It has been suggested to me that as a white woman, I should back off when it comes to certain issues.
I find this ironic, since men have no problem discussing abortion rights, and native born citizens feel fully justified in addressing the plight of immigrants, and atheists presume to know what motivates people of faith, and so on. It used to be that you were told to “walk a mile” in a man’s shoes before expressing an opinion about how he walks. Now, unless you wear the same exact shoes and never take them off, you’re supposed to shut up.
So if the prospect of a white woman talking about race riots annoys you, skip this column.
When George Floyd was murdered while in police custody, the country was faced with yet another maddening, tragic example of murderous civil servants. There is no excuse for what they did, those four officers, squeezing the life out of a man who had been subdued, who was unarmed, who was gasping for air and who had allegedly passed a counterfeit bill.
I wish it had ended there, with the crime of the police officers who can’t be defended from a moral standpoint, and hopefully not from a legal standpoint either. Brutality in a uniform is worse than any other type, because we invest our peace officers with a power and an authority to seek justice. When they pervert that mission, they pervert the entire system.
Unfortunately, it did not end there. Angry people started rioting through the streets, setting Minneapolis on fire, looting stores (many of them black-owned business) and creating chaos on top of chaos. Some did this because they were reacting to the death of a black man at the hands of men in blue, one more in a long line of casualties without accountability. Many others did this because they could hide their own innate brutality behind this veneer of social grievance, and have the woke folk nodding their heads and saying things like “I don’t condone violence but I understand.”
The thing is, they don’t understand. It is impossible to distinguish pent-up anger at racial injustice from your garden-variety criminality, when cities are on fire. To the business owner whose life savings are going up in smoke, it doesn’t matter if you threw that bomb because you were thinking of Emmett Till and the Scottsoboro Boys, or because you wanted a brand new Apple IPhone and getting a job to pay for it was too heavy of a lift. The practical impact, the actual harm, is the same.
And that’s why it’s not okay to say, “I don’t condone violence, but… ” That “but” is lethal, and deprives legitimate victims of injustice of taking the moral high ground. It’s easy to say that the looters were just like Martin Luther King Jr. ruminating in that Birmingham jail cell, so that the progressive social-justice warriors will think you’re on the right side of history. It’s easy to look good and evolved, and schooled in all the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter/Black Lives Can’t Be Wrong. It’s harder to say that one evil cancels out another.
But it does. The looters and rioters who fashioned themselves “protesters” trampled on the memory of George Floyd; they didn’t honor it. Their footprints blocked out and soiled his agonized face, gasping for air in those last moments. In their zeal to gain purchase from someone else’s tragedy but appropriate it for themselves, they did as much to kill George Floyd as the brutal stormtroopers in blue.
There is no glory in random violence, and there is no justification for collateral vengeance. The city of Minneapolis is filled with good people who did not deserve to be the targets of that misplaced and misguided fury that engulfed it.
Those rioters and vandals, those looters and criminals don’t deserve to be understood. They deserve to be arrested, shut away, and shamed into silence. Alongside of the dirty cops they hate, and yet, emulate.
These are the thoughts of a white woman, who might benefit from some innate privilege, but who is smart enough to know that injustice is colorless.
Copyright 2020 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]