A banana is a fruit, but a fruit is not necessarily a banana. Likewise, those in the black bloc are anti-fascists, but anti-fascists—antifa—are not necessarily black bloc. Woody Guthrie, George Orwell, the U.S. military in World War II and the Black Panther Party were all decidedly anti-fascist. Fascism is bad, and we should all identify as unquestionably anti-fascist. However, not everyone agrees with the intimidating all-black, ski-mask style of those in the black bloc or the tactics they are known to deploy.
I am not here to criticize those who choose to go out into the streets and work with anti-fascists in the black bloc. Criticizing black bloc is easy. Someone breaks a window, it doesn’t sit well with us. We see black bloc brawling with people in the street and that just doesn’t suit our tastes. However, they have zero tolerance for racism, transphobia, misogyny, and the suppression of the working class which are all values that modern humans should embrace. Sure, the core ideology of those in the black bloc is certainly progressive and many of them have a distaste for capitalism, but participants in the anti-fascist black bloc are putting their bodies and criminal records on the line regularly to fight for the rights of all people to enjoy a life free of oppression.
How are you combating racism and fascism?
Literal white supremacists are marching in the streets. In Charlottesville, an imperial wizard of the KKK shouted a racial slur then fired a gun into a crowd of protesters but was only charged for firing a gun close to a school. Heather Heyer died after a white supremacist ran her and many others over with his car. Anti-fascists in the black bloc are going out and confronting people who have such hateful perspectives or are creating safe places for this vitriol to be espoused proudly and publicly, and I am not going to tell them not to because a few windows were broken and a limousine was set on fire.
People say they don’t want to show up to protest in case black bloc is there. Those people are not showing up, but anti-fascists in the black bloc are. People say there are better ways to create change, and I want to know how active those people are in fighting to create change through their idealized methodologies. Black bloc is in the streets punching self-proclaimed white nationalists, and you are on your couch complaining about it.
There are ways to lobby your local governments and police forces to make proper changes so that marginalized people don’t have to be terrorized by torch-wielding white racists chanting “blood and soil” escorted by police. Are you actively putting your body on the line for those causes? Black bloc can often be heard chanting, “all cops are bastards,” but is it hard to disagree with them when police arrest anti-racists but give actual racists rides and escorts?
Stop waiting for the perfect protest to show up
Over 100,000 people marched in Portland for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, and people really like that it was 100 percent peaceful. But those 100,000 pink pussy hats aren’t showing up to tell Joey Gibson that his acceptance of white nationalism is not appropriate in Portland. Those 100,000 nasty women and their allies aren’t showing up to protest unjustified killings of marginalized people that go unpunished. Black bloc is showing up to do the work we all should be doing, and for that, we should thank them.
Martin Luther King Jr. is everyone’s favorite civil rights leader, but people often forget that he too understood why riots happen: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” We also overlook that Dr. King spoke also about capitalism as being built upon the backs of slaves. In regard to those who are not racist but advocate for the racists’ right to assemble, King was disappointed in you for being more committed to order than to justice. Unlike the moderates, black bloc seems much more committed to justice than order.
The world is not binary. Perhaps the word fascist is overused, but there are not good people on both sides. If I have to choose between a broken window or fragile white men chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” I will choose the broken window and Richard Spencer’s broken nose every goddamn time. We didn’t debate ourselves out of slavery. We didn’t end the Holocaust with some good talking points. We did it by any means necessary.