Does Violence Equal Change?
As I sat in my American Studies class and watched the ending scene of the movie, Do The Right Thing, I felt a sense of confusion. Watching the people of Bedstuy Brooklyn, destroy the property of the neighborhood pizzeria as a way to retaliate against police brutality— which resulted in the death of a neighborhood resident— I was on unsure as to whether or not their actions was justified.
I believe violence is necessary when the people in power do not want to compromise or listen to those in the minority. By minority I am not solely referring to different races, although it will be the basis for this article; instead I use the terminology to refer to groups that are not heard in society.
I am not saying violence is the end of all means, I understand that violence can actually make things worse. However, I view violence as a form of democratic rebuttal in the sense that it is used to make a statement to those who refuse to listen. The Los Angeles riot of 1992 is a perfect example of how effective the use of violence was. After the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, thousands of people took to the streets of L.A. and raised havoc for over 6 days, causing millions of dollars in damage.
As a result of this, the four officers were retried and although only two of them were found guilty, at least some justice was achieved. Sure, one can make the argument that the marches held by Martin Luther King Jr are examples of how the use of non-violence can be a success, but I think those marches were the exception. The reason I say this is due to the 2006 police shooting of Sean Bell.
Just like the beating of Rodney King, the officers involved in the shooting were acquitted of all charges. However, a riot did not break out, instead hundreds of people took to the street for a peaceful protest but nothing was done, the incident was brushed off by those in power; so how effective is non-violence.
To bring my argument into more recent times, take a look at Egypt, where the use of violence was necessary in order to achieve the change the people of Egypt wanted. The revolution started with acts of civil disobedience similar to the marches held by King, but no real change came about—besides the shutdown of internet access. It was not until the people of Egypt started to get violence that the Egyptian government actually started to take them seriously, which eventually led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.
The 2011 Egyptian revolution was reminiscent to the overthrow of the Paris commune in 1871, where Parisians used violence as a democratic rebuttal to the dictatorship of the Parisian government. These events show how the use of violence is sometimes necessary in order to achieve change.
Returning to the movie I mentioned earlier, after the people of Brooklyn rioted; it not only garnered a lot of attention but it resulted in the mayor calling for an investigation of the cause behind the riot—something I doubt would have happened if they peacefully protested. Do not get me wrong, I am not radical by any means; I agree that violence should not be the first thing one should result to but I do believe the use of violence is necessary when your cry is being ignored.