The government needs a downsizing

By Evan Gaudette

Chris Chalk Flickr
(Chris Chalk Flickr)

This column is not anti-police, nor is it anti-military. It is anti-institution, anti-reaction and, more than anything, anti-hypocrisy.

Our government is not too big, it’s actually overwhelmingly too small when compared to other developed countries. When it comes to “protecting” our cities, though, our government is too large, not in its scope but rather in its reaction.

In September, during the Charlotte protests that erupted from the death of Keith Lamont Scott, riots and violence occurred. Most protesters were peaceful but unfortunately some were not. They vandalized, threw objects at police and burned property. It was a typical riot scene that we’ve grown accustomed to since the proliferation of television and cable news. While following the story, I remember coming across a story stating Governor Pat McCrory was bringing in the National Guard to “assist.” But to assist who exactly?

Was the National Guard coming in to supply police with body cameras, dashboard cameras and training on how to confront high-stake situations non-violently? No. So they must have been there to demilitarize the local police who, like police departments across the country, have accumulated military style equipment and weaponry over the past two decades. No, not that either. So they had to have been called in to address the problems of structural racism and inequality that plague inner city and Black communities. No, their assistance served to suppress the outrage of the oppressed.

The National Guard is an extremely important organization, but this is not their purpose. Calling the National Guard should not be the reaction to protests. Neither should furthering the militarization of our police departments, a practice that breeds distrust and fear in communities and is antithetical to the principle that founded our nation: the right to revolution. Instead, change should be the reaction to protest. When millions of black Americans believe that their lives are valued less than white lives, we must address their concerns with change, not occupation. When the Native Peoples of the Americas assert that their sacred lands and water supplies are being infringed upon by a corporation, we should change our regulation of business instead of reacting with tear gas, rubber bullets and tanks.

A common criticism of Black Lives Matter protests, or similar protests, is actually a criticism of the rioting that sometimes occurs, blaming the movement for the actions of a few. Some people let out their frustration though rioting and this feeling is perfectly articulated by the rapper The Game on the song “Savage Lifestyle”: “…and just so we’re clear, this is pain and despair/we burn our own *explicative* and we aware, and don’t care.”

If the needs of citizens were actually being addressed instead of being met with resistance, like the denial of implicit bias (something that literally every person has) and institutional racism in policing, maybe rioting and violence wouldn’t occur.

Furthermore, we must remember our nation was built on rioting and violence. In elementary school we learn about tar-and-feathering (a practice where colonists literally poured hot tar on the naked bodies of tax collectors), the Boston Tea Party, the creation of local militias and the Boston Massacre. We celebrate them, even though they were all violent endeavors, because they gave us our freedom.

In reality, those actions gave white men and, to a certain extent, white women freedom while leaving Black Americans in chains and essentially sentencing Native People to a 100-year genocide. Our message of anti-violence and anti-rioting is completely hypocritical to everything our nation is built on. If white people want to gain freedoms through violence it’s fine, but if you’re Black, brown or indigenous, you can expect tear gas, tanks and a wave of heavily armed men telling you to “stop resisting” while their knee boroughs into the back of your neck.

Oh yeah, just a reminder, being black in American has been much harder than being a colonist in America ever was.

So let’s make our government smaller but in the right ways: by listening to our people instead of calling in the National Guard, by demilitarizing our police to limit the terror they bring to communities, and by discontinuing thinly veiled phrases like “law and order” that suppress the voices of Americans who most need to get their message out.

To be clear, I am not condoning violence or rioting, but rather the freedoms and privileges I, and other white people, have today were gained through violence. If we aren’t going to address the needs and frustrations of the most vulnerable American citizens, how can we hold them to a higher standard?

Evan Gaudette is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]