In the wake of George Floyd’s horrific murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, thousands of Americans have staged protests in cities all across the country.
In most cases, these demonstrations have been peaceful. Americans of all racial backgrounds have joined hands in hopes of putting the spotlight on systemic racism that still plagues this country, whether it’s in our criminal justice, education, or healthcare systems.
During some of these protests, law enforcement officers instigated the unrest by using excessive force on folks who were just there to make their voice heard — whether it was eagerly unleashing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets, or driving through crowds of demonstrators.
One video out of Minnesota even shows officers shooting paint canisters onto people’s front porches.
In other instances, a small group of agitators — opportunists not part of the larger, peaceful movement — destroyed property and looted businesses. In Minneapolis, officials said they have evidence linking these activities to white supremacist groups hoping to cause chaos and drown out the overall message protesters are trying to convey.
The saddest part is that it appears to be working.
Whether it’s on social media or even among family, I’m hearing absolute outrage over shattered store windows and stolen merchandize. All over Facebook, I’ve seen no shortage of angry monologues about how “they” are destroying “our” town.
To be clear, I understand this anger. Nobody wants to see their home city descend into a hot zone of violence and destruction. Folks work hard to run businesses and they don’t deserve to see them wrecked overnight.
As rapper Killer Mike so eloquently said on Friday, “It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy.”
But what I find particularly frustrating is that the same people furious over their favorite stores and sports bars being damaged had nothing to say about footage of a black man — a fellow American — being murdered in cold blood.
Unlike the broken windows and stolen merchandize you’re so upset about, that life — the life of a man with a family—isn’t replaceable. Neither are the lives of so many that came before him.
And, to be completely honest, I have a feeling you might like to burn some stuff if the life of your husband or son or father was devalued the way George Floyd’s was.
So, yes, you can be mad and make noise about broken things, but it is your silence over the unjust killings of fellow Americans — the reason these protests are happening in the first place — that stands out most.
If more people — particularly those in the white community — were as mad about a broken justice system as they are over broken windows, maybe this problem would have already been solved.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.