I spent part of Thursday at the gathering outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion. Black Lives Matter had set up a PA system in front of the gate, and it seemed to be a semi-open mic. The speakers were often inspired and inspiring.
But several speakers were only angry and would call out to the crowd to affirm their anger, sometimes in directions that I do not agree with. I understand the Malcolm X “by any means necessary” point of view, but research shows that nonviolent resistance is more effective at creating meaningful social change. Revolution in the sense of violent opposition is much less likely to work:
Researchers used to say that no government could survive if five percent of its population mobilized against it. But our data reveal that the threshold is probably lower. In fact, no campaigns failed once they’d achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population—and lots of them succeeded with far less than that. Now, 3.5% is nothing to sneeze at. In the U.S. today, this means almost 11 million people.After the mass shooting in Orlando, the police killings in Baton Rouge and here in the Twin Cities, and the sniper executions in Dallas, it’s hard not to be scared that we are devolving within a morass of guns, racism, and toxic masculinity. Jelani Cobb calls it “open-source terrorism,” which seems pretty apt:
But get this: Every single campaign that did surpass that 3.5% threshold was a nonviolent one. In fact, campaigns that relied solely on nonviolent methods were on average four times larger than the average violent campaign. And they were often much more representative in terms of gender, age, race, political party, class, and urban-rural distinctions.
This week has become a grotesque object lesson in gun culture, one that points to a conclusion that we could have and should have drawn long ago—that the surfeit of weapons at our disposal and the corresponding fears that they induce create new hazards. There is no telling how any of these specific horrors will be resolved. But here is what we do know: we live in an age of open-source terrorism. Our inability to respond to mass shootings has meant that, eventually, even law enforcement would fall victim to one. The context of the conversation about police accountability has been irrevocably changed. Black lives matter, but reports that those words were uttered by a gunman in Dallas mean that any movement under that banner may well have met its end. And realism, in the face of tragedy, tells us that there is more ugliness in the offing.I’m looking for solutions, and find some in this article, 15 things your city can do right now to end police brutality. They explain each point in the full article, but this is the list:
- Stop criminalizing everything.
- Stop using poor people to fatten city budgets.
- Kick ICE out of your city.
- Treat addicts and mentally ill people like they need help, not jail.
- Make policy makers face their own racism.
- Actually ban racist policing.
- Obey the Fourth Amendment.
- Involve the community in big decisions.
- Collect data obsessively.
- Body cameras.
- Don't let friends of the police prosecute the police.
- Oversight, oversight, oversight.
- No more military equipment.
- Establish a "use of force" standard.
- Train the police to be members of the community, not just armed patrolmen.
Responding with violence is not on any of these lists. But remember, the nonviolence I'm talking about is not just going to a rally or a march. It’s the Bayard Rustin form of tucking your body into the gears of the system so that they can no longer turn.
That's what it will take to change this juggernaut of fear and suspicion, this pile of guns 300 million high.
And meanwhile, the planet is heating enough to make our "way of life" obsolete. No one can focus on what really matters in the long (or even medium) term.