A Riot’s Message: Yes, There is One

When you don’t water your houseplants, and they die, who is to blame? The plant for dying or you for failing to water it?

This latest American tragedy has pushed everyone to the edge. George Floyd is dead. His family will forever live with his loss, and we, as a society, will have to live with the damage wrought by it. Many are lamenting George Floyd’s death in the same breath they’re saying rioting is not the answer. While I enjoy posts from white people reminding us that MLK never participated in a violent riot during his civil rights protests, I’d like to remind those who slept during US history class that MLK was murdered by a bullet to the head. Great example of how peaceful protests solve problems.

I’m at a point now where my anger, sadness, and frustration for Floyd and the ongoing struggles of the AA community have morphed into pure frustration toward the people who are condemning and judging those involved in the riots. By their own words, it is evident that they’re still failing to recognize the pain and the fear that have ignited all this chaos.  

I’m not annoyed that they are expressing themselves. What annoys me is that these are the same people who literally say and do NOTHING in support of ending systemic racism, bigotry, and/or discrimination of all minority groups but are right there to spout off judgments about how protestors react to it. This discrimination is real, not a political tactic to derail Trump’s chance at re-election as he loves telling anyone who’ll listen. And the injustice comes in many forms, the worst of which is a police officer killing you when you’re unarmed and already face-down in handcuffs.

If these individuals even once posted something in support of ending these cycles of discrimination, I would definitely be willing to hear them out. But when you ignore the cause and then condemn the effect, you’ve already invalidated the righteous indignation you’re preaching on social media. At best you’re showing the internet that you only respect one side of a hot issue, and at worst you’re using a sad, horrible situation to vent the deep-seated racism that societal norms force you to keep bottled up.

Here’s the part most people are grappling with: Protests are not meant to be neat and tidy the way conservatives would like them to be. When they are peaceful and silent, it invites the oppressors and their enablers to ignore whatever injustice is being called out. By their very nature, protests are messy and scary and dangerous because the oppressed group is scared and endangered and have exhausted all other avenues. They’ve finally run out of patience waiting to receive what the US Constitution promised them as Americans hundreds of years ago. You can walk right by a peaceful protest, but you gotta admit it’s hard to ignore a riot.

Might I suggest that if you’re sick of the chaos and anarchy that occurs when people are denied their basic rights as Americans and human beings, you could try opening your fucking mouth for them instead of against them for a change. Stand up for your oppressed fellow citizens when things are calm, and you’ll never have to witness another riot again.

As I close, since we all love quoting MLK, let me leave you with my new favorite: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Through this latest tragedy we have another opportunity to hear the message, to work on healing our society, and to create some shred of good through which we can honor the memory of George Floyd and all those before him. Are we ready to start listening yet?

Meme “borrowed” from the Boeskool: Jesus, Politics and Bathroom Humor

Jean Copeland is a blogger and award-winning author of lesbian fiction.

https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/authors/jean-copeland-113