Not only does this do a terrible disservice to a legitimate conversation about race and justice in America, it is also seemingly the only version of the riots being discussed. As the subtle narrative goes, the rioting was done by those who are black and in poverty, seemingly because they are ‘black’ and ‘poor.’ Yet, the same behaviors could be ascribed to any of a number of other populations, including people who are white and affluent.
Dearing makes the argument that looting and rioting are human phenomena that can result from various triggering events, and that they’re cast in all kinds of communities. They may be inspired by social injustice (Ferguson), celebration (as in the 2004 Red Sox World Series title), or no reason at all (the recent Pumpkin Festival in Keane, New Hampshire). Point is: all it takes is a large crowd (of any background) and a few out-of-control individuals, and you have a potential recipe for violence.
So why has so much of the public discourse focused on the fact that the rioting in Ferguson was done because those involved were largely “black” and “poor”? While the rioting itself was terrible, in this way our response has been “just as bad.” Dearing writes:
It’s time to stop referring to the Ferguson rioters as ‘protestors,’ delegitimizing countless effective, non-violent protests across America. It’s time to stop treating the disorder as a ‘black’ response, rather than a human response. The behavior was wrong, but absolutely not a mystery, and not remotely unique to the people of Ferguson, to urban black America, or to poor people of color.
We encourage you to read all of Dearing’s piece at Cognoscenti.