The following is the first of many posts by 2014-2015 SFL Blogging Team member and Marist College student, Juliana Perciavalle.
Sublime – April 29, 1992 (Miami) – Album Version (Edited)
Bradley Nowell made it clear that it wasn’t about Rodney King in 1992, and it’s not about Michael Brown in 2014. It wasn’t about Trayvon Martin either, for that matter.
When you live in an area like St. Louis, or the surrounding suburbs which have been fraught with racial tension for decades, you aren’t thinking of the theoretical roots of your justification for looting and rioting. When your community has seen the brunt of state violence: substandard public schooling, drug prohibition, ghettoization, on top of police brutality, desperation trumps reason. It would be extremely naïve to expect anything short of rioting when a powder keg incident like this happens, regardless of the specific circumstances.
The fact is that Ferguson is 70% black with a police force that is 90% white. It’s easy to think that racism and classism are a series of isolated incidents and microaggressions but it is a deadly, omnipresent force for these people.
I’m not going to sit here and say things like “check your privilege,” but I do think every college-educated libertarian should think long and hard about how it must feel to be targeted by the police if you haven’t read books and sat through talks about your civil liberties, or to have numerous family members dead or in jail for nonviolent crimes. This video is a powerful example of this mindset.
My experiences with cops in my college town haven’t escalated past being shooed away from loud, predominantly white parties. I go to city council meetings where black mothers, fathers, teachers are lamenting that police are hassling their kids who don’t have after-school programs to go to.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t really matter.
Reason was quick to fire back at the accusation that libertarians stayed silent in the face of recent police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, but while Justin Amash is a stand-up guy, many libertarians still scoff at those who use street protesting and rioting to try to achieve the same free society we all want. Of course looting and destroying private businesses isn’t morally right, especially since these business owners are presumably members of the same community. But this article from Prison Books Collective is quick to point out:
I’m not sure how people who make this argument imagine ‘owning’ a neighborhood works, but I’ll try to break it down: we don’t own neighborhoods. Black businesses exist, it’s true. But the emancipation of impoverished communities is not measured in corner-store revenue. It’s not measured in minimum-wage jobs. And no, it’s especially not measured in how many black people are allowed to become police officers.
Now, solidarity isn’t about condoning property destruction or violent retaliation, but it is about understanding. Context is everything. Individuals in these situations don’t see things in terms of statistics, philosophy or abstract political concepts. Malcolm X said in the thick of the civil rights movement, “We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”
So what are we, as college kids, supposed to do about the cops? How do we show solidarity?
SFL Northeast Regional Director Dannelly Rodriguez proposed during the Campus Coordinator retreat that his region start an initiative to teach kids in rougher neighborhoods about their civil liberties in situations where police are involved. The project is still in its planning stages, but Rodriguez cites the Flex Your Rights website as a good starting point.
While flexing your rights is not a fail-safe method of avoiding police violence, it could provide vital harm reduction techniques to people who are most liable to fall victim to law enforcement violations. At the same time, providing advice on how to deal with real-world situations while understanding the undercurrent mindsets of those you are educating will improve the effectiveness of the liberty movement.
Basically, these are libertarian issues even if you don’t find the actions of this community libertarian.
To show your support for the people on the ground in Ferguson right now, find a National Moment of Silence event in your area.