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vigilante violence within the context of transformative justice

to which extents are vigilante violence allowed and mandated and disallowed within contexts of transformative justice?

ziggy farrow walker.

hey all! it been a while.

i just got off the phone with my sister actually. when we were younger, she and my twin and i used to fight and fight and fight. til we were all screaming and crying- and bleeding sometimes. we agreed never to speak to each other again almost every week on the yard after school. all very carceral. when we got a little older and stopped fighting, we recognized our earlier contention as trauma bonding and attribution error. we weren’t ever mad at each other- we were mad at our parents who didn’t parent and left us to fill the space instead; we were mad at our grandmother who viewed her relationship to us transactionally and was quite racist and colorist herself. the thing causing us stress and harm was something inaccessible for us to rectify and heal and address, so we picked a different target and addressed (attack) that instead. so many times when society hits us with rocks we simply pick those rocks up and hit them back or throw them at somebody else, but that’s not how we heal the problem and collectively grow away from it toward better things.

when we got a little older, we consciously realized and came to terms with the fact that we were more directly upset with the system that helped instill these ideas in nanna than with nanna- because addressing our problems accurately is the best first correct step to hopefully mending our problems accurately. we realized we could maneuver this colorism to our relative pragmatism though; call it harm reduction: if we get in trouble at school, if something breaks blame it on my twin and i, who are lighter than she; if something needs to be shoplifted, leave it to my twin and i (we are very good)- worst-case scenario, we will suffer less than she. this is the safest, -or rather, least dangerous,- option to which we could maneuver the systemic violence in proximity to which we had no autonomy or choice but to be placed. this practice is not the extent of our love and of building each other, because it takes more than absence of harm for a relationship to work and be stable; harm reduction is, however, one practice involved in the equation of love and in the equation of creating an environment where sustainable love can be realized. there are three kinds of violence in this story: systemic violence (of nanna and of the lack of better options than our nonparental figures), violence (the three of us fighting), and pointed radical violence (our harm reduction). 

the second option can be considered a rough approximation of certain less ethical or unethical unprincipled vigilantisms, while the third option can be considered more disciplined and principled vigilantism. all of these exist in relation to a systemic projection of violence onto the hegemonically defined “deviant” and “criminal;” in relation to the increased pressure and decreased optionality that it creates; and most largely/influentially/importantly, the ceaseless violence that the hegemony oppresses on the communities it, um, oppresses.

we must first define vigilantism and sustainable vigilantism as to be collectively understood, for the next bit of writing at least. in the following it is important to disconnect from the negative connotations with which the term vigilantism is usually associated. it is important to remember that vigilantism is not methodology that should be associated with those who do not possess or deserve (almost everyone deserves) discipline or respect. it is often engaged in by those who are at the bottom of the social ladder, and so by those who tend to have fewer “legitimate” options to rectification as well as sometimes a better view and analysis of the inequity within that society. it is a very broad term of which little qualifications can be made without first getting even more specific.

and before we illustrate these types of violence,  (“legitimate” violence on which the state has a monopoly, violence of/for survival, and violence of/for liberation), let’s qualify vigilantism. vigilantism for our purposes can be understood as a practice of extralegal and extra legitimate activities including violence -outside public oversight and outside the hegemonic system- for the purpose of enforcing a particular system of ethics and protection of at least a group associated with those ethics, or at least the aim of rectifying or bringing restitution for a past wrong. in one way or many, it is about balancing the scales. this has occurred in the past with varying success, that success being determined largely by a particular system of security and ethics and values within that vigilante group, -or within such system for which they are fighting- and the sustainability and degree of the wholistic nature of that system. 

a good historical example to illustrate all three types of violence aforementioned (“legitimate” violence on which the state has a monopoly, violence of/for survival, and violence of/for liberation), where access to agency was not equally matched by capacity to balance and direct that agency correctly can be found in the history of the black panther party, a group which outside california and new york and arizona prisons/in the present day/for the most part is no longer active. the reasons for its current activity and lack of activity are most directly due to imperial government terrorism, but also due to the excessive dogmatism within the party that created a reductive cult of masculinity, a reductive hierarchical security culture, and an inability to receive criticism. it is for these reasons that two radical collectives split off from the party: the black liberation army and the combahee river collective, who better recognized that decisions to the greatest extent possible should be made by consensus with information and analyses that to the greatest extent possible is accessible who exist in service not just to liberation from something but in liberation to a well-defined well-communicated communally understood/adapted/elaborated model that is collective. while security is necessary for collective self-defense and optimization of principle, that self, and those principles are indeed collective and very importantly evolving and adaptable, as opposed to static. there must be security in security, and guarding against excessive guarding. 

this is because the model intends to eventually exist in increasing stability and openness, and must plan for that. this is, in approximate Marxist terms, the “socialism” -transitional period whereby we see the stable erasure of a particular unstable unsustainable inequitable system as we pass into one ubiquitously and transformatively supportive- of organizing (and in this context, of vigilante violence).  vigilante violence, radical violence especially, is concerned with creating a world where it is -to maximum capacity- irrelevant and nonexistent. this means that it exists in support of sustainability as opposed to carcerally or to sustain itself. vigilante violence aims at the problem; it does not ever hit rocks or pick up those rocks and throw them again. the only times it is ever not directly aiming at the problem is when it must do something in the immediate to help get to a point of sustainability in order to be eating away at the problem again. these times are known as immediate self-defense and harm reduction. you do what you have to in order to survive in order to hopefully live. in the context of direct armed revolution and uprising, we must remember and respect and honor these points, and these: the first punch is never justified but the second punch always is. meaning: fighting and fighting back are two different things. to repeat: vigilante violence, radical violence especially, is concerned with creating a world where it is -to maximum capacity- irrelevant and nonexistent.

i have been and will continue to be a part of a few reoccupations, which, depending on their dialectical material conditions and culture, are of varying positions regarding violence and/or nonviolence. and all reoccupations are social experiments which ask: what has been robbed from us by colonialism that we can rebuild, and additionally, how can we sustainably add to that (because society is not static)? and each reoccupation, depending on their culture and dialectical material conditions, answers this question differently. i use a broad definition of violence -beyond the immediately physical- as anything that causes or leads to forced pain and/or suffering, either temporarily or long term. however, i do recognize that utopia is impossible and undesirable. part of how society develops and is made better, part of how new solutions are reached, is through conflict. it is impossible, then, to get rid of violence. so something that has been missing is a school of violence: from the various contexts in which violence is or can be justified or is the best next step on the path to healing and growth, to how to comprehend and determine when this is the case or not. that essay/checklist will come after my next stage of transformative justice training, which brings me to my next point. we have already used a few terms associated therewith (harm reduction, elimination of attribution error, elimination to the greatest extent possible of the carceral, pointed radical violence, relation to vigilante violence), but i need to define transformative justice. 

Transformative Justice understands the individual and society, just like the body and mind, are not two distinctly separate things; stable sustainable fostering-of-evolution healing of the individual does not occur without healing of the society; the public is the persxnal is the political. In my own words, the question it asks (and answers differently depending on dialectical material conditions and culture of the people involved/concerned) is this: how can we make our communities better as we are made better by our communities? 

so as someone who is NOT nonviolent in work or study or theory or praxis, and as someone who has worked with and continues to work with -where ethically and responsibly and respectfully possible- nonviolent movement workers/with nonviolent collectives, it has come to my attention that it is important for each collective to better define and qualify vigilante violence in relation to the extent to which it is allowed and disallowed and mandated and progressively ceased within their context of transformative justice. how can violence exist, and progressively to the greatest extent possible cease to exist, in a fight based in ethical and responsible and respectful and conscious unconditional -the above qualifiers are the way to best love unconditionally- love? i have conjured and considered the following prequel to a later how to.

radical violence is a better term for what i mean specifically, but in theory, this should apply to any vigilantism- cuz it should be thinking that it is fighting for the correct way. vigilantism, radical violence most importantly, -to an extent greater than that to which organizing must be oriented/concerned-, is about creating a world where vigilantism (again, specifically/especially a praxis of radical violence) is as much as possible not required or used. its tryna extinctify itself because it is a model used only against a hegemonically LARGER enemy that we aim to extinctify; it has to be used within the context of transformative justice and to those ideals and for that timeline. as radicals, we want to illegitimize the state monopoly on violence and more importantly monopoly on responses to violence (type 1)- it is the monopoly on responses to violence that reinforces and misinforms and helps create a monopoly on violence in addition to the instability and coloniality underlying violence in our communities (type 2) as we, more importantly, use violence type 3 (only wherever necessary) to help us create a world in which all three types are minimized to the greatest extent possible (type 1 hopefully completely and type 2 nearly completely). 

this violence must be enacted in accordance with the principles of the collective and for liberation and according to a few more specific questions that Transformative Justice asks and has answered differently depending. those questions, as articulated by myself, are as follows.

1: what ethics guide our collective as we discuss the harm that has occurred and how to address it, and how do we see or at least be open to those ethics evolving as we discuss and address it?

2: what happened? how did each perceive what happened? how was each affected and how does each feel in regards to?

3:  as much as possible, what can we do to safely and sustainably and stably repair the harm that has been done?

4: most importantly, what can we do within and without ourselves as well as to and for our community to preclude this type of harm from happening again as on the road to precluding all unnecessary violence (violence not necessary for our liberation and not rooted in our radical grounding and praxis and collective statement/values) from occurring within our community and within ourselves as we exist internally and as we interact with our community and with other communities? how and why can we enhance our community to support its members from causing future harm and to heal its members? why and how do we support each other in supporting healing and reduction of harm wherever and whenever we have access and capacity to do so?

5: considering 1: that the self is culturally and communally and collectively and environmentally created, 2: that culture is the first method of self-defense, 3: that especially in radical (or at the very least anti-imperial) contexts the self is often something communal and not distinctly/discreetly separate from the symbiotic world culturally created; how and why do these questions and our ethics and culture and dialectical material conditions inform and create the extent of the self defended by self-defense?

6: why and how have we ourselves, collectively and individually, evolved and how has our praxis and ethics evolved?

if it sounds like a rehab circle, that’s because partially it is- only it goes beyond rehabilitation to transformation. another quote of mine that people have enjoyed: “western” society is like meth; destructive, all-consuming, addictive, and white. 

but, people and situations can change for the better if they are supported in doing so: the better, the better. rehab and recovery and withdrawal and healing and evolution is a bitch. but its our bitch, and nigga- don even be finna front, cuz we they bitch too. then the last question we must ask ourselves before we make the decision of whether or not the situation necessitates ethical violence is an elaboration of the first question/saying of mine on transformative justice, is the following: how and why is this the most healing, or at the very minimum, the least harmful next step or steps of healing and then transforming ourselves/our community for the better of our community/ourselves?

thats it for the eleven oclock news. back to you, steve.

steve? oh jeez.

oh jeez somebody call steve. fuck it let’s go shoot the manager. 

allegedly ahaha you right nigga shoot ya heard me ahaha naw boss im just playin. ahaha you gotcha glock? aigt lets wipe a nigga nose then. 

shit turn off the damn ca-.

gn tay. hopefully teachers learn one day that they should check on the funny kids and the bullies and the kids who stay late. and hopefully we figure this time management thing out sooner or later (i write at 11:59pm). 

last question: when someone says ‘this is justice,’ always make sure to ask- ‘for who?’


good sources for readers to check out:

baldwin, james, director. “who is the nigge*?”. take this hammer. kqed, 1963,

blackpast. “(1977) the combahee river collective statement•.”, 29 aug. 2019,

california coalition against sexual assault. “what does transformative justice look like? survivor-focused, trauma-informed, & community accountability to ending sexual violence.” california coalition against sexual assault, 18 apr. 2017,

coordinating committee: the black liberation army. “message to the black movement: a political statement from the black underground,” bla.

creative interventions. “section 2. some basics everyone should know.” creative interventions toolkit: a practical guide to stop interpersonal violence, creative interventions, 2012, pp. 2–1-2–49. creative interventions,

generation five, “toward transformative justice: a liberatory approach to child sexual abuse and other forms of intimate and community violence::- call to action for the left and the sexual and domestic violence sectors.” june 2007.

maldonado-torres, nelson. ‘on the coloniality of being’, cultural studies, 21:2, 240 – 270

doi: 10.1080/09502380601162548

newton, huey p. “war against the panthers: a study of repression in america.” uc santa cruz, 1980, pp. 1–105,

nocella ii, anthony j. “an overview of the history and theory of transformative justice.” peace & conflict review, vol. 6, no. 1, 2011, pp. 1–11., ISSN: 1659-3995.

philly stands up, and critical resistance. “accountability road map.” the abolitionist, no. 16, n.d., pp. 7–8.,

thirdeyecollective. “if black women were free: practising transformative justice in black communities.” third eye collective, third eye collective, 5 sept. 2016,

“thomas sankara: the upright man.” thomas sankara: the upright man, youtube , 9 aug. 2013,

note this, from thomas sankara- “he who feeds you controls you.”

young women’s empowerment project. “girls do what they have to to survive: illuminating methods used by girls in the sex trade and street economy to fight back and heal:: a participatory action research study of resistance and resilience.” young women’s empowerment project, 2009,

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