Doing Nothing is Murder: Actions You Can Take to Stop the Violence
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Say Their Names.
These are five people of various ages, backgrounds, and geographical locales who, because of police violence, are no longer with us. Importantly and tragically, however, these names are just a few in the seemingly bottomless ocean of those murdered in America by officers of the law.
128 were killed last year.
401 killed in 2018
849 killed in 2015
And, though these many faces and voices are all unique, most of them have been consolidated into a singular image: just one more person of color turned chalk-outline, one whose name might be chanted for the duration of a 24 hour news cycle only to be quickly replaced by the next target of violence in this country.
Many of us are asking: How has it come to this? How can we sit idly by and allow our police to perpetuate the same kinds of racist and classist attitudes that have been poisoning the US since the ratification of the 13th amendment?
Perhaps we should ask a more important question: what can we do to change the world for the better?
What actions are available to us if we want to live in a world where police officers use their power to defend the human rights and civil liberties of all people equally? What can we do to create a world where all people--no matter the color of their skin, their neighborhood of residence, or the amount of money in their pocket--feel safer because of a police presence instead of threatened by it?
Today's post will offer some resources and actions to get you started, but I'm working on a larger project that will help community members (starting with those in the Tampa Bay area) work towards institutional, systematic, and political change that, with any luck, will prevent unnecessary violence in the future.
Why Are You Seeing This Information Here?
I understand that the goals and mission of Rhetorical Roundhouse may seem unclear at times: this is a martial arts blog by an academic who studies rhetoric and Tae Kwon Do. But, at the same time, Rhetorical Roundhouse is transitioning into something larger, something belonging more to the realm of non-profits and community activism. As part of this transformation I hope that the future Rhetorical Roundhouse Network will help empower communities to reduce violence of all types. This means providing a combination of critically reflexive martial arts training as well as an education on productive political citizenship. Today's post will begin to address the latter by offering strategies for how to educate yourself and change your own community.
As a different answer to the question above, I'd like to share a quote from Ip Man 4. A terrible movie to be sure, but even it contains some words of wisdom for our present struggle. When he was reassured that he didn't have to fight, Master Ip said:
I am a martial artist. In the face of injustice, I must stand up and fight. That was why we took up martial arts
When I think about my own training, the years I've spent strengthening my body and mind, the discipline it took to persevere, and the wisdom that's been graciously shared--I believe it would be foolish l not to use these talents for the benefit of others in need. As a martial artist, I will fight injustice. As a teacher, I will help others learn to do the same.
Ways We Fight Injustice
The news today is filled with footage of protests and riots all across the country, people crying out in rage and fear and pain for the loss of their brothers and sisters. People are making their voices heard and expressing grief together as a community. Some are so tired, so frustrated, so angry, that they are lashing out with violent actions or destruction of property, with attempts to make people feel the way that they feel...betrayed, wounded, furious.
And none of this should be a surprise.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
Or, if you prefer, in the words of the Tupac Shakur:
If you find yourself conflicted as you watch footage of these protests, I would encourage you to ask yourself: What would you do?
If it were you, your family, your community, a whole population of people nationwide who look like you being targeted and murdered--would you riot then?
If your neighbors, your boss, the police, the elected officials you didn't (or where not able to) vote for, and the President of the United States of America all tell you it's not happening, that you're race-baiting, that you're a thug, that your life doesn't matter--would you riot then?
As a point of clarity here: there have been multiple accounts of peaceful protests being disrupted by violence from police. I hesitate to post too much graphic material here, but this short video includes just some of the scenes of police violence against peaceful protesters.
Even public figures who have decided to speak out peacefully like the LA Lakers in 2014 as a response to Eric Garner's murder are met with criticism that they are glorifying criminal activity or, in the case of Lebron James in 2018, told to "shut up and dribble." Butterworth (2014) offers an interesting discussion of athletes in the USA and their various attempts at rhetorical/political advocacy you can read here.
But, even if you can relate, you don't have to condone all of the actions that have disrupted various peaceful protests. I can understand what motivates someone to behave violently, but I don't have to condone it as a morally good action or a healthy way to affect change in a community. For similar reasons, while I appreciate the dedication of those marching in protest, I feel like I have other talents that would be more useful in reducing further racialized violence in my community. Perhaps you do too.
Adjust the phrasing however you'd like in the image about, just remember that what we're talking about is complicated and its OK to have mixed feelings. What's not OK is disengaging entirely, trying to hide from the ugly truths about race and violence in this country.
This is all to say: do whatever it is you're capable of, whatever you're best suited for to affect
positive change. If you want to march and you believe in it, do it. If you want to circulate information to benefit others, do it. But do something.
To start, I'll be looking more closely at the following list and refining it for the Tampa Bay Community. I urge you to consider doing the same for your own city/state.
Ways We Learn About Injustice
The total list has many great resources to help educate yourself on the ways you can help change policy in your area. One method I think is worth starting with will help you utilize social media more effectively to stay attuned to local and national efforts. Here's a recommended list to start:
Organizations to follow on social media:
Antiracism Center: Twitter
Soon I'll be collaborating with some friends to compile resources to be a more specific handbook for the Tampa Bay Area. We will then work to make an accompanying guide of state-level actions for Florida. I hope that these guides inspire others to create similar materials for their own community. If so, or if you have information like this already you'd like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support and for your decision to take action in the face of injustice. Thank you for reading. Please stay safe.