think that a form of moral judgement like this is one that we want for our society versus, say, one in which hurting people is not considered a bad thing to do. So I think that yes, a society in which looting occurs in protests has worse consequences for everyone, weighed over everyone, than a society in which rioting and looting are seen as fine (and legal).

      This is my subjective choice of what I consider “right” and “wrong”. I don’t pretend that it’s a prove-able objective kind of morality, but I would argue that my form of consequentialism leads to better well being overall than the alternative. Yes, it’s a subjective choice: I PREFER societies which have greater well-being.

      But don’t ask me how one measures it. In some cases it’s clear (allowing people to murder an innocent person leads to less well being than societies in which that’s deemed immoral), but in others not so clear.

      1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply!

        I agree with a lot of what you say. I, too, consider myself mostly a consequentialist, I value human well-being/flourishing, and I recognize that it’s often unclear which choice will result in the greatest well-being, given all the trade-offs, resource limitations, and unintended consequences that exist in the world.

        Here’s what troubles me: you say that your belief that morality = well-being is simply a subjective preference. What would you say, then, of societies that place well-being as a very, very distant second to the glory of God, the supremacy of the Aryan race, the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc.? What of societies where the greatest value is in-group (extended family, clan, tribe) cohesion, and if achieving that value means forcing a woman to marry her rapist or killing an “impure” sister/wife/daughter, oh well, that’s a small price to pay?

        If you say that your morality is subjective, does this mean that all you can do is look at these alternative societies and say, “I prefer a society that values well-being, but X society values God/the Aryan race/in-group cohesion more, and neither of us is right or wrong,” in the same tone that you would say, “I love pistachio ice cream, but Steven Pinker prefers mango sorbet, and neither of us is right or wrong”?

        1. Saying morality is subjective is NOT to say that all morals are equal, just that they are “based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”. Those “morals” you list are simply bad ones, viewed subjectively.

  15. If it bleeds, it leads. Violent protest does indeed bring attention to issues, unfortunately. I’d love to see a head-count tallying up all the peaceful protesters who didn’t make the news.

    And some of them actually did make the news, but The Outrage Machine on the Right will only amplify the violent protesters. It’s up to the rest of us to amplify the peaceful voices.

    1. I believe I’ve done that, and if I haven’t, let me say that, at least in my town of Chicago, the protests over the past few days have been remarkably peaceful–and laudable.

      1. The “peaceful–and laudable” nature of the protests is not just in Chicago. It is generally the case. (The reason I called the rioting a sideshow upstream.)

        The big problem we’re confronting, IMO, is the nature of policing, the reason for these protests. It is my view that there are two reasons we’re seeing more larger and more peaceful demonstrations. One is that the protesters realize the value of owning the moral high ground. And the brutal response by militarized police has been backfiring as best demonstrated in how tRump’s attack at Lafayette Park only resulted in yet more people turning out to protest. Even Mitt Romney.

        1. I agree that the “violence” (I disagree with the idea that looting and arson can be considered “violence”) was a sideshow. It began after curfew or after dark, which was hours after the beginning of the peaceful protests. Nighttime fires make for dramatic TV images. People in a crowd listening to speeches during non-prime time hours just isn’t as big of a story.

          Focusing on the “violent” property crimes is committing the fallacy of misleading vividness.

      2. This post’s title makes it look like you’re paying more attention to the violence (which has not been perpetrated by protesters but by opportunists).

        Amplifying the peaceful protesters would consist of photos of large numbers of people where there is no violence (lots of those out there), or even photos of police and protesters interacting with compassion and respect.

    2. I agree that coming up with ‘shock value’ slogans has become a thing, and that this is harmful. Nature, today, was tweeting out #ShutDownAcademia and #ShutDownStem. I mean surely a moment’s reflection would make one realize how that looks to teachers, medical professionals, engineers, etc., etc. Why not use “Sensitivity in Science” or some such thing, which I think is more in line with what they’re trying to say? I think because it’s not a big, bold, and vaguely shocking pronouncement, so it doesn’t get as much attention in the short term – but again, what kind of impression do such slogans make on people in the long term? How long have people accosted the Right for being anti-Science on issues like evolution and global warming, and then that is literally the go-to slogan. Facepalm times a thousand.

  16. “I can’t help but think that Hannah-Jones is being disingenuous here…”

    I would go further and say she is straight-up dishonest. She claims Dr. King and company baited white people into violence. And she is flat out wrong when she says “Peaceful protest did not bring about the great civil rights legislation of the 1960s.”

    If those protesters had NOT been peaceful, that legislation would not have passed. The white majority would have gotten frightened and angry and there probably would have been outright massacres of blacks by whites. The race war so many dreaded might have occurred, and it probably would have ended very badly in a country that was 88% white at the time.

    Undoubtedly the shock of seeing peaceful protesters oppressed by the police helped spur the struggle for civil rights. But if those protesters had not been peaceful then many would have regarded the police as being in the right. And even without violence, peaceful protest would have eventually won the day.

    As for violence in the Floyd protests, thankfully the worst seems to be over. Such actions can be explained but not excused.

    That goes double for the police who responded violently to peaceful protesters in 2020.
    What needs to happen now is deep-reaching structural reform in police departments. Morally corrupt police unions need to be emasculated and officers must be held to greater accountability. The militarization of the police needs to be reversed. As Pinker recently pointed out on twitter, American police are far more lethal than police in Europe and other developed countries.

  17. Second to everything stated by #17. I’ve observed Ms. Hannah-Jones operate on TV, and straight-up dishonest is exactly right. Her
    sort of casuistry does no good for the cause
    of police reform, let alone for the prospect of civilized multi-racial society.

    As for the the Pulitzer Prize committee and the NYT, the spectacle of laudable aims being hijacked by transparent opportunists is
    nothing new. Lenin, Stalin, & Co. hijacked the outcome of the February Revolution in Russia, and then proceeded to turn Socialism into a racket. Benito Mussolini and, in our space, Sen. Joe McCarthy, each later turned anti-Communism into a racket. Gresham’s Law operates so repeatedly in the ideological realm that one has to wonder how progress occurs at all, if it does.

    1. Yes, I’ve heard her on TV as well. She was making the claim that violence was justified in furthering the black cause. I took an immediate dislike to her.

  18. I agree, violence is counter-productive, but the most recent John Oliver “This Week Tonight” show ended with a clip of a black woman explaining in a very emotional way why the looting and vandalism was happening. Blacks in general have no sense of common ownership of anything in the areas in which they live, and have to put up with the constant harassment and threats of violence from the militarized police in their neighbourhoods. The recent deaths of Mr. Floyd and Breona just turned up the volume on their frustration.

  19. I can’t help wondering how many more people will die – and in particular black people – because of Black Lives Matter protest rallies.

    (Because quarantine-breaching rallies will increase the spread of covid, and blacks are probably more susceptible to dying from covid for all sorts of socio-economic reasons)

    I absolutely sympathise with the motives of the protestors, but holding demonstrations right now is as stupid and irresponsible as holding church services, IMO.

    (I acknowledge that the coincidental timing of all this with the covid epidemic is extraordinarily unfortunate)


  20. Thank you very much for this insightful post! It was great to read it and listen to your thoughts! I have recently published an article on my blog about the dangerous impact of violent protest and why non-violence is the only way to move forward and achieve equality in the black lives matter movement. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my article and let me know your thoughts! Thank you and wishing you well during this period 🙂

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