But why burn and loot Target? — A psychoanalyst approach to Black Lives Matter

How are Geroge Floyd Protests turning to crime and violence?

The burning of Minneapolis police station during George Floyd riots, May. 28, 2020

After the eruption of a revolution, the state usually advocates that protesters are violent public disturbers who threaten the stability of the nation. That they’re thieves, vandalists, and destructors of property. This happens in all state-owned media in countries where people revolted against the regime like Algeria and Syria, But it didn’t happen in the United States, only because the only state-owned media left is Donald Trump’s Twitter account.

The president tweeted to suggest the army could be deployed to combat protests over the death of a black man in Minneapolis.

We might fall for this oppressor narrative ourselves. But let’s try to bypass any psychological biases for us to believe this and put ourselves in the shoes of the oppressed to look at things more objectively. In order to sympathize with the oppressed, we need to rewire our brains in defining violence. The struggle of classes and the constant battle to define equality and freedom are all fought in violent means on both sides. The media, if it belongs to the oppressor, promotes the idea that violent reactions are a disruption of peace and stability, but disregards the fundamental fact that peace and stability is a privilege of one group over the other in order to maintain its power.

What causes violent reactions to oppression?

In his book “Why Men Rebel?” Tedd Gurr explained that frustration can turn into violence when “relative deprivation”, a term he coined, is prolonged and more sharply felt. According to Gurr, “Relative Deprivation” is the discrepancy between what people think they deserve, and what they actually think they can get. Gurr’s hypothesis is that “The potential for collective violence varies strongly with the intensity and scope of relative deprivation among members of a collectivity.” Collective violence is the different forms that a revolution can violently manifest itself. Notice how we said that Relative Deprivation is between what people think they deserve and what they actually think they can get. The value we give to ourselves is defined by our minds and it defines our behavior. In the chapter Concerning Violence in The Wretched of The Earth, Black Psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon says:

“The native discovers that his life, his breath, his beating heart, are the same as those of the settler. He finds out that the settler skin is not of any more value as of the native skin. And it must be said that this discovery shakes the world in a very necessary manner; the new revolutionary assurance of the native stems from it. For if, in fact, my life is worth as much as the settler; his glance no longer shivers me or freezes me. And his voice no longer turns me into stone. I am no longer on tenterhooks in his presence. In fact, I don’t give a damn for him. Not even does his presence no longer trouble me but I am already preparing such efficient ambushes for him that soon there will be no way out but that of light.”

Once the native thinks that he deserves more than he thinks he can get, violence erupts. In this case, it’s not negative violence, it is the Algerian war of independence and freedom from 1954 to 1962.

Angela Davis on Violence and Revolution, 1972

Now let’s think about the types of frustrations that may lead to “Relative deprivation.” Black rights activist and scholar Angela Davis explains the continuous microaggressions against black people that most importantly cause those reactions we find violent — if, using the ideas of Gurr, they are “prolonged and sharply felt.” —. Violence, according to Davis, is already existent in society every day. It is in the interpersonal language, the treatment of kids of color as adults, cultural appropriation, mass incarceration, education funding from property taxes, tone policing, Eurocentric beauty standards, the hostility of white people towards blacks; well presented in the underlying stereotypes that create unjustified psychological criminalization of black people, etc. Ultimately, it is the unequal allocation of resources between these two racial groups that cause Relative Deprivation. For example, by taking policies and rights to be forms of resources: the unequal allocation of the right to life and protection was exposed after the murder of George Floyd, which lead to the collective realization of Relative Deprivation in the black community of Minneapolis.

Angela Davis, radical African American scholar and activist for civil rights.

In May. 5 — Mayor of Minneapolis acknowledged these causalities by saying “[The emotion-ridden conflict witnessed] over the last 2 days […] is the result of so much built-up anger and sadness. Anger and sadness that has been engrained in our black community not just because of 5 minutes of [filmed] horror, but for 400 years. If you’re feeling that sadness and that anger, it’s not only understandable; it is right.”

By zooming out, we are able to apply these theories of Relative Deprivation and micro violence to protests that don’t fall into the black struggle for equality; including the revolutionary thrusts in the Middle East and North Africa. By understanding that if you criticize forms of violent revolutions, it is a sign of belonging to a privileged group where your expectations are met by the institutions that constitutionally serve you. So before you get mad at the state for spreading propaganda that revolutionaries are violent disruptors of peace, think about how privilege blinds people out of sympathy (and relative deprivation) and strategize accordingly.

Update: I’m going to leave you with this

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