On Thursday members of the Black Student Alliance held a documentary screening on the chaos that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri to encourage awareness and discussion on the nature of institutional racism and its expression through police brutality.
The documentary film Whose Streets? traces the development of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement from the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown and the Ferguson protests which followed. In the film, raw footage of the unrest in Ferguson was juxtaposed with mainstream media coverage, which focused on violence and property damage, to highlight key narrative differences in how the community’s efforts to express their pain were expressed.
Questions on the influence of selective media coverage, what constitutes as violence and what place it occupies in the BLM movement were discussed during the panel forum following the screening.
The ability to determine whether an act is violent, according to Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies Kwame Holmes, is a question of power. Holmes explained that the self-defense narrative, as used by the policeman who shot Michael Brown as well as other officers, constitutes as nonviolent due to the influence of the state.
“If we find there’s only some people whose injuries count and some people who can say what violence is and what isn’t, then that may be the point of the movement in the first place,” Holmes said.
Panelist Lisa Calderon, Co-Chair of the Colorado Latino Forum, referenced the film’s opening quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “A riot is the language of the unheard,” in her explanation of the necessity for context in evaluating whether violence can be justified as a means of expressing discontent.
“Let’s understand why people may be resorting to [violence] because it’s often a reaction to something,” Calderon said.
While giving credence to the message behind the movement, panel members also discussed ways to improve its delivery and effectiveness.
“We have to think broader than [direct action], we have to think of alternatives to create peaceful solutions. And that doesn’t mean that we’re pacifists or that we back down,” Calderon said.
The forum ended by encouraging white audience members to stand as productive allies through initiating conversation about racism within families and white communities. Education on the histories of colonialism and institutionalized racism were also encouraged as vehicles to promote better understanding.
Contact CU Independent General News Editor Heidi Harris at email@example.com.