I think we need to face a few issues about race riots. Since we are not bombarded with media coverage at this time, perhaps you are wondering why I am discussing the matter. After all, there is a reason why typically you do not hear friends say things like, “Ahhh, Friend, nothing like starting the new year with a weight loss resolution coupled with a good ol’ race riot.” And when was the last time you heard your significant other say, “You know what, Honey, I am in the mood for sushi and a race riot?”
I think we know the answer.
Besides, it is too soon for a race riot. It is not a good time because we are coming off a season of rioting. Speaking of seasons, it is too cold to riot about anything across the country. It is so cold that Mississippi went from burning to freezing. *Drum roll * Plus, snowball fights seem more like wintry merriment and do not lend themselves to the shocking visual imagery stirring up angst against the White patriarchal elite that many of us have grown accustomed to. Folks are not bundling up to hang out all day destroying property for any cause. Currently, we are nestled away, storing up fat, which is reserved energy, so we can expend it on a warm sunny day of social justice warfare. We might march on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, but as for rioting, it is a “see you when the nation thaws” kind of deal in the United States of Amurricah.
I have three things I want us to face about race riots that are often difficult to point out, when in the throws of riots about racial injustice. Granted, I cannot accurately predict when the next waves of rioting will strike the United States. I waited for this moment because once the rioting starts back up and the masses feel angered, grieved, and begin renting their garments and throwing fists in the air, there is little to no room for logical reasoning. I want us to take advantage of this pseudo peace to reflect and reason about these three things so we can keep the wheels of progress turning.
Give the civil unrest rhetoric a rest. A riot is a riot.
Please stop calling riots “civil unrest.” A riot is a riot.
The trend of softening the language serves to encourage the oppression of the oppressed people in the guise of supporting their liberation. I know that in the mainstream media the term “riots” are often used for Black people for when they are, well, rioting, while White college students rioting, for example after a sporting even, are dismissed with the usual “kids will be kids” slap on the wrist from the media. I think both groups are rioting and the media need to reflect it more justly in their discourse.
I think instead of creating two wrongs, we create two rights. In other words, we do not allow our race, class, and other identity markers or causes to give way for softened language, which enables destructive behavior.
Therefore, White college students acting like thugs and hooligans when they riot will be considered rioting thugs and hooligans. Black people will not get a special language for tearing down our communities by calling it civil unrest. Be it resolved, any person who acts like a thug and hooligan will be called a thug and hooligan, and a riot is a riot.
By softening the language, we endorse and encourage Black people to self-destruct as a righteous movement. In return, we refuse to speak truth to the real power that deceives masses of people into thinking that we do not have any power or responsibility to contribute to racial change and our individual progress.
Everyone needs to start or continue self-race work—no mainstream media news story required.
I do not count it as wise for us to wait for mainstream media’s Pavlovian bell to sound before we return to the issue of race. During this less riotous time, everyone—not one particular racial group, not just citizens—everyone in the United States can stand to pause and review the ways we think and live out race in our daily lives. Because I have observed the cyclical nature of mainstream media attention to race issues in the United States, it was only a matter of time before the news crews’ commitments to the critical issues of race and racial injustice, would wane, causing them pounce on the next shiny object for ratings. Eventually, the “necessary conversations” about race do not appear to be necessary. After time passes, the mainstream media floods our nation with a race issue that hits us right where they left off in our hearts.
From a psychological and marketing perspective, I think there might be a sweet spot for how long to drag out these issues, if coverage lasts too long, the subject loses appeal because people accept the crisis as a norm or they become ambivalent. Both are not the kinds of emotional responses driving viral content.
Notice how the United States has seemingly experienced a wave of “peace” over the past few months. It is almost like a memo in the public consciousness that no riots can occur last quarter of the year. Did the police brutality targeting Blacks suddenly halt? Did we close the achievement gap in education? Did we magically dismantle all bigotry in every sector of society? In other words, we are experiencing a lull, until the media chooses to cherry pick a situation and make it the most pressing issue of the day.
People have not suddenly changed across the United States or all over the world. Given that the last wave of racial viva la revolución did not result in a more racially harmonious society, whatever happened to protest cry of “No justice, no peace?” *Watches a former paid protestor shrugs, as he enters a coffee shop for a mocha latte.*
I suppose it left with “no money, no protest.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am not inviting angry mobs to cause millions of dollars in damages to my local community as an early birthday gift, or to anyone’s community for that matter.
I think the people who assume they possess some enlightened view of humanity that falls hook line in sinker with the typical narratives supported by liberal and conservative media need to actually spend time actually questioning their own beliefs about race. Just start there.
Because it is not only different Blacks and other People of Color people who fall for the media trap, the media count on a usual psychological pattern from particular demographics of White viewers, who also tend to have the same old response when they poke at their often in denial racial sore spot. The truth is all of us need to interrogate the influence of a boatload of racial messages we receive.
Black people rioting in our communities makes no sense.
When Black people dare to challenge the rioting, civil unrest proponents accuse of us of hating Black people and internalized racism because of our desires to prevent destruction, chaos, fires, and theft in our own neighborhoods. Adding more to the race riot foolishness, these people brand a White person or another Person of Color as racist for daring to question the riots. Don’t get me wrong. I am aware of standard run of the mill racists who question things because of poor motives, so I am not letting them off the hook. Hence, another reason why everyone has self-race work to do.
I am joining hosts of people in trying to wrap our minds around the suggestion that this form of self–destructive protest leads to social progress. I liken it to when women trash their own homes when a romantic relationship ends. I think it is like someone, with mounds of debt and desiring financial freedom, choosing to max out nine more credit cards in frivolous purchases. The larger issue ignored is that the practice of self-destructive rioting makes no sense.
Allow me to put in in my New Amurrican King James Black English: Ya’ll is crazy. That ish maketh no senseth.
I am not lacking comprehension pertaining to the workings of self-destruction, from individual to more macro-level phenomena. I have a personal saying that goes, “Just because I understand why someone does something, does not make it right or acceptable.” Despite education experts, sociologists, and psychologists helping us understand the deeper meanings driving folks to riot in this way, a lot of us are silent whattheheckologists who do not think it is helpful.
I am all for our right to protest in this country. Protesting is as Amurrican as the Boston Tea Party. The British were not thrilled about the Sons of Liberty disrupting their affairs and profits. Yet, today, I witness people easily agitated by watching a news clip of even a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in their social media feed. There is no such thing as a comfortable protest. Believe it or not, peaceful protests are meant to cause social agitation to spur change. Unlike Black people rioting in our communities, the Sons of Liberty targeted their perceived oppressor and did not terrorize and burn their own businesses and destroy their own communities in protest. Again, I am not telling Black people to go riot in predominantly White communities and other communities, I am pointing out that it makes no sense to destroy our own stuff (and then expect taxpayers to help rebuild it) as a protest.
Civil Night Terrors and a Higher Message
Civil unrest is actually a civil night terror to help suppress racial progress. While White supremacists destroy Black church buildings for simply having Black congregants and vandalize Black church property for supporting Black Lives Matter, we are supposed to ignore how Black people keep the ball rolling by tearing down more property in our communities in the name of racial injustice by calling it civil unrest.
I believe most of the high profile experts advocating for civil unrest most likely used the opposite approach to get to where they are in life. I am unaware of these civil unrest defenders, throwing molotov cocktails down the halls of the Ivory Tower or in their own neighborhoods—they have their careers and families to think of, after all. Most of them do not have several baby mamas or daddies, burn down stores, and steal athletic shoes as steps to success. I have a sneaky suspicion our civil unrest friends are not teaching their own children to utilize this approach, too. Recognizing the aforementioned choices are not reflective of all U.S. Black people, our pattern of ignoring a real trend in specific segments of the population helps perpetuate the very oppression we want to stop. As politicians, experts, researchers, social commentators, reporters, etc. reap accolades, how much of their success trickle down to the hurt, frightened, and angry Black boy who turns over a chair in the classroom, yells at his teacher, and leaves school to riot in his neighborhood streets because he only sees a fatalistic world out to get him? These civil unrest advocates, many with good intentions, encourage Black youth to take less ownership for their own lives, blaming the teachers, administrators, police, White people—anyone but Black people. The notion of all have a responsibility in changing racism seems to mean everyone, except certain People of Color.
In the spirit of transparency, I used to ride the “civil unrest” train until I realized, through my own continuous self-race work, that other Black people were just tearing down our own communities. I awakened to the reality that watching the self-destruction of communities of People of Color did not help Black and Brown youth. I no longer perceive the benefits to the nation or the world. Furthermore, I endeavor to prioritize my principles above defending and enabling the foolishness of anyone-friends, family, my race, or your little dog Fifi.
I think we can use the same megaphones to encourage more Black children to care about getting an education-a privilege people, including our ancestors, lost their lives over. We can talk with them about the realities of race and racism and still encourage them to take individual responsibility, as they contribute to not only their communities and the world. I think we help Black youth, who live in contexts with higher concentrations of crime and generational poverty, when we encourage them to refrain from high-risk activities, like selling drugs and promiscuity, as if it is a sign of adulthood or liberation. We support them with an elevated message of becoming thinkers, developing strong character, and using the precious opportunity of having a tax-payer funded education that is available to them as a launching pad for their purposes in this world. For those who come from troubled homes, we can point to a higher way than self-destruction. Unfortunately, even the people who actively engage in such work through nonprofits do not get as much attention as the civil unrest proponents with the megaphones.
As for those who will predictably ask me, “What should Black people do instead of civil unrest in their communities?” My response is to first ask the Black people who riot and condone it, since they seem to have plenty of time on their hands. And if one more person tells me about the untold story of a secret plot between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X to stockpile weapons and start a war against the United States, I am going to— pray for the person— because I am trying to be more Jesusie.
Give the Black civil unrest falsehood a rest. Martin Luther King Jr. would not fire bomb a Black church and Malcolm X would not break windows of a mosque in the name of helping Black people. No matter if they took a peaceful or more aggressive form of civil disobedience, I doubt they would call for Black people to self-destruct. And if they would, why follow?