Recently, Abagond wrote about how the mainstream American media handles riots involving black Americans and riots involving whites. Anyone who's keeping score can see how there's a glaring double standard in the way those events are covered.
Take a close look at the 1965 Watts riots, the 1967 Detroit riots, the 1992 L.A. riots and the recent Baltimore riots and you'll find a couple of common threads:
- These riots and many others like them have been about black America's ongoing frustration over genuine injustices directed towards the black community and ignored by white society - discrimination and police brutality being the two biggest injustices.
- Every time these riots happen, mainstream American media frames them as yet another demonstration of black America's innate criminality and lust for violence - a narrative that's played well among legions of upstanding white Americans ever since the Stono Rebellion and perhaps even before.
Now take a look at the above photo, a snapshot of the riots that occurred shortly after the end of the 2013 U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, CA. According to the L.A. Times, this one broke out after a fight led scores of young, largely white and quite possibly intoxicated revelers to indulge in a bit of the old ultraviolence. Why? There's no injustice here, except that maybe they'll have to go home at some point.
Notice how the media didn't dismiss this as just another display of primal Caucasian rage, nor was it tamped down with the same sort of heavy-handed show of force exemplified by Baltimore and Ferguson.
That's the thing. Riots led by largely white participants over largely innocuous things (your favorite sports team lost, your favorite sports team won, your favorite event just ended, you're drunk, others are drunk so let's tear shit up) are never treated with the racial disdain that the highly uncommon riots that occur in black communities receive.
There's no condemnation of white Americans as a whole, nor are there any calls for the Caucasian community to restrain itself and seek non-violent means of expressing itself. They're not denigrated as "thugs," accused of being "out of control" or used as fodder for unreconstructed fantasies of putting them back in their rightful place. Even the language becomes different - these are "disturbances," not "riots." They're not "thugs," but "young partygoers" and "revelers" who just happen to be "over-exuberant."
No one thumbs through Wikipedia to find the perfect MLK quote to tut-tut black Americans with for having the temerity to burn buildings (in their own neighborhoods, mind you), throw rocks and generally act out of anger and frustration. Even the good Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood perfectly what happens when the concerns of a frustrated people are constantly put on ice.
Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view.
I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.
These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
It's no secret that mainstream America tends to be hard of hearing when it comes to the fears, concerns and strife black Americans have faced in this country, at least when said plight is couched in non-violent terms. It's only when those terms suddenly turn violent that mainstream America starts paying attention, only to learn the wrong lessons from what they've seen and heard and quietly hope that "those people" can leave them alone and go back to suffering in silence.