The Strategic Use Of Violence, The Intelligent Use Of Nonviolence
This writer grew up in Buckinghamshire, England, just NW of London, in an area with high concentrations of immigrants. I do not want to admit what I am about to type. I used to use the word Paki regularly. Paki is a derogatory term for Pakistani people. But in the same way that Beaner or Mexican are used in America to refer to all Latinos, the word Paki covers most Britons of Southeast Asian descent.
I was a stupid kid being influenced by other stupid people. I had an amicable relationship, not friendship, with one of the Pakistani students at my school, Bilal. He was friendly. We would chats about school and sports, and I remember him talking about violence in his community and using the word Paki, something that played to my bigotry. I think we met in Math class. We never sat and ate with each other because, as schoolchildren, we had an internalized segregation. He ate with the Southeastern Asians, I ate with white kids from my class who liked rock music and drinking. I recognized the hateful intent of the word and, fortunately, was too cowardly to throw the word around in public. I think I only used it once to a Pakistani student’s face. His name was Faisal, we were both small and had big mouths. We were in class giving each other a hard time and I used the word. It hurt his feelings and almost ended in violence. It also ended any jest between us and it changed the nature of my acquaintance with Bilal.
Otherwise I would say the word under my breath or around a friend when I felt slighted by a victim of my racist attitude, or when conversations turned dark. I ran with a group that often found ourselves getting mugged by other groups of Pakistani, black, or poor white kids who considered ourselves gangs. My clique identified as the heavy metal kids, with the requisite amount of black in our collective dress.
When I moved to America at 16 and saw racism from an outsider’s perspective, I felt shame for having ever said the P-word at all.
Ignorance is susceptible to bigotry. Studies have shown a positive correlation between levels of intelligence and tolerance. The linked study found a connection between prejudice, Right-Wing ideology, and low intergroup contact. Corporate attacks on public education have undermined the funding and integrity of the education provided to students in the American public system. Charter schools have poached students, and therefore funding, from struggling schools. And the numbers show that in the majority of charter schools, advancements in educational achievement are insignificant. The degradation of American education could be boosting this current surge in populist racism.
Considering the state of American public education and the ascendance of President Trump, whose campaign moved erratically from overt to covert racist rhetoric, Americans from diverse backgrounds need to expose themselves to each other and reconcile with their prejudices, or I fear that the race issue will be decided through a second American Civil War. If violence comes to pass the Left needs to discuss strategy. The Antifa brigades who have shut down several White Supremacist marches and gatherings with blunt weapons in the past year have overlooked, or possibly relish in, the fact that they live in the perfect country for escalating militant strategies.
According to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center the number of domestic militia groups in the US declined during Trump’s campaign. This trend countered an eight year rise throughout the Obama Presidency. These armed groups were disbanding as they saw their political opinions enter the mainstream Republican debate. Trump’s bigotry has appealed to angry people, and a portion of them are former militia members, armed with bullets and bigoted opinions.
A pet conspiracy theory within the Alt-Right is that there is a quiet genocide against white people (I advise against visiting this link). They claim the genocide is being waged through interracial-parenting, multiculturalism, and forced-assimilation, or diversity. These theories began in Nazi Germany but they are spread today in America by prominent white supremacists. And this wing of the cohort is dangerous. They supports anything Trump does which emphasizes the White Jesus aspect of American identity; closed borders, business-friendly deregulation, homeland security, and legislated Christian morality. Loyalty to the current President and a history of militia membership are only complementary from the perspective of a pyromaniac.
The improvised gaggle of Captain Americas photographed as the vanguard of the Trump-side of the clash in Berkeley last weekend illustrate the Right’s advantage in the use of violence. These men knew their march would attract the Berkeley-area Antifa and they came prepared to step on some well-educated minds. Sure, the Left could attempt to recruit, radicalize, and train an intimidating Antifa Front. But it is pertinent that the Right-Wing, anti-government, Alex Jones crowd have been preparing to fight a globalist conspiracy of Communist billionaires for decades. It would not be that big of a leap for them to instead go to war with The Resistance, the protesters who they are convinced get paid by George Soros. Based on the threats being thrown around on the internet, it seems they are preparing for this outcome. They are just waiting for permission.
I can hear my critics in the militant left now, calling this argument bigot appeasement. I call it damage control. Bigot appeasement would not challenge racism. It would attempt to bring white supremacists into the fold, opposing the State with liberal-minded people whose eventual goals would be vastly different. Damage control requires the Left to recognize that the Trump cohort significantly outguns and outmans them. And that their support of Trump is influenced by racist opinions. Those seeking an inclusive future need to answer some questions before planning a response. What tools and strategies do they have to convert racists into anti-racists, misogynists into feminists, and homophobes into LGBT Allies? And how can they effectively respond to a militant threat from the Alt-Right?
Daryl Davis, an African American and subject of the documentary “Accidental Courtesy”, lived a lesson that America needs to heed. He befriended and convinced over 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan to leave the white supremacist group. He turned terrorists into allies with words. That, if you ask me, is the best method that the Left has to reform and recruit people who currently hold prejudiced opinions about race and gender. Assuming the Antifa forces were able to beat any semblance of white supremacist rhetoric out of the public sphere, that would leave their white supremacist rhetoric trapped in private, where it can infect the children and peers of the bigotted-opinion-holder. It would be back later, better-prepared to face violent confrontation. And if the forces of the Antifa bring this debate to a battlefield and then lose to the pro-prejudice army, that would validate and further embolden their discrimination. Ghandi once said, and I agree, “Victory attained through violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”
Discrimination and prejudice are immoral. We know this is true. I learned to understand this as a teenager after carrying a racist attitude for years. It is so true that Congress made the 14th Amendment in the 1800s to reflect the sentiment. The accepted immorality of prejudice does not mean that it is in our past, or even that it is losing the culture war.
I have avoided looking into the question of best strategies for the use of violence. I personally believe that the Left stands the best chance of winning if it absorbs the violence of the Right like Gandhi and gets the international community behind it. If it chooses to fight a bellicose enemy it becomes a belligerent party. It would go from an act of terrorism against civilians to a Civil War between combatants, which I do not believe the Left will win. That being said, non-violence to the point of accepting death is as admirable as it is stupid, and the war needs to be fought. I just think the Left would do better by making it a war of values, not cracked skulls.
To truly win this culture war bigotry needs to be stomped from the minds of its victims. To do this in a lasting way the Left has one legal option, to engage regular Trump voters relentlessly where they are and expose them to the people they hate and fear, to explore and heal their motivations for discrimination. From there, it is one more small step to connect these people’s struggles together as symptoms of class struggle. This would produce the potential for a multicultural, working class coalition focused on claiming the institutions of government, and with the capacity to do it. Or, we could just continue escalating the violence while the Capitalists watch from CNN. Admittedly that might happen whether we attempt to reconcile peacefully or not.