#BaltimoreRiots as the Baltimore Hunger Games

#BaltimoreRiots as the Baltimore Hunger Games April 29, 2015

I suggested once before that urban violence is our society’s Hunger Games. And so it doesn’t surprise me that Amandla Stenberg, who played the character Rue in the movie The Hunger Games, tweeted about this topic, and retweeted a tweet that made the comparison explicit.

Hunger Games Baltimore

I had students writing about dystopian fiction as social commentary this semester. When students mentioned the Hunger Games series (as many did), they often talked about how unrealistic it is, and how different from the society they live in.

I asked them pointedly whether that perception is because, in essence, they live in the Capitol.

The divisions in the United States are very noticeable (see these six maps that show how racially divided Baltimore is). It isn’t literally like the districts in the Hunger Games. But if one reads dystopian fiction looking only for precise correspondents, one will miss the point.

A good point came up in discussing the meme that relates the Baltimore riots to the Boston Tea Party. It is one that I mentioned in discussing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Making an economic impact can be a powerful weapon, as was shown in the era of the civil rights movement in the segregated South. While broadly targeted actions can have an impact, often it is those who are least guilty who bear the brunt of the effect. And so we should talk about how to use economic power in a targeted way to effect societal change.

Amandla Stenberg tweets

Of related interest, Jon Stewart also recently used the Hunger Games to address the Baltimore riots.

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  • Sansu the Cat

    I’ve been hearing “The Hunger Games” analogy to the recent riots a lot. Though the details may not all be the same, I understood that both cases involved marginalized peoples expressing anger, fear, sadness, and frustration against an unjust system. I can’t say that I’d applaud the rioters (since I consider rioting bad strategy), but as a fellow black man, I try to understand their suffering and hopelessness. That’s one thing I took away from “The Hunger Games” in relation to today’s racial issues, that responses to oppression take on all kinds of forms. Not all of them occur in ways that we’d most like to see. Some are ugly, some are tragic.

  • James, do you support the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon? Any good spin-meister could spin it as an act of brave revolutionaries forcing attention on issues most Americans generally ignore (such as U.S. troops on the Arabian peninsula) the only way Americans understand. Why or why not?

    • I don’t think that one can so easily isolate the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Civil disobedience and peaceful protests over the very real and legitimate issue of police brutality should be encouraged. But as a liberal, I’ll say way too many ivory tower liberals romanticize riot violence. Burning down a working class person’s store is not legitimate or tolerable. Gunning down a police officer with 3 young children from a rooftop is not legitimate or tolerable (this isn’t Baltimore-specific). That’s the act of cowards and criminals.

    Legitimate protests and riot violence should not be considered on the same plane