"My grandmother's grandmother was a slave. I spent many years living with her. I wasn't consciously processing how slavery impacted her life - but my grandmother was open about her feelings towards white people. Slavery passed down a trauma to me that people outside the African-American community fail to understand. We're 'trained to go' in the Bay Area - a lot of Black families here came from the South - we react instinctively to being made to feel inferior."
In line with this, prison therapist, James Gilligan, has noted that at the base of most violent acts is a presence of a profound feeling of disrespect. People tend to commit violent acts when they feel disrespected, and they don't feel as though there is any other way to gain that respect back.
But this is a society that doesn't hesitate to disrespect the disadvantaged, whether the disadvantaged in question are the poor, people of color, individuals labeled by the state as criminals, or other vulnerable individuals or groups. Oftentimes, on the part of those most vulnerable, the attitude that violence is the answer doesn't seem that unreasonable.
This demand is unidirectional. The oppressed don't have the resources to show unconditional love; they are busy surviving. The oppressors have all the resources. Let's start with debt forgiveness and the end of state violence. We are busy holding our breath.
But conditional love, or the attitude that you will only get my love if you show me love and respect back on my terms, only works if we are already on equal footing. In an unequal society, someone has to give first.
Unconditional love and respect should not be expected from the oppressed, but it should be expected from the oppressors.