Rep Maxine Waters encouraged citizens in Minneapolis to keep working for justice. In the streets. Yes. And to be more confrontational. Yes. That is good. It is measured.
She is calling for people to do what Americans do at our best: to band together to denounce injustice and demand better from ourselves, our neighbors, and our government. Her comments are completely consistent with the long and proud tradition, and current reality, of people rising up and demanding justice precisely because the system is broken.
Meanwhile, there is a right wing hit job to twist her words into a racist attack on her and on the broad movement for racial justice and to end police brutality. And this hit job will also use the pretext of property damage and other spontaneous violence to dismiss the aroused anger of the whole Black Lives Matter movement. Better yet, a convenient coalescing of apologists, media tongue-cluckers, spineless Democrats, craven Republicans, and racist, White supremeist leaders can pile on to the false story for their own troubling reasons.
Here is but one of dozens of repetitions of the false frame across mainstream media and also the Twitterverse (just check it out).
No, Chris. She channeled the righteous anger of people. Whatever happens that you label as volatile is a result of the failures to deliver justice. Dismissing and belittling the problem makes it more volatile. Not encouraging people to fight for justice non-violently.
Don’t just trust me on this.
Here is EXACTLY what she said. I transcribed it. I know. I did it. And it took me ten minutes of diligent hunting to find her ACTUAL comments, in context, and not just the cherry-picked phrases of “stay in the streets” and to “be confrontational.” Because already, in a short 24 hours, her actual words are buried underneath waves of misleading or false reporting.
MW: We are looking for a guilty verdict. We are looking to see if all the talk that took place and is taking place after we saw what happened to George Floyd, if nothing does not happen, then we know that we have go to not only stay in the street, but we have to fight for justice.
But I am very hopeful, and I hope we are going to get a verdict that will say “guilty, guilty, guilty.” And if we don’t, we cannot go away.
Reporter: not just manslaughter, right?
MW: no, no. Not manslaughter, this is guilty… for murder, (I don’t whether it’s in the first degree) but as far as I am concerned, it is 1st degree.
2nd reporter: Congresswoman, what do we do if we do not get what you just told, what should the people do, what should the protestors on the street do?
MW: I didn’t hear you.
3nd reporter: What should protestors do?
MW: We got to stay on the street. And we’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.
The ONLY way to read this and come away thinking she is calling for violence is if they already believe systemic racism is not a problem and the aroused, angry street protests should go away.
I practice non-violent organizing. I hope that as angry, confrontational, and loud as the street protests become, not a single person smashes a window, starts a fire, or throws a punch. We are also dealing with thousands of people practicing democracy in the most direct way. Neither Maxine Waters nor any BLM leader is organizing or encouraging violence like we saw on #Jan6. To equate them is firstly false. Secondly, it is racist.
Ultimately, Rep Waters’ counsel to stay in the streets and fight for justice is not what matters most. Nor is what the right wing noise machine spits out. Nor are a few moments of random violence (that may even be done by outside agitators).
And, honestly, neither is the verdict in the Chauvin trial. For me, what matters most is that the movement to end racial injustice continues and grows and is as confrontational as is necessary. Because that is the only road to change.
Featured image credit: (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)