Antifa activists (248029)
Credit: CNN

For many who want to #resist against the alt-right and white supremacy, Antifa has emerged as an acceptable counterweight to neo-Nazis. They were lauded by some after they stood up to Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., in August. This mostly white radicalism only concerns me in the ways in which it might affect Black people. My first and last priority is always what is in the best interest of Black people. Antifa has a mystique that is attractive to some of our sisters and brothers who are actively engaged in struggles for freedom and liberation. This mystique might grow as we go further into the abyss of the current administration—as voting rights are curbed and affirmative action programs are eliminated.

There is a history of white radicals, though well intentioned, promoting violence as the solution to the race problem. John Brown, a hero to many, tried unsuccessfully to convince Fredrick Douglass to join his raid on Harper’s Ferry. Frank Joyce, then a white member of the Northern Student Movement, a counterpart of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, expressed a desire for people to confront white supremacy with violence. In a memo to other Northern Student Movement members, Joyce wrote, “I am convinced that in the long run a terrorist campaign against Southern sheriffs would be effective, even though it would be expensive in lives. I do not understand why it hasn’t happened. I am not prepared to start it.” Then and now white radicals have presented violence as a new solution to end the manifestations of white supremacy present during their time. Black people should continue to ignore these white saviors, as Douglass ignored Brown.

In our present struggle for liberation, we are a people divided by semantics and personality rather than tactics. The legacy civil rights organizations march and the youth-led organizations march. Whether on Black Twitter or in the Black church, there is no significant contingent of Black people who is willing to kill our oppressors or attempt to launch a revolution. This nonviolence has been a cross-generational, centuries-long consensus among Black people. From slavery to Trump, Black people in the United States have had to collectively and individually determine whether violence was the best way to achieve freedom, citizenship, equality, liberation or the end of the unjust police killings of Black men, women and children. Most Black people, through a combination of fear and sanity, have chosen to either do nothing or have actively embraced nonviolent tactics and ideologies. The race riots and uprisings of each generation have never turned into revolutions. The Black experience in the United States has produced Nat Turner but no Toussaint L’Ouverture. In the United States, Black people are outnumbered and out-gunned.

Still, there are always those who see violence as a panacea. The people who are most receptive to these revolutionary impulses are the young. The fearlessness and hopefulness of Black youth ignited the sit-in movement of the 1960s. This fearlessness and hopefulness also led to the establishment of groups that promoted armed revolution against the most powerful and well-equipped government on the planet. We must constantly remind ourselves that violence will not end racist policing or attacks to our civil rights. Past generations have tried violent tactics and they failed. Antifa is not dangerous because they pose any threat to the United States—which has a nuclear arsenal. Antifa is dangerous because its ideology may deceive Black youth, who are demoralized by the ascendance of Trump and the continued slaughter of Black women and men by police.