Resistance that Grows
Perhaps we grow not by justifying our tactics to moderates, but by deepening our commitments to one another, and to militant struggles across difference.
“When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what Black people have gone through, what Black people have experienced in this country since the time the first Black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”
— Angela Davis
Following the tragic news of Heather Heyer’s death at the hands of white supremacists in Charlottesville, vigils across the country sprang up to grieve and demonstrate opposition to racism. In Durham, North Carolina a queer black community activist was aggressively silenced and initially refused space on the official vigil program. In attempting to explain why this happened, an organizer wrote, “Unfortunately, [the] speaker ... could not commit to a key guiding principle behind this event, namely that we would not advocate for the use of violent tactics.” The very next day the same revolutionary anti-fascists who the vigil organizers had chastised took to the streets and, in less than two minutes, pulled down a confederate monument that had been standing in front of a Durham courthouse for nearly 100 years. Seemingly overnight, this disruptive action transformed what countless people across the country imagined was politically possible. In an interview with Democracy Now, shortly after being charged in connection with taking down the monument, North Carolina Central University student and member of Workers World Party, Takiyah Thompson shared the following, “you can’t keep your foot on people’s neck forever. ... People are going to rise up. ... And I’m not talking about writing your senator. I’m not talking about casting a ballot in a voting booth. I’m talking about voting with your actions.” In comparing the language of the vigil organizers with Takiyah’s words and actions we can see the fault lines drawing, and are given a choice; whose direction will we follow in this political moment?
Paradigms of liberal moderation are alluring because they offer simple answers to those who are less directly impacted by political crises and those who want to distinguish themselves as morally superior to the right-wing: good vs. evil, violent vs. not violent, love vs. hate, sensibility vs. irrationality. If you are not alive within a black, indigenous, undocumented or otherwise perpetually hunted body in the US, it is almost too easy to disassociate and pathologize aggressive resistance as unnecessarily inflammatory. As New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg tweeted while in Charlottesville, “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right.” Yet many of those condemning the “violence” of the left are the same people who will actively use the language of “Resist Trump.” It’s unclear what they imagine such resistance would look like because, in reality, triumphant confrontations of institutional racism or fascism have never been polite or waited to garner mainstream approval.