This week, we have seen the nation split after another incident of police brutality against a Black community. Protesters are livid because Black people are shot and murdered in disproportionate numbers to white people.
In this recent incident, Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back after committing no crime. The shooting incited protesting, and two days later, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old domestic white terrorist, took the law into his own hands, and shot and killed two protesters. Many are angry because the police managed to take him in without a gunshot fired, a luxury they likely would not have afforded a Black vigilante. In the aftermath, conservative pundits have focused on the story not told by mainstream media - namely, the rioting and looting that has taken place since Blake was initially shot. Many conservative voices, such as Tucker Carlson, have scapegoated protesters to undermine their message. Former Fox News anchor Glenn Beck complained news outlets are not properly covering the private property damaged in Kenosha, and in a tweet, he referred to protesters as "garbage." These pundits see protesters as societal problems. This mindset is not only racist, but it is misinformed. The civil unrest in Kenosha is the result of systematic racism that has defined America since its inception. White people have oppressed people of color since they landed on this continent by murdering and stealing land from Indigenous peoples. During Reconstruction after the Civil War, the North compromised with the South by allowing them to implement Jim Crow laws that limited freedoms for Blacks. Since Civil Rights was passed in the 1960s, Black people have still faced discrimination and systematic racism in the criminal justice system. I do not see these protests as problems; rather, I see them as symptoms of America's racist past and present.
In 2020, there are still Black Americans who lived in a time when they were not afforded the right to vote. Black people live in neighborhoods that were redlined in the early part of the 20th century. Schools there are underfunded, and their homes are geographically cut off from commercial centers that would promote economic growth. Black people face discrimination from banks, and their neighborhoods are disproportionately patrolled for drugs, even though evidence does not conclude they are any more likely to use them. Blacks face higher arrest rates for nonviolent crimes, and they receive harsher sentences than their white counterparts.
Societal change is difficult because it requires everyone to question what they think they know about a given topic, such as race, and radical change has never come peacefully. Ultimately, people will overlook the costs of social change, including potential looting and destruction of property, if it something they believe in.
Early American colonists were oppressed by taxes from England. Revolutionaries, or looters, destroyed 92,000 pounds of tea, and many others from around the colonies followed by rioting and destroying the property of British colonizers. This is one of many stories of looting that white conservative pundits look up to because they sympathize with their cause. Many conservatives have also overlooked property damage committed by white counterprotesters. The decision of the conservative media to focus on the destruction of private property shows they do not care about the lives of Black people.
To many white people in America, Blake is just another Black guy who got shot, and his story only inconveniences their 20-minute slot that it took up during their news hour. Beck is one of many who has shown little sympathy to systemic racism. It is clear he does not believe in their cause because he does not see how another shot Black man affects him.
White people are privileged to not live in fear of the kind of discrimination Black people face, and their skin serves as a passport against police brutality. To many in the Black community, Blake's shooting is the manifestation of their own fears, living as people of color in a racist country. They fear they will be shot without question, while real killers get the benefit of a doubt.
Fellow white people, we are better than this. Racism is America's festering wound that can only be healed after it has been recognized and addressed. If we hate rioting and looting, we must address the root of these problems by supporting real change that will promote a society where all men and women are created equal.
Brian D. King is an independent scholar and a correspondent for the Tahlequah Daily Press.