"I stand accused of doing harm 'cause I'm louder than a bomb." -Public Enemy from Louder Than a Bomb
Last night I dreamed I was rallying a mass of people of color (POC) to riot. I said that it was us who built the streets, the governments buildings and the everything in America that was needed to keep the power elite's thumb upon the people. I told the crowd since we built it it was our right to tear it down.
Keep in mind this was a dream and I in no way advocate violence which in the dream I was trying to incite. What did come to mind though was for me a fresh perspective on what may go on in the background of riots in the United States since the 1960's.
It's very common knowledge that "race" riots in the US stem from frustration. In 1968 when Dr. King Jr. was killed people, particularly Black folks responded in over 100 cities with violence. Citizens asked why would people respond that way when King's message was one of peace. 1992 was the year Los Angeles erupted in one of the worst riots in US history with dozens dying and thousands injured. Fury at the LA police department became fury at Koreans which resulted in the Korean armed resistance.
More recently the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer triggered what started out as a peaceful protest but soon became violent. Hundreds of arrests and a quarter of a million dollars of damage occurred in the end.
Why? Why would some POC act this way in the face of injustice towards our people? Why would we hurt one another, steal from each other and set fire to that which we have worked longer and harder for than the more privileged in our society?
Truly there is no one answer. There are a myriad of reasons but I think I'm clearer about at least one aspect. It's not just anger, fear or grief alone that causes folks to lash out against ourselves and others when blatant injustice occurs.
I think deep down in our roots, those of us who come from ancestors who were forced in one way or another to build up this country with their blood, sweat and tears, have that psychic memory in our bodies and hearts. We are plugged in to the horrific degradation they experienced everyday. We know that that White House (regardless of who is President) and the streets in front of it were created not with our ancestors hands but our ancestors subjugation. We know that this country is what it is because we were forced to make it so. Any artist worth their salt will eventually tear down a piece that isn't truly expressing who they are and their vision. Is it any wonder that the people from which we came created something that still isn't right and through their bloodline we want to create something better and more beautiful? Some say you have to destroy something to rebuild it. Perhaps on some level that is what's happening during a riot.
The point I'm trying to make is not that I feel this possible unconscious reaction is working. Clearly it only hurts ourselves and others. However it may give us a clue as to how to go forward so when the next major injustice is acted upon we can understand a little better why some want to react the way they do and take a different and more powerful course of action. We as a people need to unite and act rather than react. We can destroy the power elite in a way that calls for intelligence, peace and expression of our creative spirit, the very thing our ancestors were not allowed.
How do we do this? Well I guess we will see. In the meantime I think my dream is telling me it's time to start getting creative. Who wants to join me?