Disguising violent impulses as political work does absolutely-fucking-nothing for marginalized communities. In fact, it may put them in danger.
By Shish KaBob Segeer
Photo by Karen Ducey
Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster. ― Friedrich W. Nietzsche
This is a rant. Proceed with caution.
The ways people seek to feel powerful in a chaotic world are innumerable. ‘Acting out’ can assist us in this quest for perceived strength. In more ‘normal’ times, laws and social mores would hamstring our ability to act out our primitive aggressive motivations. However, in times of social unrest and a breakdown in civil structure, some people use the opportunity to act out their otherwise suppressed animal impulses. These bad actors that co-opt good movements have the effect of hurting the very movements they claim to be supporting. Remember, sometimes your ‘allies’ are a much larger impediment than your ‘enemies.’ So goes the Arabic proverb “It’s better to have a thousand enemies outside of the tent than one inside the tent.”
Now, the cynical part of me wants to joke “we need to stop this white on white violence!” as most (all) of what described above and featured in videos is exactly that. Videos of Kenosha protests just before Kyle Rittenhouse’s murders, more white on white violence, show throngs of protesters and counter-protesters confronting each other in a gas station parking lot. Kenosha has an African-American population, 7%, roughly half of the national average of 13.5%. Portland has even less: 5%. Now, before you get upset with my line of thinking here, just imagine you are viewing this as a spectator unaware of the context. How on Earth would you explain street fights between Proud Boys and Antifa are helping Black people? The absurdity of roaming groups of largely white activists attacking other Anglos driving their cars can not be lost. What is worse is that the blowback for these actions will likely befall the very marginalized people these knuckleheads are claiming to support.
These kind of futile attempts at feeling powerful or exacting resentments under the guise of social justice advocacy were perfectly embodied in the recent viral video of a large group of ( white ) protestors cornering a woman outside a cafe. One could easily get lost down the wormhole of describing the video with the typical activist-sheik word salad and call this ‘performative allyship’ but I would rather just call them what they are ‘fucking idiots.’ I use such vitriolic language because they are unaware of Pandora’s box of violence that could unleash particularly with the upcoming election. If white people stop random white people in cars and kick in their doors, those people are going to become sacred and angry. Scared and angry people lash out and when they do it will be under the framework of the white vs black metanarrative all of the extremists in this country are capitalizing on.
It can not go without mentioning that the optics of the entire movement can be reduced down to what its worst participants do. Don’t believe me? I am a Muslim — I have a particular understanding of how the cruelest of ones ‘compatriates’ can fuck it up for the rest of you.
We need to see this for what it is: bro-dudes in black hoodies feeling as though they can act out their aggressive fantasies on the backs of Black people murdered by cops. This is a sideshow to the genuine struggles of liberation. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your street brawl or attack on a random car is not helping anyone.