A history of white rioting in America.
White people have rioted because their favorite sports team won. They have rioted because their favorite sports team lost. White people have rioted because they were at a pumpkin festival. White people have rioted because they couldn’t buy their kid’s favorite toy. White people have rioted because they hate disco. White people have rioted because a Guns N Roses concert ended earlier than it was supposed to. White people have rioted because black children were going to the same schools as their white children. White people have rioted because they went to Woodstock 99. White people have rioted because black business were more successful than white businesses (if you’re not familiar with the Tulsa massacre, you should probably go learn about it immediately–today is the 99th anniversary). And just a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of armed white people shut down the Michigan state legislature because they wanted business to open back up, no matter who might die as a result.
Black people, historically, tend to riot when their anger at being murdered and/or oppressed reaches a boiling point.
The violence in this country starts at the top. The United States is built on violence and bloodshed, usually directed toward those least able to defend themselves. The law in this country doesn’t protect black people, and the idea of justice is a sick joke. Police forces are equipped with state of the art weapons and gear, and every fall I’m given a list of things my school needs to help take care of our children. Last week, the university in my town began announcing budget cuts–furloughs, hiring freezes, the elimination of people’s jobs. They didn’t mention anything about cutting funding for the campus police. In the next year, we’re going to hear all about the things we can’t afford, because of the economy, because of the debt, but you bet your ass there’s always going to be money for the police. They’ll probably try to use everything that’s happened this week to justify why they need new shiny tanks or whatever.
Make no mistake about it. We live in a police state, a police state that serves white supremacy, with far too many white supremacists in its ranks. Protesters may have smashed some property, but police have been smashing people. They have been smashing journalists. And they have instigated more violence than any protester could dream of.
The same people who were okay with people’s grandmothers dying because “we” needed to go back to work are out here this weekend crying over some buildings.
I feel like the anger on display this week goes deeper than what happened to George Floyd. There is a lot to be angry about in this country, if you’re black, if you’re poor, if you’re powerless, if you’re a human being capable of empathy towards others, and it’s all coming out. 40% of poor people lost their jobs in the last two months, and nobody cares. The virus disproportionately kills poor people, and not only does nobody care, some white people think that means we should open everything back up. How are people going to pay their rent tomorrow? What’s going to happen in July when their unemployment runs out? There are a lot of things to be angry about in this country. There has been for a long time.
It’s worth remembering that, back in 1968, a student strike at a Paris University began in May, and culminated less than two weeks later in the entire country shutting down and the President fleeing the country.
The mayors and governors who allowed the police violence to happen last night are gutless cowards. The only out-of-control violent rioters I saw this weekend were cops. But then I see that on my twitter feed, not on my news station. While I was watching WSB in Atlanta Friday night, they didn’t talk to a single protester. They didn’t even mention there was a police station in the CNN building. They worried about police safety, but didn’t mention anything about George Floyd, about US history, about the history of the south, about why people might be angry. But they worried about the police. They must have mentioned those throw water bottles a hundred times. Even the article I read on The Guardian about last night’s violence didn’t mention a single instance of police violence. It just ran through a list of buildings damaged by protesters.
It would seem the only thing the government cares about at the moment is exerting their control over masses of people whose only value, in their eyes, is their value as a cheap source of labor that they can exploit.
Don’t talk to me about voting. The mayors of Minneapolis, NYC, and Atlanta are Democrats. Obama’s Dept. Of Justice didn’t bring charges against a single cop in eight years. How exactly do you vote out a police force? Or elect a different policeman? And don’t talk to me about peaceful protest vs. violent protest. Colin Kaepernick protested peacefully, and my family and I were ordered to stand for the national anthem at a goddamn minor league hockey game in Greenville, South Carolina. The only form of protest these people, the powerful and the bootlickers of the powerful, approve of is the protest they’re able to ignore, the protest that allows things to continue exactly as they are.
Anyone who’s ever been to a protest can tell you that they’re messy. They can be as chaotic, and confusing (and boring, like realllly boring), as life itself. People are going to make mistakes. People are going to overreact. Some people are going to get a little giddy on the rush, the feeling of power and the possibility to change things, and maybe start knocking some shit over. Vandalism is fun. I’m not saying it’s right. But it’s definitely fun. For that matter, so is shoplifting. Those days are behind me, but I’m just saying I get it. I totally get it.
The truth is, if we had a functioning society, a democracy where people’s voices could be heard, where they felt like their voices, even their humanity, was valued, you wouldn’t have people in the street. You wouldn’t have violent cops acting out the violence of the state. If you don’t like what you’re seeing on your TV this weekend–even if you’re just worried about your sacred piggy-piggy police people–there are other things that can be done besides calling in the police.
But then this is America, where it seems the only solution our governments can imagine, when confronted with a problem, is cruelty. These protests are completely rational, and sadly inevitable. It didn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our governments, and the minority of people who have placed them in power, created these problems. And they could end all of this today if they wanted to. But they lack either the intelligence, the humanity, or the desire to make it stop.
There will be a march in my town this Saturday. I will be there, peaceful and observant. I look forward to hearing people speak and connecting with others in my community. I’ll be masked and six feet apart–and what does it say about the fucking commitment of people out there protesting, that they are out there during a pandemic. And you have the nerve to dismiss them as fucking thugs, you fucking piece of–
Okay. I’m trying to be cool. For once.
And for any white people who feel like they don’t have the power to change things, you always have the power to help. Here’s an excellent link to some things you can do.