When Property Matters More Than People

What did y’all learn about the Boston Tea Party in school? I learned about the Sons of Liberty – a bunch of persnickety colonists who, in their anger, rage, and resentment of being taxed without representation by the British Empire, threw the tea they were being so heavily taxed for into the Boston Harbor, destroying an entire shipment.

There were other political protests that the Sons of Liberty performed, and the fact that they destroyed property of what they felt what an oppressive establishment is taught in American History classrooms as a source of pride. They are American heroes, we’re told, because they stood up for what they felt was right; a stance, which we know led to the American Revolutionary War, which led to American Independence. The ones against the protests back then were British Loyalists. How very status quo! It is not at all comforting to know that hardly anything has changed. I’ve seen quite a few would-be British Loyalists that have seemingly forgot all of the times in American History when violence not only happened, but was readily justified – especially on black bodies.


With history in mind, why are the riots and unrest currently unfolding in Baltimore (and Ferguson and Los Angeles and Harlem before it) seen as something shameful, perpetrated by looters, opportunists, savages, animals, thugs? Why, in the present day, is property more important than people’s lives?

Because make no mistake, if you’re focusing on the riot violence and not the violence that CAUSED it, you are part of the problem.

If you mourn broken windows more than lost lives and broken spines, you are part of the problem.

If you have zero qualms with the murder of unarmed citizens by those sworn to protect, you are part of the problem.

If you are falsely invoking Martin Luther King, Jr., thinking he would side with a racist militarized police force and not those being murdered by said-police, you are part of the problem.

If you can’t understand why white people rioting after sporting events vs. black people rioting after murder in their community is different in intent, deed, scrutiny, and media coverage, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Period. Full Stop.

  If the Boston Tea Party wasn’t a destructive and purposeful act of destroying property, what was it? If the Sons of Liberty weren’t petulant children and shamed thugs, what were they?   Careful how you answer, you might just reveal the coded racial weight given to certain words for specific people.  

Speaking of those specific people, why would they riot in their own communities, many ask (as a deflection)?  

For starters, your lack of understanding of how systemic dehumanization and injustice manifests itself in people’s behavior does not suddenly make them in the wrong.  

I understand why they are so angry.

I feel my heart ache whenever the next black man, woman, sleeping baby, playing child, is announced as murdered on the news.

I feel my blood burn when apathetic whites abound to tell me that they deserved it, and that a systemic pattern of violence does not indicate a system of oppression.  

I’m worried that if my understandable fear in the police leads me to run, I’ll get shot in the back like Walter Scott.  

I’m scared that because my brother and father are big and tall like Michael Brown, they’ll be thought of as automatically a threat, and shot in the street.  

I fear that if my teenage sister fights back for “not looking like she belongs” in a certain neighborhood, she’ll be called a thug who was asking for it, like Trayvon Martin.  

I wonder if my friends and family would believe the news or me if I told them that I, a peaceful protestor, was tear gased, or beaten, or had rocks thrown at me by police while I was protesting police violence (hey, irony).

I wonder if in that moment, I’d be able to hold it together and not fight back or for my life for fear of a death that people would say I was asking for.  

These feelings are hard to bear.  

No. These feelings are nearly impossible to bear.  

So, I’m not going to condemn those whose feelings erupt and spill forth.

The system takes and takes and takes, and now that people have decided to take back, maybe now y’all will listen. People won’t listen when we say, “Stop killing us!” But they’ll be around to comment when a CVS is broken into:   

It’s a shame black people aren’t property anymore.

Because white people sure care deeply about what happens to property, and not at all about what happens to people.