There’s no wrong way to protest


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

On May 28, protesters set fire to the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct building. Days later, the Minneapolis city council announced its intent to disband the Minneapolis Police Department and invest in community-centered reform, according to the ACLU.

Though seemingly every email I’ve received in the last three months has addressed the uncertain times we’re living in, I’d argue that a lot is being made clear. For one, it’s being made clear that it is impossible to achieve the change the world so desperately needs through peaceful protests. The oppressed will not be told how or how not to protest by those who oppress them. 

It’s being made clear that we live in a nation that values property and material items over human life. As a country that continues to hurt from a global pandemic, we’re seeing a growing force that wants to return to life as normal. Despite the potentially lethal consequences of doing so, the argument is made: but what about the economy!? 

I’ve been thinking a lot about that argument. How can it be so important to exchange goods for money that it’s acceptable to put every single member of our community at risk of death? How can the well being of our society be so dependent on this system that it is deemed necessary to risk our lives to sustain it?

I don’t have an answer to those questions, and I’m not sure I ever will. But what I do know is that we shouldn’t live like this. We shouldn’t live in a world where our lives are only as valuable as the things we produce. The things we trade. The things we sell.

But we do. And that’s why the most obvious and most effective protest against this system is destruction. In a country where property and material items are valued above all else — above human life — it only makes sense to fight back against this system by stealing. By destroying.

And that’s why I continue to defend those protesting against systemic racism by looting.

I’m not suggesting that anyone reading this breaks windows in downtown Libertyville, and I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone destroys homes and small businesses. I don’t want you to start looting and destroying. Rather, I want you to reconsider before you criticize those who do.

Who I’m struggling to support are those who attend protests solely to break windows and get a new pair of shoes without being wholly aligned with the message of the Black Lives Matter movement or in genuine need of what they’re taking. The media fails to differentiate between them and the protesters. Regardless of the morals of their actions, they give the movement a bad rap among those who consume their news from the mainstream media. 

An important note is that crime is a matter of circumstance; theft often comes as a result of need. If you look at pictures from the looting of a Minneapolis Target, people weren’t often leaving with luxury items, they were leaving with groceries. They were taking the things they needed to survive. 

Black protesters living in a nation built by slave labor — the labor of their ancestors — have every right to burn it. White people: if your ancestors were brought to America in shackles, then forced to work as slaves for 244 years, wouldn’t you be mad? If in 2020, 400 years after the first slaves arrived in the present-day United States, you still lived under a system that targeted you because of the color of your skin, wouldn’t you want to burn it all down?

The coronavirus pandemic makes it as clear as ever that in the United States, black lives are placed at a lesser value than white lives. The people arguing for a return to life as normal tend to be rich and white, but those being disproportionately affected by the pandemic are black. The Independent reported that the death rate for black Americans is 2.5 times higher than that of white Americans. Black Americans account for 13 percent of the U.S. population but make up 25 percent of coronavirus deaths. 

The Economic Policy Institute found that in every sector of essential work, from health care to food and agriculture, there’s a significant gap between the salaries of black workers and white workers. In health care, black workers make a median hourly wage of $16.01 while white workers make $23.97. 

So, yeah. Black people have a right to be mad. They have a right to steal, to destroy, to burn. And until white people experience the racism and oppression black Americans have since the colonial days, no white person has the right to tell protesters that they’re protesting wrong. No amount of broken property or stolen merchandise will ever amount to the loss of even one human life. Property can be replaced. Human lives cannot.

*Note: All opinions in columns are solely the author’s opinions and do not represent those of the Drops of Ink staff and their advertisers, nor the District 128 staff, school board, student body or community.