Police in riot gear using tear gas to break up crowds.
Thousands of people flooding the streets and causing property damage.
Fires rage in the streets.
Am I talking about Ferguson? Baltimore?
No. I’m talking about Columbus, Ohio. Earlier this year, the Ohio State Buckeyes won the football national championship. Reports say as many as 8,000 people rushed to the football stadium. A few hundred broke in and tore down a goalpost. There were reports of multiple fires in the streets.
I don’t think you really understood what I just said so I’m gonna repeat myself: Thousands of people took to the streets and rioted because a group of 11 men in tight pants got a piece of inflated leather across a goal line more often than the other group of 11 men.
But I don’t recall seeing any, “Wow. These people are destroying their own city.” tweets. I didn’t see anybody calling them idiots. It was just dismissed as a bunch of drunk college kids blowing off steam. Oh. Ok. But when black people take to the streets because someone got their spinal cord broken and their voice box crushed, it’s just nonsense. Seems legit.
It’s almost funny because it’s so not funny. People’s basic rights are being denied you and got people out here worried about property value. Yes, there is always an element that will take advantage of a bad situation for their own personal gain and I 100% condemn those actions. But by and large, the rioting is an expression of a feeling of hopelessness.
The system has failed Black America. All the people in Baltimore want is their fair shake. They want their voices to be heard. And honestly, I think they’d love to go through peaceful channels. But that right has been denied to them systematically. So if the only way to get their voice heard is by throwing a rock through the window of a police cruiser, then so be it. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’m saying that it is what it is. And while I may not agree with the actions taken, I can at least understand why they’re being taken.
And that’s the problem. People see Baltimore going to hell in a hand basket but they don’t see why. I doubt many of the newly-minted social commentators on Twitter have an inkling of an understanding of what’s really going on in Baltimore. They see a bunch of thugs destroying their own city when it’s really people releasing their pent-up hurt and frustration because they can’t see any other way to be heard. If you look back at our nation’s history, our country literally started because we couldn’t work our differences out with Britain through legal channels. A bunch of colonists decided to throw a bunch of tea into the Boston Harbor. That caused a huge amount of property damage. But history books don’t remember the Revolutionaries as thugs. I think they call them “heroes” and “our Founding Fathers”.
So before you post your hot take to social media, take a second and ask yourself, “Do I know how exhausting it is to be a black person in America?” Hint: Unless you’re black, you don’t. But let me give you a snapshot: Do you understand how hurtful it is to spend your entire life as “the other” just because you have a little more melanin than most people? Do you understand how sad it is to see your people get shot and brutalized by police on the regular? Do you understand how depressing it is that people give you the side-eye and treat you like you’re not supposed be there; wherever you are? Do you understand how angering it is when people are impressed that you’ve mastered basic grammar and have actual intelligence? And do you understand how crushingly hopeless it is to realize that the system that was meant to protect you, is the system that is oppressing you? It’s maddeningly exhausting. It’s enough to make you, I don’t know, throw something through a window. So until you understand all that, don’t. you. dare. marginalize the hurt and anguish of the people of Baltimore. The people of Ferguson. The people of whatever the next city is. Because the reality is, there will be a next city. And that right there is the reason Black America feels so hopeless.