The political goals of rioters in Baltimore are not unclear—just as they were not unclear when poor, Black people rioted in Ferguson last fall. When the free market, real estate, the elected government, the legal system have all shown you they are not going to protect you—in fact, that they are the sources of the greatest violence you face—then political action becomes about stopping the machine that is trying to kill you, even if only for a moment, getting the boot off your neck, even if it only allows you a second of air. This is exactly what blocking off streets, disrupting white consumerism, and destroying state property are designed to do. – BENJI HARTSalon.com
One of the interesting quick memes that has come up this week is about the Boston Tea Party. “They were burning their tea!” and the question of selective memory, and history as told by the victor. These are very interesting points. Sometimes when the system has oppressed you for so long one of the only options you have is to get the awareness of the system and to say, “I don’t care about my tea, I care about my life”.
When racial and economic oppression are tied together, what choices do you have?
The media questioned “they are burning their city” in Watts, in Detroit, in Ferguson, and now in Baltimore. Capitalism is one root of the issue at hand. Small businesses, national chains, etc, are sites of low wages and long hours. These are sites where people toil away. These are sites where children see their parents go to work everyday, just to come home tired and without enough money to make ends meet.
These businesses are also sites where young people of color are accused of stealing and harassed for loitering. These are sites where instead of discussions, owners often call the police for low level “petty crimes”. Many young people of color do not consider these stores to be part of their community. These stores are often just another site of abuse, oppression, and harassment. It is not surprising that these are now places burned and looted.
As people with white skin, we might also be people who toil all day and not make enough to make ends meet. However, we are often not stopped in stores because of the color of our skin, if the police are called on us we often get warnings not felonies. In states with 3 strikes laws, this also means that since we are stopped less frequently, we are less likely to meet long term incarceration for “petty crimes”.
So, as white people what can we do to change the narrative? How can we highlight to our friends the links of oppression? How can we change things at our places of employment?