There have been two main responses to the recent demonstrations in Minneapolis and other US cities.
The first is that the rioting is justified to a greater or lesser extent. This stems usually from some argument that the destruction of private property is the Black community within Minneapolis taking action against the racist, capitalist system that oppresses them.
The second is that the rioting is an immoral, criminal act, that should be condemned by all. Some argue for this stating that the initial police killing was justified, or did not occur the way some say it did. Others say that the argument stands due to the fact that violence in general is just wrong within the political sphere.
It should go without saying that both of the above viewpoints are terrible.
Firstly, any attempt to justify what occurred to George Floyd is disingenuous at best. While it is technically unclear from the video whether the choke hold put on the man by the police officer directly resulted in the man’s death, it certainly is an excessive use of force. The blind attempt by some on the right to justify that officer’s actions by claiming he did not directly kill Floyd is beyond pathetic. Those with this view are being willfully ignorant of the facts in order to ignore the reality that police brutality exists. They are bootlickers, plain and simple.
Those who see these riots as somehow ‘sticking it to the man’ are just as stupid. The widespread looting that took place during these riots only serves to uphold modern capitalism, not undermine it. We live in a society predicated on the idea that owning stuff is the most important thing we can do as individuals. To use the death of a community member as an excuse to get a five-finger discount on a TV is, as such, the exact opposite of subversive. It takes the lives of those within a community and makes them subservient to the pursuit of commodity. It sends out one message and one message alone — that the rioters live to consume. Nothing more.
The Ontology of a Nation
So what is the correct way to view the Floyd riots? Allow me to indulge my postmodern urges for a moment and say that the answer depends on your perspective. Those within Black America cannot be expected to view events the same way as an Anglo-Celt. However, the core criticisms presented by said Anglo-Celt can be of use to everyone, even if the origin of those criticisms come from a rather subjective space.
As an Irishman, I don’t really have a horse in the race-relations of North America. However, it is something that interests me on a philosophical level. In Ireland, we justify sovereignty over our land primarily in two ways. Firstly, through the idea that those who we deem Irish, whether through race, religion or culture, have a meaningful entitlement to rule Ireland. Secondly, we see this entitlement to rule as being consecrated in political violence, as shown by the celebration of 1916 and hero-worship of Pearse and Connolly.
It is with this view that I turn towards recent events in Minneapolis. As I see the Irish as having a right to determine their own destiny, I so too see Black America as having that same right. Black America clearly has its own culture, its own take on religion, and definitely its own, distinct, ethnic identity. While it is common for those on the right to denounce ‘identity politics’, it would be a double-standard for an Irishman to deny Black America the same god given entitlement he sees himself as having.
I also see Black America as being entitled to the choice of consecrating their sovereignty through violence, if they see fit to do so. It was Pearse himself that said that blood is a ‘cleansing and sanctifying thing’, and in the new Irish mythology of the early 20th century, it is only through blood that real freedom can be achieved.
Violence as a Means of Realising the Will of a Nation
This last part will be extremely contentious for many readers. As such, I feel I must clarify the point at some length.
What first must be challenged is the relatively new adage that violence is never the answer. Despite how frequently the term is repeated by the many talking heads of contemporary society, the saying is simply not true. It merely takes only the slightest interrogation to see how flawed the idea that violence is inherently evil is flawed. Violence is often justified in tackling an oppressor, a foreign invader, or in simple self-defence. Again, to quote Pearse ‘there are many things more horrible than bloodshed, and slavery is one of them’.
What I have said is not an endorsement of violence. Instead, it is the acceptance that violence is merely another political tool. It is the ‘continuation of politics by other means’, to quote Clausewitz.
Mind you, it is a particularly costly tool. While I dislike the attitude towards violence propagated in the postmodern era, I do not want to give any impression that I view it lightly. The choice to execute will through violence is one that should never be taken lightly. Again, it is the ‘continuation of politics by other means’, continuation in this context meaning the method that is undertaken when all other methods fail.
Returning to the topic at hand, what I am saying is as follows: As an Irishman, I see Black America as being entitled to exercise their sovereignty through violence if they see fit to do so. I am not saying that Black America is right to use violent methods when engaging in politics. Instead, I am saying that it is the choice of Black America whether they do so or not. It is their call whether violence or not is justified, not mine. For someone to deny Black America this right to consecrate their sovereignty through violence is to deny the humanity of Black America.
The Failure of Impotent Rage
With all this being said, the Floyd riots I feel are ultimately rather tragic. The extreme nature of politically motivated violence warrants that, when someone does resort to it, that they use such violence as effectively as possible.
The Floyd riots are anything but effective. As I stated previously, the large-scale looting that has occurred bolsters the system the protesters see as oppressive, not undermine it.
Leaving the looting to one side though, there is no potential for political change within these riots. People have taken to the streets in opposition to what they see as a systematically oppressive system, but have no vision on what should replace it.
While one should not expect solutions to complex problems to come about overnight, this is no excuse in this case. Black America has been protesting these issues for decades, if not centuries. The L.A. riots occurred back in 1992, and yet in regards to solving the systematic issues Black America sees as being present in the US, no ground has been made.
For political action (violent or non-violent) to be effective, it must have a solid goal in mind. No such goal exists in the mind of those protesting the killing of George Floyd, so no real change can come of it.
To add insult to injury, President Trump has very successfully used the protests partly as an excuse to regulate the giants of social media. Think about that for a second. These riots have done far more for free speech online than they have done for racial justice. More specifically, they have done so due to the actions of a man a number of the protesters hate. How could anyone believe that their protest has been effective?
A Return to Tradition
So what goals should Black America have when they take to the streets? Again, I must emphasise that I am an outsider in all this, so my word cannot be taken as gospel.
However, a number of the protestors interviewed appear to have a kernel of a political ideology brewing in their heads. Often repeated were the statements that the protests weren’t about economics, but race and racism, and that it was time for Black Americans to stop listening to Martin Luther King Jr and start listening to Malcolm X.
This is a very good place to start. The attitude that the race issue in America is not something inherently linked to economics is a good take. That’s not to say social and economic ideology never feed into each other, but the link between racism and capitalism is nowhere near as essential as college communists often make it out to be.
Even better in my view is the desire to move away from MLK and towards Malcolm X. While X did have a number of his own issues, his viewpoints, or more specifically, the viewpoints propagated by the Nation of Islam are well worth looking at.
While far from a perfect organization, the organization lacked the naivete of the NAACP, and fostered a much greater distrust of those in power.
However, that is not to say that they were not idealists. The Nation was great in that it saw Black America as a nation in its own right, and focused on forming a sense of that nation in its members as well as the Black community around them. The organization sought not just to strengthen Black America politically, but the social and spiritual ties to their community also.
This comprehensive view towards the emancipation of Black America lead to the Nation of Islam making friends in strange places. The most famous example of this is their relationship with the American Nazi Party. One of the most bizarre moments in human history has to be when party founder George Lincoln Rockwell, a virulent white supremacist and avowed supporter of Hitler, addressed a Nation of Islam gathering in 1962. It’s no wonder why most second level history classes today leave any mention of the Nation of Islam as merely being the organization that Muhammad Ali belonged to.
However, while some of the teachings of the Nation of Islam are considered morally objectionable today, we would be remiss to not contextualise them as being of their time. These people lived in a far less enlightened time, and we should not judge them with the same lens we judge people today.
What’s more, there is a lot that modern Black America could learn from the Nation of Islam, and adapt for the postmodern era.
The first is the holistic attitude towards political identity. Being a Black American is not just about having melanin in your skin, but about having a distinct ethnic, religious, and social background to the other residents of the American continents. These elements that make up the Black American people are of value inherently, and are the birthright of those within the community. By extension, it is the responsibility of the community to preserve these social, political and religious traditions for their children, since it is their birthright also. This is something that is often lost in the established crusade for racial equality.
The second is that, sometimes, systems are simply irreparable. Black America has been struggling within a system built by WASPs for hundreds of years. Despite this struggle, it appears to be the common consensus within Black America that oppression has not gone away, and that those who rule them do not have their interests at heart. In fact, they probably never will.
If this is indeed the common belief within the community, then solutions outside the system need to be assessed. The Nation of Islam recognised this, and saw racial segregation as the best solution, hence their association with bonafide Nazis. Nowadays, those of us who aren’t Richard Spencer are enlightened enough to realise this isn’t a real solution. However, that does not mean Black America should not consider trying to establish some form of independence.
The Resurrection of Shabazz
The establishment of some sort of Home-Rule for Black America may very well be the most viable solution. While we do not want to start prying people apart by the colour of their skin, Black America establishing some sort of state or semi-state entity for themselves may be the best way to liberate themselves from their oppressors permanently.
I see three ways this could be done. The first is that Black America campaigns for the establishment of a new state within the US that lacks any territory of its own. Instead, citizens would opt-in to be members of this new, Black-centric state. It would be to this state that they would pay state taxes, and through this state would vote for representatives to represent them in Congress and the Senate. The aim of this would be to both unify and strengthen the voice of Black America within the United States, while also strengthening the sense of community that modernity so often crushes.
Another solution would be to campaign to establish a Black American state within the US that does have its own defined territory. This could be done in two ways. The first is to pick a single section of land within the US in which to establish a new state. This is more possible than one might realise, with a lot of land within state borders being owned by the US Federal Government and not the individual states themselves. Some of this land could easily be handed over to Black America for the creation of a new state if the political will was there.
The second is to have a new state that, instead of managing a single block of land within the US, manages a series of small parts of the country that are made up of mostly Black Americans. Think of something along the lines of what the American Indians have now, but with the rights of a fully fledged state in order to bolster the unity of Black America at a national level. This route seems to be far more doable than establishing a brand new state out of federal land.
The third, and most radical option, is for Black America to campaign for the establishment of a brand new, fully sovereign, nation state within North America. This nation would have no political affiliation with the US, and would operate completely independent of it. I personally do not see this as a solution warranted by the current crisis faced by Black Americans, but again, it is not my decision to make.
The Way Forward
No matter what aim Black America adopts, whether it be one of the three listed above or a different one entirely, what matters is it having an aim. Without one, it will be completely unable to ever progress from its current situation. In this sense, the debate on whether to use violent or non-violent tactics is pointless. Both kinds of activism are impotent without a clear, achievable goal.
Nevertheless, all of what is stated above is the mere opinion of an Irish Nationalist. The future of Black America is in the hands of Black Americans. As such, it is up to Black Americans to formulate, organise, and ultimately fight, for their future.