The heat is on as anger flares uncontrollably in America over the George Floyd murder. And that is what it was plain and simple: murder in the first degree. This has gone on too long, been too condoned in many places, too improperly addressed, and too glaring when minorities are victimized and none more than black targets and black sufferers. And, in a similar vein, the venting of wrath, the burning, and the looting have all played out for too long before first a sympathetic, and now appalled, American and global audience.
After a time, the prolonged violence against despised authorities and mostly minority property rises to the level of the senseless and counterproductive. It hurts most those who have already felt the stings and wounds of racism, police brutality, poverty, and the disrespect that flows so fluently to bottom-of-the-barrel citizens. This was the view of the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board Editorial June 1st editorial titled, “Justice and disorder”. The Journal’s subhead to that editorial reads, “The violence and looting across the US harm poor and minority neighbourhoods the most”. There is a time for everything: To speak up, to protest, to pressure, and to know when to retreat with strong messages sent.
The unjustified homicide of George Floyd represents the kind of unwanted situation, one too many, that called for the most furious and energized of reactions. A knee on the neck is already unsanctioned cruelty, and to keep it there for the eternity of eight minutes is an unspeakable, unpardonable and premeditated evil. It would be interesting to watch what will be the judicial disposition of the serious charges against the main perpetrator, Derek Chauvin.
What is not so interesting, no longer understandable or laudable, are the sights and sounds of mobs that have succeeded in dominating the news narratives at the expense of everything else. The actions of the concealed provocateurs, the clearly criminal, and the opportunistic exploiters undermine the sturdy efforts of the numerous peaceful people who show solidarity, grief, and outrage via legitimate and no less effective presence. What the violent and the vengeful do is to turn the legitimate concerns and furies into mockeries by the mayhem wreaked.
No interests are served, saved for the calculations of those who operate either from a safe distance or behind helpful masks. They have nothing at stake, nothing to lose, and much to gain. There is much booty, distraction from bigger criminal ambitions and projections, and keeping the rages burning at a fever pitch. These function as perfect cover for other present and future unlawful plans and activities.
As the Journal’s editorial pointed out, “There are also consequences for black lives when police retreat from policing.” Harvard economist, Roland Fryer, noted that on those occasions when serious police misconduct makes its way into the public sphere, with the attendant investigation by the US Justice Department, police step back, with consequential increases in homicides and felonies in black communities. “It’s costing black lives,” wrote Bryer. All the attention and emphasis are in the post-riot post-mortems, which highlight damage done and the other physical scars that silhouette the aftermath and blight neighbourhoods for decades to come. In this manner, protests feed crime, which leads to still more crime and grimness for those living in wrecked communities.
Insurance coverage goes up, prospective business owners are scared and hesitant to invest in such ominous places, and the immigrants and poor and wretched are left to fend for themselves with fewer facilities and less hope. So far, there have been few voices raised in condemnation of the runaway lawlessness. This only fuels the police’ sense of siege, with payback promised.
The point of all this is that sharp protest is constructive and progressive, depending on the situation, which the George Floyd murder fits. But when it goes on too long, and too destructively, the interests of the very people being given a voice to are silenced and demeaned. They will be made to feel more and hurt further, through more subtle pressures applied. It is time to pull back.
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