These past weeks in Humanities Core Lecture, we have been learning about Gandhi, and Savakar who differ in respect to the ethical use of violence. However, why is it that the violent action of Empires are overshadowed by the manner in which people decide to protest. How is that the violence, and oppression of Empire is deemed as normal, but the actions of protester against the Empire’s treatment are considered CRIMINAL? Regardless of whether we agree more with Gandhi or Savakar, both become at some point political prisoners.
These same arguments, and concerns with how people protest are still present around the world and in the United States. Advocates for equal rights have constantly been taken as political prisoners. This happened during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. There was Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporter who approached the revolution from a nonviolence approach, and the Black Panthers/ Malcolm X who took a more violent approach. I am not going to argue over whether violence/nonviolence was the best manner to combat an oppressive government. Instead I want to point out that both of these groups were targeted by the FBI as highly dangerous criminals. Nonviolence/ violence did not matter, both were criminalized.
It is easy for us to ignore/ forget the atrocities that the British Empire committed during its imperial regime. The Indian people were treated as second class citizens in their own land,many died of hunger as the British took their wheat and sent it else where, revolutionaries were killed to make an example. This is easily forgotten because often we give our focus and attention to the way in which people decide to react to the Empire’s maltreatment. We easily
criticize revolutionaries, giving our opinions on how they could have approached the situation better, how their methods of violence/nonviolence were effective/noneffective, and most importantly how their protest made them look to the public.
The United States is guilty of losing focus of what the issues, and goals of movements and attempting to turn the public’s attention to the ways in which protester approached their protest. Like the British Empire, the United States kept close monitoring of people they believe to be a threat to the systematic way in which their empire runs. Both nonviolent and violent protesters were considered a threat. We easily forget now that even Martin Luther King Jr. who many of us admire, was once on a target of the FBI.
Just recently, I learned about Angela Davis, someone I wish I knew no about sooner and one day hope to meet. Today she is a professor at the University of California Santa Cruz,
but during the 1970s she was on the FBI most wanted list. Her ties to both non-violent civil right movement and the Black Panthers made her an easy target to the U.S government. She was captured and incarcerated for 18 months as she awaited trial on charges of kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy. She was acquitted of all three charges. During her time in prison she was interviewed on her views on violence. I think Angela’s responses to her interview are important because she tell the truth about how people see revolution and violence,
“When you talk about Revolution, most people think violence without realizing the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals in which you are striving for, not in the way you reach them. … On the other hand because of the way this society is organized, because of the violence that exist on the surface everywhere you have to expect such explosions”
Not only do we have to expect people to be angry, frustrated, violent, we need to understand that the reason they feel this way is because they are constantly being put down by their own government/society. We forget the often times protesters are victims, they are not the real problem. We cannot expect protesters to act uniformly, and understand that everyone has different ways of reacting when they have been denied of equal rights. After Angela describes how she was racially profiled during her time in Los Angeles, the harassment, and constant threat of violence, she says
“When you live in a situation like that and then you ask me whether I approve of violence. I mean that just doesn’t make any sense at all.”
She is right it doesn’t make any sense. By questioning a person’s responses to oppression we lose sight of their goals, we lock them up and call them criminals instead of questioning the Empire that allows these inequalities, violence, and oppression to continue to keep happening. It’s time to start turning our attention to the fundamental issues ingrained in our society.
Angela Davis’s interview starts on 1:08- 5:19.
“Angela Davis”. Pinterest. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
“Angela Davis – Youtube”. YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
“Blowing From A Gun”. En.wikipedia.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
“Davis, Angela (1944–) | The Black Past: Remembered And Reclaimed”. Blackpast.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
Gupta,. “The British Destroyed This Painting Because It Exposed Their Barbarism Against Indians”. TopYaps. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
Osborne, Samuel. “The Five Worst Atrocities Carried Out By The British Empire Will Make You Wonder Why We’re Apparently Proud Of It”. The Independent. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
“The Trial Of Angela Davis”. Abagond. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Mar. 2017.
*** Side note… I highly recommenced that everyone watch 13th documentary. This is where I initially learned about Angela Davis, as she is also one of the commentators. The documentary give a history of the American prison system as a means to continue to oppress black lives after abolition and thus provides economic benefits to corporate America. The use of the media to convey the image of a criminal is a common theme, along with political strategies, and how these problems are still relevant.