It is possible to both dislike the fact that people are burning and destroying personal property as they protest racial injustices in America, and to also understand why those protests are happening and to sympathize with the protesters.
I understand that this is impossible for conservatives to understand. But then, that’s the same group who burned Colin Kaepernick jerseys in the street for four years because he dared kneel to protest police abuses, and now they ask over and over why the protesters can’t be civil.
Regardless, here’s the deal: I don’t like to see buildings on fire or hear stories of some poor couple who worked hard their whole lives, were good and decent people, and lost everything because other people were not so good and decent.
But we have a problem.
And that problem is probably best highlighted by Kaepernick’s four-year journey, during which time he was black-balled by the NFL and became the face of the racist movement in America. All because he knelt during the anthem at football games — a peaceful protest that he explained countless times did not dishonor soldiers, but did highlight what he felt was a growing problem with police abuses of minority citizens.
He was, of course, right. But that’s beside the point.
Not much changed when Kaepernick knelt. Well, a lot changed for him, but not a lot changed in America. Even when Kap’s peaceful protest became major news and his face was everywhere, there was nothing from the NFL. Nothing from the other sports leagues. No legislation, except the pandering type that took shots at Kaepernick and tried to require everyone to stand for the anthem.
But you know where things did change?
Ferguson. And Baltimore. And L.A. And Minneapolis. And New York.
In each instance, after protests following a police shooting turned destructive, there were major, major changes. Police departments implemented new policies. City halls agreed to new oversight of police. Minority representation on police boards and in prominent positions saw an uptick. And there were significant changes in voting practices of the local residents.
In Ferguson, for example, after a massive increase in minority voter participation, the city council in that town is now a majority Black.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. I’m not advocating for destruction or praising it.
I’m doing the opposite. I’m saying it’s the responsibility of white people — and I very much include my white self in this — to listen and respond when our minority neighbors tell us that there is a problem.
They shouldn’t have to burn a damn city down to get our attention and our action.
And look, let’s be real here: We’ve all known for a long, long time now that something isn’t right. Many of us have watched silently (and some of us not so silently) as our Black and brown friends have been mistreated, profiled and wrongly arrested.
We’ve known for decades — since the open discrimination of Jim Crow — that there is a quiet discrimination that leaves minority men and women disproportionately serving time for crimes for which white people sometimes don’t even get charged.
So, why didn’t you do anything about that?
When civil rights leaders told you and Black actors and athletes spoke out about it and activists organized rallies and we made special episodes of TV shows and smart people wrote books and made movies about those injustices … why didn’t you do anything?
Why did those “patriots” who armed up with their assault rifles to protect buildings and property feel absolutely no duty, no urge, no desire to protect the human beings who have been begging for help for decades?
The sad fact is this: Black Americans have been marginalized and silenced in every way imaginable, shut out of the voting booth by mass and wrongful incarceration, targeted through voter ID laws, and now, through making protesting a felony, and discriminated against in education, business, employment, home ownership and compensation.
And when they peacefully protested those wrongs, they found deaf ears.
So, they struck a match. They broke a window. They blocked traffic. They looted a store. And suddenly, everyone paid attention.
Because the old proverb remains true: The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.
And we should be ashamed it ever came to that.