Do me a favor. Think about what it would take for you to leave your house, during a global pandemic nonetheless, to protest in the streets.
But first, I’ll make a few assumptions about you.
1. You are a good and moral person
2. You are intelligent and understand the basic risks and benefits of your decisions
3. You would much prefer to go through the appropriate legal and political means to have your concerns addressed
Think about the neighborhood you live in now. Let’s say you have lived in your neighborhood a long while and know most of your neighbors. If you don’t call them friends, you at least know many in passing. There are a few bad seeds there, but on the whole, you are surrounding by good, hardworking people. They are honest. They want to make the best life possible for their families. They go to work faithfully, even though their job isn’t glamorous. Their work is honest. They love deeply. They laugh from their belly at a good joke. they make it to church when they can, maybe not every Sunday, but definitely on holidays.
Now imagine one of you neighbors gets killed. It shakes the community. You mourn. Before that neighbor is buried, another is killed. And another. Now imagine every few weeks or months, you learn another person is your neighborhood has been killed.
Imagine that several of the murders occurred in broad daylight, and even more, they were filmed.
In fact, imagine that every time you open your computer, read or watch TV or go on social media, you see video of one of your neighbors being murdered in broad daylight.
A reasonable person might first turn to the police for help. They would rely on the police to protect and serve them, find the the persons responsible, and bring them in front of judge and jury to pay for the crimes.
Now imagine learning that the police are the ones murdering your neighbors. You know because you literally watched it on more than one video. It’s irrefutable.
This is confusing to you. You know that there are hundreds of cops out there, and not all can be had, right?
That’s true, on one hand. One the other, you have no actual way of determining which cops are legitimately there to protect you and which may kill you for reasons that are unclear to you.
Now imagine, your local politicians and court know what is happening. You reach out to the for help. You write letters, make phone calls, show up to their townhalls in person to ask for their help in addressing the murders in your neighborhood.
Nothing is happening. You can’t figure out why your concerns aren’t being taking seriously. It doesn’t make sense.
Until you learn that the courts and politicians side with the cops. Secretly, and maybe even subconsciously, they all think your neighborhood had it coming. You live on the wrong side of the tracks after all.
They don’t see the humanity of you or your neighbors. They see you as problem people, delinquents and use that belief to justify their murders in their mind. And at the end of the day, they go home to safe and secure neighborhoods. They tuck their children in secure beds. They walk down their sidewalks and wave and smile to the police they see. Having never experienced a cop murdering someone like them in cold blood, they question YOU and your sanity, not that of the police force.
You’d be outraged.
You’d also be desperate.
You’d turn to other neighbors and start organizing. You have little power but you have to try. You can’t sit there and do nothing when you or your mother, brother, daughter or son could be killed next.
All the while, there is more and more video, more and more evidence the the police will kill you at a moments notice.
You rage on social media – people stop following you and assume you are a conspiracy theorist.
You rage to people from other neighborhoods – they saw the same video that you did, and they either 1) assume the fault is your neighbor’s and ask what he did to get killed or 2) tell you to go to the cops (how?), local politicians or courts (ignoring the fact that that you’ve tried that now for months-years with no hint of traction).
Now imagine you had exhausted every traditional means to have your concerns addressed you could think of. And the murders keep coming. Relentlessly.
Time is running out. Your family is next. You are screaming at the top of your lungs to be seen until your throat is raw.
Eventually, you would go insane.
Eventually, you would reach the point of saying “fuck this”. You’d see the writing on the wall, and realize that no meaningful change is going to come from traditional means. It’s impossible, especially when your legislatures, politicians and people from other neighborhoods spend their time wondering if you and your neighbors are even worthy of NOT being murdered. Afterall, they don’t know your neighbors how you do. They haven’t bothered.
That’s why they’re rioting.
Not because they are trying to change the system anymore. Because they have accepted that change is impossible now. And they are waiting for their turn to be killed, or someone in their family.
And that is a horrifying reality to live with.
So you can act smug, stare down your nose and pontificate and comment on what “those animals” should being doing instead of rioting to be heard and seen.
But know this. They’ve collectively, already done everything you are condescendingly suggesting.
None of it worked.
Rioting is not a beginning stage action. It is a late stage one. The protestors you see are in deep pain. They are traumatized by this system. They have been destroyed and defeated not just by the policital and legal system, they have been cut down to nothing from people like you. From their fellow human beings, who they have turned to for support. And you spit in their face. You turned your back on them because it makes you UNCOMFORTABLE.
It makes you uncomfortable to think this country isn’t as just as you were raise to believe it is.
It makes you uncomfortable to think that things are as bad as Black people are telling you they are.
So you have closed your eyes, and turned your back on us. Because it’s easier. Because YOUR family is safe, and you don’t have actual skin on the game.
Shame on you.
So don’t you dare criticize how someone is responding to the systemized extermination of their community and near constant trauma DAILY, unless you yourself have rolled up your sleeves and you have been fighting right beside them seeking justice on their behalf.
Until then, you are a charlatan. You are smug. You are part of the problem.
You are a lot of things, but your hands are far from clean.