Source: Waging Nonviolence
Nazism and white supremacy are forms of violence. Let’s start there.
The constitution does not protect violence, and I’m happy to see that the California chapter of the ACLU has taken a stand against protecting the “free speech” of hate groups.
But with or without marching permits, it is clear that public displays of hatred are a growing trend in the United States. And as much as I don’t want to give these groups more attention, it is also clear that simply ignoring them is not going to make them go away.
So what do we do?
Many communities seem to have embraced the militant tactics of Antifa, so much so that it seems like it’s already an expectation that every alt-right rally will turn into a violent battlefield.
Yet I can’t help but wonder if these tactics are giving the alt-right exactly what they want. Is it possible that we could be winning small battles while losing the war? Is it possible that as we celebrate Nazis getting punched, their numbers are growing as a direct result of it?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I would even admit that a portion of the blame for the rise in violence has to go to those of us committed to nonviolence for our failure to come up with the type of assertive response necessary in these urgent times.
And I do give a lot of credit to Antifa activists, for as much as I have major disagreements in strategy, they have had the courage to put their bodies on the line. When the levels of hatred are as extreme as they are, our responses to it — nonviolent or otherwise — has to match its intensity, and Antifa has done that.
But as these battles rage on (the alt-right has planned rallies this weekend in San Francisco and Berkeley), it’s critical that we not get dogmatic and are able to evaluate our strategies.
Violence has a simple dynamic that Rev. James Lawson once described as, “I make you suffer more than I suffer.” If we think that punching Nazis and pepper spraying them will make them suffer so much that they go away, I’m afraid that we are severely underestimating their commitment to their cause.
Right or wrong (spoiler: they’re wrong), they feel like their culture is being threatened and white people are being oppressed. As the adage goes, “when you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” If members of the alt-right already feel like they are being oppressed (and they do), using violence to shut them down may only make them dig down even deeper into their hole and fight back even harder.