Is Violence ever the answer?

In light of the many deaths of black lives at the hands of police officers and the rise of racially-charged protests throughout the United States, Ta’Nehisi Coates was invited to speak at Bucknell on February 11th about Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid. Not only was he a great speaker, but also he was not afraid to address the controversies surrounding these issues. Since then, there have been even more brutal deaths, violent and non-violent protests, and even Bucknell’s campus has seen expulsions due to racist comments said on its campus radio.

Just in the last month, the brutal death of Freddie Gray sparked violent protests through Baltimore and carried in to other cities throughout the United States. The protests were met with police tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress the violence and the protestors causing it. The violence was condemned by many a people, however as Mr. Coates points out is “what clearly cannot be said is that violence – like nonviolence – sometimes works.” Beyonce posted a video on her Instagram comparing the Freddie Gray protests to those of the civil rights era in 1968, and the similarities are clearly evident.

Although I’m not an advocating for violence, can it be justified if it creates results? Since Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson there have been numerous deaths of black lives at the hands of Police. As Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it in his articles, “the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is inseparable from the threat of riots. The housing bill of 1968—the most proactive civil-rights legislation on the books—is a direct response to the riots that swept American cities after King was killed. Violence, lingering on the outside, often backed nonviolence during the civil-rights movement.” The alternative for the peaceful people trying to make a change was Malcolm X. No one wanted to face Malcolm X, so they would comply and make changes. At some point, the situation today compared to that of 1968 isn’t that different, in fact it looks terrifyingly the similar. Even more importantly, Mr. Coates also points out “what cannot be said is that the events of Ferguson do not begin with Michael Brown lying dead in the street but with policies set forth by the Government at every level.” It is well known that policy change in a government such as the United States is usually a long process that takes a long time. Will these violent protests force the Government to make policy changes that suppress institutional racism?


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