American As Violence


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By Michael Harriot, HuffPo

Violence is entrenched in the United States’ ethos. America is savage, and always has been.

When most people think of American culture, they overlook the violence that has been irrevocably entwined with it (HuffPo)

For a second, forget the blood.

Forget the decomposed corpses of the Indigenous natives that still fertilize Turtle Island’s amber waves of grain. Unremember the stacks of African bodies that suffocated in feces before the transport vehicles vomited them into the sea. Do not think of the bloodiest war in the history of the North American continent fought to preserve constitutional, color-based human trafficking. The racial terrorism of Reconstruction, the Yellow Peril, the Red Summer, the Black Panthers, GreenwoodOrangeburg, the Ghost Dancers, MOVE headquarters, Standing Rock, Sitting Bull, the Freedom Riders, four little girls in Birmingham, the Jena Six, or the Charleston Nine ― they are all immaterial to this particular conversation…

The Oxford English Dictionary, the most authoritative source on the English language, defines violence as “the exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property.” It also defines violence as conduct “tending to cause bodily injury or forcibly interfering with personal freedom.” But in America, violence is relative.

Most people would consider a government that spends more money on its military than on its health care and education as lacking in “human civility.” But in a nation where there are more guns than gun owners, inflicting harm on others a birthright. In America, health care is not considered part of the “national defense.” In America, “welfare” is a bad word. In this land, violence is entrenched in our national ethos, enshrined in the history, the laws and the very Constitution of this country.

That’s not to say the word has no meaning in these disunited states. While condemning Black neighborhoods to underfunded schools, toxic drinking water and overpolicing does not conform to the Americanized definition of violence, we’ve learned that anyone who believes that Black Lives Matter is automatically considered a “savage.” Robbing a bank is violent; the racism embedded in the entirety of the financial industry is not “savage.” Black drug dealers are “violent offenders”; the creators of the war on drugs are not. Capital punishment sentences are overwhelmingly reserved for Black and poor criminals. The wealthiest nation in the world sentencing millions of its citizens to a life of poverty is “capitalism,” not violence…

Keep reading about America’s tradition of violence.

American violence was a key component in kidnapping African people, slavery, and Jim Crow laws.

Stay tuned to our breaking news archive for updates.

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