Baltimore Officials Preaching Non-Violence Are Hypocrites
Ta-Nehisi Coates: How can the state dole out violence and yet condemn it, too?
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2015 7:03 PM CDT
A demonstrator raises his fist as police stand in formation in Baltimore Monday.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(Newser) – Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates grew up around where yesterday's riots started, and he's written one of the most talked-about responses to the violence in the Atlantic. In the essay, he takes issue with city officials' "well-intended" pleas for non-violence, given that they come in a city where he says police violence against citizens is the norm. The mayor and police chief still haven't fully explained what happened to Freddie Gray, which he doesn't think is surprising. They and others demanding non-violence are "charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray's death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray's death and so they appeal for calm." The problem, he writes, is that "when nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself."

And "when nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con." He likens the rioting to a forest fire and says it's all about "disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community."

  • Opposing view: At Hot Air, Noah Rothman thinks Coates is being dangerously irresponsible. "Couched in ersatz-intellectual terms is the justification for nearly all senseless gang-related street violence: Subjectively defined violations of an arcane code of respect."
  • In agreement: But at the Week, Marc Ambinder thinks Coates nailed it. The state's preaching of non-violence "is a con when state-sanctioned force is not applied with rigorous fairness, without bias, proportionately, and transparently."
Click to read Coates' full essay.