I’m not sure of anything I’m about to say. I struggled with the decision to even write about the riots. I’m not sure that I should be writing about the riots, or if “riots” is the term I should even be using. As sad and distressed and disheartened as I feel, I don’t know if a guy that occupies the racial, cultural, and socioeconomic spaces that I do can offer helpful and meaningful contributions to this conversation.
I obviously don’t condone the riots. How could you? How can anyone look at the videos and images of our cities reduced to robbery, rubble, and flames and say that that is something that they condone? The ugliness unfolding across my social media platforms literally has me sick to my stomach.
But is that something that I really need to say? Is that the kind of commentary that we need right now from Minnesota’s white community? It would be the easiest thing in the world for me to fire-up my social media and launch a series of disparaging tweets condemning the senseless and counterproductive violence taking place across the Twin Cities. And I would mean it, too. That is how I feel. But everything felt is not worth saying.
I haven’t lived a life of experiences that would ever lead me to participate in this kind of destruction. That’s not because I’m better. It’s because I’m lucky. It’s because I was born with a skin color that statistically made me more likely to experience economic prosperity and less likely to fall victim to state-sanctioned violence. It’s also the reason that I’m ill-equipped to pass judgment or condemnation on those who aren’t as lucky as me.
Which is why I don’t have a lot I want to say. Instead, I want to listen.
I want to listen to the people of color who have a more intimate knowledge of the experiences that lead us to today. People of color who have grown up in these neglected communities and been victims of poverty and profiling and police brutality. People of color who have grown up with more privilege, but still sense the dangers that their black skin can bring them in the United States of America. People of color who are leading movements that call for peace, justice, action, equity, and systemic change. People of color who are decrying the craziness of the last two days and have suffered the most from the devastation. And, yes, people of color who are encouraging and perpetrating it.
The radical historian, Howard Zinn, once wrote that “The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”
The voices of the unheard are roaring today. There’s nothing just about what’s happening right now, but there’s nothing just about what got us here, either. I hope with all my heart that state and community leaders will make the right decisions to quell these threats to human life and property, but I’m also skeptical that a “right” decision even exists. But when the dust eventually settles and the smoke eventually clears, if we haven’t listened to these cries and learned from these injustices, we’re doomed to repeat them, and all the madness that comes with. I hope to god we don’t make that mistake.