I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “by all means necessary,” used by Malcolm X in 1964 and echoed by those fighting for freedom, justice and equality. Although the phrase disturbs me, especially when used in the context of the recent actions of Hamas, I’ve seen a lot of folks who have condemned those actions while ignoring the violence Palestinians have endured for far too long. I’ve seen aspiring peacemakers failing to analyze the power differential in conflict situations. The violence oppressed people endure is often invisible and normalized, and then, when they respond with violence, their violence is condemned.
I believe the phrase “by all means necessary” reveals a lot about what is required of those of us who long for peace. If I were living in the days of chattel slavery, I don’t think my place would have been to argue with enslaved folks that their resistance should be nonviolent, but instead to do everything I could to end the violence of the slaveholders and the economic/ideological system in which slavery was embedded. Likewise, as a white American Christian, I need to advocate for an end to the ways that U.S. Christian Zionism is financing and providing cover for the violence Israel is committing in Gaza. If we who want to see conflict resolved nonviolently were less silent about and less complicit in the everyday violence that oppressed or colonized people endure, then maybe violence would not seem to be necessary for them to get freedom, justice and equality.
Pamela Nath, New Orleans