I don’t condone the violence or the rioting. It’s wrong and it’s terrible and it’s gut-wrenching to watch my country descend into chaos.
I simply made an ill-advised attempt to re-direct certain people’s attention away from the rioting and back to the source of the protests. (Don’t ask me why I did it. I’d made myself a promise only yesterday that I would NOT engage on this issue. Oh, who was I kidding, of course I’m going to engage.)
I tried to remind someone that there is undeniable, systemic racism in our country and that’s what we should be focused on. “Let’s not let ourselves get sidetracked here,” I said. “The continued, systematic denial of human rights is the real problem. Let’s direct our outrage there.”
Focusing our outrage and our attention on the lawlessness of the rioting is simply a way for certain people to deflect attention away from the important matters of the moment. They allow us to turn our minds and our energy away from the work that must be done to begin to unravel the generations of hate and racial trauma that have gone unaddressed for so long in this country.
And what response did I get? Inevitably, predictably, it was: “So you approve of the violence?”
Of course I don’t. No one is defending the looting or the rioting or the attacks on innocent people or their property. No one is saying that that is right.
And a lot of it is coming from extremists (on both sides of the political spectrum) who are using this moment of civil unrest to insight violence to further various agendas. And that’s a different subject. (We need to be able to multitask here, folks).
But for sure, some of the violence is coming from people who are simply angry and letting loose their rage on anyone and anything they can.
So you ask me do I approve? No, I don’t approve, but I understand.
It’s a stupid question.
A better question, and one I would put to you is: “What did you expect was going to happen?”
What did you expect would happen after decades –generations!– of oppression? After generations of inequality? After generations of abuse? After generations of people of color being treated (literally) as second-class citizens in the country that they built with their own hands, their own back-breaking labor only to be systematically denied a share of the prosperity?
What did you think was going to happen when white America elected a man who continuously insights racial violence? Who surrounds himself with advisors who are avowed nationalists? Who does nothing but continue to deepen the economic divide between the haves and the have-nots?
What did you think was going to happen when peaceful protests against mass-incarceration and other racial injustices by Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players were called treason, and players were told to shut up and be grateful that they were payed to play a game for the entertainment of the masses like so many 21st century gladiators.
What did you think was going to happen after a global pandemic laid bare the heartbreaking deficiencies in the health and access to health-care of the African-American community in this country?
What did you think was going to happen when one of the daily acts of police brutality perpetrated against people of color was inevitably captured on video and then shared with the world? When yet another black man was murdered at the hands of a police force that has a propensity towards racially motivated violence, while other members of the force looked on and did nothing? You knew it would happen; it happens every day.
What was your plan for when the dam finally, inevitably broke? What did you plan to do to protect yourself and your property from the rage?
Or did you think that your position of privilege was going to go on forever? That you were going to be able to continue to push a marginalized community farther and farther into poverty, humiliation, and degradation and they were never going to turn their rage against you?
Oh, sorry. Stupid question.