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Violence is Self-Care

Throughout this entire class, we as students have been exposed to some of the most flawed systems that fail at showing any form of care towards the many people of color and other minorities in America. Like the piss-poor attempts at aiding Louisiana after the astronomically damaging effects of Hurricane Katrina. It is extremely difficult to comprehend the sheer magnitude of dangers that come with a government that, time and time again, has proven to be unhelpful and downright murderous to entire demographics of people. Saidiya Hartman once said, “Care is the antidote to violence” implying that it is necessary for people, organizations, and governmental bodies to show care and compassion to each other to cure the world of violence. In response, Davina Ward poses the claim that “Violence can exist as care”. Although I don’t disagree with Hartman, I do believe her logic is flawed in the sense that it does not leave room for reality. What happens when these the most powerful forces in society choose not to care? What is then expected of those who are in desperate need of that care? Although the answer isn’t simple, it is obvious. Not only can violence exist as care, but violence can be the best form of self-care. 

Throughout American history, we have valued the delicate art of peaceful protesting. Most notably taught by one of the greatest and most influential peacekeepers of the last century, Martin Luther King Jr. Though lately, hearing his name has plagued me with very strong and polarized feelings. This has everything to do with what happened on May 25th, 2020; the death of George Floyd. Taking place during the nationwide COVID-19 shutdown, people grew restless being cooped up in their homes for days, weeks, months on end. COVID-19 created a powder keg that no one knew existed, and Floyd’s death was the spark that ignited it all. After his death, masses of people gathered in protest, denouncing decades of police brutality and the unnecessary killings of people of color at the hands of police officers. These protests ranged from sit-ins in in public spaces and marches on Mainstreet, to outright violence and looting of cities and businesses. Those who participated in the latter were labeled hoodlums, gangbangers, and thugs. Lines from MLK’s speeches were barked back at them; not for the sake of education, but for the sake of confrontation and belligerence.

Those who moaned and groaned at the libraries and street signs garnering Mr. King’s name, who rolled their eyes while teachers ooo’d and awed over his many successes, who fought tooth and nail for his story to disappear from every American public school curriculum. They were now seeing him as the Messiah of protest, the Jesus whose water was the Washington steps, the visionary who made his dream into a reality. The harsh truth is though, no one was listening when people were holding their signs outside city hall, demanding equal rights, equal treatment, and equal opportunities. It wasn’t until that first brick soared through that Target window, as if it belonged on that showroom floor, that forced people to finally take notice. 

We remember the American Revolution as the single greatest act of patriotism and defiance of corruptness this world has ever seen. Disgruntled by high taxes and desperate for independence, America’s forefathers did what was necessary to rid themselves of oppressive British control. We forget that what was necessary involved acts of war and bloodshed. Nearly 250 years later, people are witnessed trying to emulate a fraction of what was done during those early times. Yet their acts of resistance aren’t looked upon through the same eyes of justice that once existed. As if a hurricane came in and shook up the narrative, decades pass and values shift, now unjustness is fine as long as it is done unto those different from you. This lack of care, lack of consideration, and lack of effort toward the betterment of society is the most egregious form of violence that minorities currently face. No amount of care for the government or care for the privileged is going to stop this.

I strongly side with Davina Ward’s idea that care can exist in violence. In the film series When The Levees Broke directed by Spike Lee, we bear witness to the striking damages caused by Hurricane Katrina. Houses briefly turned into aquariums, cars transformed into submarines, and neighborhood blocks completely leveled as if nothing ever existed in the first place. Despite all that destruction, the damage caused by Katrina was only a piece of the problems faced by the citizens of New Orleans. Similar to how a storm reveals new and fertile soil, Hurricane Katrina washed away years of cover-ups and unearthed centuries’ worth of injustice, all to be seen in real-time taking effect on the thousands of people of color who call New Orleans home. 

Such injustices include levees that were not built properly, as well as ones that were built on soil that was not suitable to support their weight, let alone sustain the strong forces of a hurricane. Though the pressure put onto a levee during a hurricane doesn’t compare to the pressure forced onto minorities by the United States. Levee failure is not an issue exclusive to New Orleans. On March 10th, 2023, the Pajaro River levee located in Monterey County, California was breached, causing mass flooding and damages. This event can only be attributed to the severe lack of funding and care given to the Pajaro levee system. These were not being repaired or maintained regularly as most other levee systems are solely because it was protecting a low-income area heavily populated by minorities. The Californian government played God and saw the poor farming residents of Monterey County as expendable. 

Unlike a hurricane, change does not appear out of thin air. Change is both the journey and the destination, but it is impossible without the necessary institutions taking action towards advocacy. “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” (Origin Unknown) So while Black Americans are quietly holding their breath and tense with fear every time a cop car appears in their rearview mirror, those who don’t live surrounded by this fear have no understanding of the effect it has on communities. Due to this lack of exposure to issues that only seem to affect minorities, attempts towards advocating and educating fall on deaf ears, or even worse, open mouths that actively try and dispute every struggle ever had by people of color. “That doesn’t happen. It’s your fault. Don’t do illegal things and you have nothing to worry about.” But as we’ve learned, there is much to worry about. The U.S. government still has yet to provide care through aiding in efforts towards change. 

It could be easily misunderstood that my idea of violence as the best form of self-care justifies unnecessary acts of aggression. To prevent this inaccurate interpretation one must understand the process of steps that are involved in concluding that violence is the best form of self-care. Care/Violence/Violence/Self-Care must exist in its entirety. Meaning, If necessary care exists then violence does not and there is no need for any further action. If care does not exist then violence can either exist or not exist depending on if the lack of care has a negative effect. If the lack of care doesn’t have a negative effect then violence does not exist and there is no need for further action. However, If the lack of care does have a negative effect, similarly to how the lack of care that the Government has for minorities actively results in the poor living situations that plague minorities, then violence does indeed exist. Only then, when this violence is the result of lack of care does Self-care in the form become justified.

So rather than sitting peacefully and letting the government’s lack of care create waves of violence that wash over and erode these minorities down to the bone, they practiced acts of self-care through violence. “No justice, no peace” bled from the clenched teeth of those who’ve witnessed in real time the destruction of their communities. Broken glass at the hands of a protestor can be replaced but a Black life lost at the hands of a police officer is gone forever. So violence is the best form of self-care because no amount of care for the oppressor will cure the various acts violence done towards the oppressed. 

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