Widgets Magazine


Concerning violence

Concerns about violence have been circulating around campus lately. Over the past week, the Etchemendy email thread and the Baltimore rebellion have only further raised their visibility. Like many of my peers, I have also been concerned. I hate violence.

I hate the state violence committed against black and brown bodies by our racist police system. I hate the colonial violence committed by the Israeli Defense Forces against a defenseless refugee population. I hate the sexual violence committed against our fellow students and the diplomas our school awards to their rapists.

Unfortunately, it is not the reality of structural violence that has been concerning many on campus. Instead, it is the mere possibility of violence as a form of resistance that has kept most people preoccupied. Such a position is morally inconsistent because it shifts responsibility from the aggressor to the victim. In an interpersonal context, violent resistance is not considered a matter of moral scrutiny – we call it self-defense. If someone is gunning down your entire family, few would condemn you for fighting back in order to protect your remaining loved ones. So if the state is killing your community – your extended family, everyone who looks like you – why should anyone condemn you for trying to protect them? Why should an institutional context require you to stand back and watch them die? Why does structural violence not merit the same urgency?

If anything, the urgency is only greater. As opposed to a single punch or gunshot, structural violence is unwavering; it is the unceasing violence of living as a person of color under white supremacy, the working class under capitalism or a Palestinian under occupation. You can disagree with the strategic efficacy of their actions, but when people defy — even violently — this endless structural violence, the only consistent position is to label their defiance self-defense. To condemn their actions implicitly endorses violence against the marginalized by circumscribing the means by which they can defend themselves.

When people center their concerns on the means of resistance, they reveal their true priorities. They reveal that they care more about Baltimore’s broken windows than Freddie Gray’s broken neck. They care more about property damage than black death, more about campus climate than Palestinian suffering, more about graduation rates than campus rape. Over Admit Weekend, many students were more upset about activists exposing discrimination than the fact that there is discrimination to expose. There even seemed to be more outrage over the criticisms written with white chalk than the hate crime committed with gold paint, because students were more worried about the market value of their Stanford degrees than the discrimination faced by their peers. No surprise that they were also more concerned by a student rejecting dialogue with Etchemendy than his inability to deny giving a serial rapist a degree.

Those who advocate for dialogue and express concern over violent resistance will argue that they do so to preserve life. But this argument obscures the reality: in these conflicts, an enormous power imbalance allows the oppressing force to inflict violence relentlessly, so every second wasted in ‘civil discourse,’ fruitless peace talks or any other type of diversionary dialogue is yet another moment that precious life is lost. Resorting to violence means that the oppressed have come to the difficult conclusion that if they do not engage in self-defense there will only be greater loss of life. People do not violently resist because they enjoy violence or are inherently criminal – they do so because they hold life sacred. It is then those who condemn this form of resistance that hold life in contempt.

Manny Thompson ’15

Contact Manny Thompson at mannyt ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • student ’15

    Brilliant piece. Thanks for sharing.

  • lies

    The problem with your post is:
    1) facts are wrong. There was no convicted rapist.

    2) Israel doesn’t have colonial tactics. It merely is in war with terrorist groups. Any war has civilian casualties.

    3) Police brutality is a big problem everywhere in the world and here’s the only place where people pretend race is causing it. It’s WAY more likely that wealth inequality itself is what police are using to target some populations, like anywhere else in the world.

    Your rhetoric is based on lies and misconstrued facts and you don’t care because you just want to push for your movement. Truth is more important, so I’d you don’t respect truth, I won’t respect your “opinions”.

    Ignorant Lynchings are NOT self defense.

  • mxm123

    2. “Israel doesn’t have colonial tactics. It merely is in war with terrorist groups. ” – Israeli settlements are not colonial ? Your’e just regurgitating the same ole talking points.

  • cbrtxus

    Manny, It looks more like vandalism and thievery to me. How is that “violently resisting?”

  • Student ’17

    Hmmm, you suddenly seem interested in talking about the things you believe in. Weird how you didn’t feel that way when Etchemendy offered to sit down and talk to you. Seems like you really like the monologue platform instead of the dialogue platform.

  • Martin

    By slandering all policeman as racist, you’re proving yourself to be as bigoted and narrow minded as the people you’re criticizing. Your claim that police violence against Blacks is official state policy is simply false. Even though instances of police violence receive massive media attention, the reality is that the number of Blacks killed by police is miniscule compared to the number killed by other Blacks. If you’re really concerned about Black people, this is the problem you should be addressing.

    Also, your division of the world into oppressors and oppressed shows naivete about how the world really works. Life is a competition between many different groups, each pursuing its own interests, and many who are oppressed long to become oppressors themselves. This is particularly true of the Palestinian Arabs, who pose as helpless victims but who would slaughter the Jews without mercy if they were ever in a position to do so.

    Your claim that violent resistance against authority will ultimately decrease the number of black deaths is also untrue. The fact is, the more threatened you make people feel, the more willing they’ll be to use violence against you. Since black people, even with the help of non-black allies, are not strong enough to overthrow the government, violent resistance will not only result in many more black deaths, but it will produce no measurable gains for black people, and make the condition of most Blacks a lot worse.

  • mxm123

    “This is particularly true of the Palestinian Arabs, who pose as helpless victims but who would slaughter the Jews without mercy if they were ever in a position to do so.”

    A wholly false and racist viewpoint/accusation which if made regarding the other side would be deleted by the moderator at the least.

  • Martin

    Hamas, which is the strongest Palestinian faction, explicitly calls for the death of all Jews everywhere in their charter, and there’s no reason to think they don’t mean it. The more moderate Palestinian Authority is not much different, if you look at what they say in their own media. Here’s a good place to look at Palestinian media: http://www.palwatch.org/

  • ???

    “There even seemed to be more outrage over the criticisms written with white chalk than the hate crime committed with gold paint, because students were more worried about the market value of their Stanford degrees than the discrimination faced by their peers”

    Who told you I was worrying about the market value? Why can’t I be worried about the fact that fewer black students will come to Stanford and as a result the school becomes less diverse?

  • mxm123

    What does Hamas have to do with Israeli Settlements in the West Bank ? How about N O T H I N G.

    B.T.W i don’t waste my time on nonsensical Hasbara links

  • Martin

    Hamas has a lot to do with settlements in the West Bank (BTW, the correct name is Judea and Samaria). If not for the IDF, Hamas would take control of the area away from the Palestinian Authority, and would begin a campaign of relentless warfare against Jewish communities in the region.

  • Brian

    For all the requests of dialog, there seems to be a lot of people unwilling to hear what you have to say before creating their own straw-Manny. I hope people actually read what you are saying, although the comments so far do not make me optimistic.

  • mary

    I don’t understand why this article talks as if Stanford isn’t doing anything about campus sexual assault. Stanford clearly is. There was a whole task force this year that ended with pretty much exactly the results the activists wanted.

  • mxm123

    The IDF builds settlements to combat Hamas. That’s a rather unique strategy. Or an excuse perhaps.

  • Ignorance

    3. “… here’s the only place place where people pretend race is causing it.”

    Race not a factor in a nation where White men straight out of prison get the same treatment in the job search as Black men with a degree?

    Or in a nation where a Black man can be killed on tape and have his killer not even be charged?

    Or in a nation where a Black child gets killed for having a BB gun while a White man can get away with threatening federal agents with a high-powered rifle?

    Can’t say I see your point as valid.

  • Martin

    Israel doesn’t need excuses to build Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, which are an integral part of the Jewish national homeland. However, it’s true that the more the land is populated by Jews, the harder it will be for groups such as Hamas to get established there.

  • points of distinction

    I think the intent and history behind the violent action are important. For all the arguments coming out of Baltimore, not a one resembles the Hamas charter. (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/20/hamas-charter-israeli-civilians-dying-ahmed-yousef) Not all violence is equal.

  • mxm123

    Nor does it resemble the Likud Charter which calls for apartheid.

  • mxm123

    Well i’m glad you agree that Hamas has nothing to do with Israeli Apartheid. Just an excuse for the theft of Palestinian land.

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    In response to the above “lies” :
    To maintain that police brutality is not motivated by race in a country that is steeped in individual racism, institutionalized racism, and structural racism, indicates that you are the one lying to yourself (while we also note that you’ve chosen to appropriately call yourself and your comment, “lies”)…
    National icon and hero George Washington enslaved hundreds of human beings who didn’t just happen to be black. Likewise Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Mason, Edmund Randolph, William Blount, Pierce Butler, General Charles C. Pinckney and numerous others who are fittingly called this country’s “founding fathers”.
    But the mondo bizarro capper of it all is that you refer to critiques of racism as “Ignorant Lynchings” ! As if to mount an offensive defense of ongoing racism now in hiding (closeted racism-in-denial) which you claim is non-existent.
    Mondo Bizarro especially in that LESS than 100 years ago real live lynch mobs in this country were still operating with essential impunity, in the *documented* lynchings of some 2,500 black human beings between 1880 and 1930 – that’s about one per week.. — and that’s just those *terrorist acts* that have been documented !
    Put that in your ignorant, lying pipe and smoke it.

  • Activist = stupid

    why do you feel like you need self-defense at Stanford? Did someone try to gun you and your friends down or take away your housing. Be grateful for where you are.

  • Enough with this

    You’re an idiot

  • Martin

    The Palestinian Arabs don’t constitute a nation in any sense of the word, and they never have, and they have no national rights whatsoever to the Land of Israel. In fact, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has very little to do with the Palestinians. The conflict is driven by the larger Arab and Muslim world, which violently opposes a Jewish state of any size or shape on land that they believe should be exclusively Arab and Muslim. In their campaign against Israel, they regard the Palestinians as little more than expendable cannon fodder.

  • mxm123

    Sorry, but being born on a land grants more rights than any mythical religious concoction you come up with. Your comments are prime example of the fanaticism that drives this conflict. You want to pretend that a people kicked off their land somehow deservice it.

  • Read Again

    Please quote the part of this opinion piece where he advocated for self-defense at Stanford.

  • Martin

    I’m not saying Arabs don’t have a right to live in the Land of Israel, but I’m saying they don’t have the right to political sovereignty or a separate state of their own. Even if they possessed the essential attributes of statehood, which they certainly don’t, the Land of Israel is the national home of the Jewish nation and of no other nation. Arabs who are willing to accept the fact that they live in a Jewish state, and are willing to abide by the laws of that state and not seek to undermine it, can have a very good life in that state, and many Arabs do. But those who can’t bear the thought of living under Jewish sovereignty always have the option of leaving.

    What’s driving the conflict is not Israel’s “fanatical” desire to exist, but the Arab world’s fanatical desire to destroy it without any valid cause,

  • Alum ’14

    I’m disgusted that either you or manny will be walking in June at my university’s graduation. Word’s can’t describe how dumb, bigoted, and simply delusional this article is.

    Tough life you activists have. You don’t even know how many people would kill to take your spot at this school, or how hard some of our parents work and break their backs to send us here. You’re the epitome of “privilege.”

    But that doesn’t even address how flat out STUPID some of the ideas in this article are. I don’t even know where to begin… the comments above are a good start. Do you or manny even believe anything you say? Or do you just say it because you think it sounds good and it riles the troops?

  • mxm123

    Sorry , your religious myths or fanatical fantasies don’t give you the right to impose apartheid on another people, who were born on that land.

    What drives the conflict are fanatical views like your. And then of course the pretense to blame everyone else.

  • Martin

    Most Israeli Jews were also born in the land, so by your reasoning, they should have just as much right to be there as the Palestinians. But the larger reality is that the fact that someone is born on a piece of land does not automatically give them ownership of it. All nations compete with one another for land and resources, and the only way you can “own” land is if you’re able to defend it against others who would also like to own it. However, the Israelis are not mere foreign invaders taking over land they have no prior connection to. The Land of Israel is where the Hebrew nation was created, and it’s the land where, God willing, it will be restored.

    In their fanatical desire to destroy the Jewish state, Israel’s enemies regard falsehood and deceit as fundamental weapons. One of their biggest falsehoods is that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, Israel has over a million Arabs who are full citizens of the state, with all the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. Arabs even serve as Knesset members and judges. Compare this to neighboring Jordan, reputedly one of the most liberal Arab states, which has a law that forbids any Jew from being a citizen of Jordan. So who is more guilty of apartheid, Israel, which grants citizenship to Arabs, or Jordan (and many other Arab countries) which deny citizenship to Jews.

  • NoWayJoseMourinho

    Ah, is this the same Manny that makes gross assumptions of bad faith and advocates for violent resistance in the hell-hole that is the Bay Area?

  • Another Alum ’14

    I strongly disagree with the reasoning in this op-ed as well, but in your comment you’ve done nothing but call him “stupid and privileged.”

  • mxm123

    You’ve never seen me once question the right of any people born there. Again your fanaticism shines when you claim that people born on that land have no rights based on your self serving theology.

    Don’t tell me about Israeli Arabs, while there are millions of Palestinians with no rights. Its a self serving canard. By pointing at Jordan (with questionable facts), your’e reverting to the same old blame everyone else strategy.

  • Martin

    Most Palestinian Arabs who live in Judea and Samaria and Gaza live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, so if they have no rights, they should blame their own leaders, not Israel.

  • mxm123

    Quit making up stories. The Palestinian Authority is a provisional authority. And you know it.

  • Martin

    Your statement that the P.A. is a provisional authority is true, but irrelevant to my point. Yes, the P.A. was set up to be a temporary organization, to be replaced later by a more permanent one. But it still has its own set of laws, and Arabs who live under its authority are subject to those laws. One of its laws prescribes capital punishment for any Arab who sells land to a Jew. This sentence has been carried out on a number of occasions, sometimes without the formality of a trial. Also, some P.A. officials have said that if and when they get their own state, not a single Jew will be allowed to live in that state. That sounds like pure racism to me.

  • David

    It’s really sad that the radical anti-Israel movement has seduced the American left into equating Israel with woman, minority and gay rights. With all the horrors in the world it’s maddening and telling that the author singles out Israel for this piece.

    The bitterest irony is that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where women, minorities and gays have full rights. In the Arab world, including Palestine, gays are often killed in the streets.

  • A Single Exception

    Ethiopian Jews might disagree, based on events of late.

    Beyond that, I wouldn’t say that the author is singling out Israel here – he talks about American problems first in regards to minority rights and then tries to connect the two. Although when a lot of these pro-Palestinian activists talk about rights, they’re not talking about the Arabs living in Israel proper, they’re talking about the ones who live in the West Bank – within Israel’s borders everything appears to be going quite well for them.

    I feel like the pressure being put on America and Israel here not because they are terrible but precisely because they are supposed to be better than the rest of the world – if you cannot fix the places that have the least amount of problems, what hope do you have in dealing with severe abuses in other areas?

    Although I don’t understand the women’s a queer rights bend a lot of them take – it makes no actual sense.

  • mxm123

    Its true and relevant. Points out the deception that Palestinians are somehow a free people. If you’re so worried about Jews not able to live with Palestinians in the West Bank then why not allow ALL Palestinians and ALL Jews to live where they want in ALL of those lands. Sounds like yet another half truth from you to disguise apartheid.

  • Martin

    Your thoughts are getting confused. I can’t even tell what your point is here, other than that you’re repeating the apartheid falsehood again.

    The accusation of Israeli apartheid is an example of the “big lie” technique perfected by the Nazis: if you tell a lie often enough, people will come to believe it, and the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it, because they wouldn’t think you would have the audacity to make up a falsehood that large. A few years ago, nobody was equating Israel with apartheid. Then, some of Israel’s enemies decided to fabricate a new falsehood against Israel, that it’s an apartheid state, and keep repeating it no matter what.

    Anyone who is knowledgeable about Israel, and honest, will admit that Israel’s system of governance bears no resemblance at all to the system of apartheid formerly practiced in South Africa. The fact that you continue to repeat this accusation, without offering any evidence whatsoever, proves that you’re either ignorant, or dishonest, or both.

    The bottom line is that the Jews have returned to their historic homeland after a long absence. They bear no malice toward anyone, but will certainly fight back if attacked. Many nations would like to destroy Israel, but if Israel adheres to the principles it was originally founded on, it will defeat all of its enemies, and the world will be a much better place as a result.