The Protesters. The Rioters. The Damaged Property.

Just a few thoughts about the recent protests and the rioting that has been going on…

A radio host in Miami named Trina recently expressed her anger over the looting and destruction of businesses in the Miami area, calling the rioters “animals” and saying they should be locked up. Most of the rioters in questions are black, and Trina is a black woman. Black people didn’t take it lightly; they felt she should have been completely supportive. She has been cancelled and dragged and savaged and denounced all over the internet, from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube.

The Protests. The Riots.

I support the protests – the reasons, the immediate and future goals. It’s not just a Constitutional right. It’s effective and productive.

I also understand the rioting and the destructive energy behind them. It’s suppressed rage, helplessness, centuries of government-supported violence against black people, and ever-growing frustration from dealing with governments that don’t see us or really hear us. Nothing we say has ever really registered.

The protesters and rioters are trying to do something that The Powers That Be can feel, can hear, can understand. And, violence is often the tool of communication used by people whose peaceful protests have gone unheard.

Add being cooped up indoors because of COVID-19, the stress and uncertainty of unreliable information sources, ever-changing information, and an unpredictable future, a shaky federal government, and you’ve got protesters who were already on edge before George Floyd was killed.

President Trump’s typical bullishness isn’t helping matters, either. He doesn’t know how to be anything but aggressive.

The Damaged Property

It’s all fine and well to jump on Twitter or YouTube, full of rage and determination, and respond to reports of damaged businesses with:

Oh well. So what? Lives are more important than someone’s money. If a business gets burned out and some windows get kicked out and some property get stolen, so be it. That’s how these things go. These kids are angry. They are sick and tired of getting killed for being black. They are out here trying to get something done, trying to start a revolution, and if your business, your pocket, has to suffer, is a casualty of that, well… So what? There are always casualties in a war.

I have seen that reaction, online. But, I’m older and maybe that’s why I empathize with those store owners and their employees a lot more. Most of those owners don’t have a second source of income. They left their jobs to start their own business and it supports them, maybe their family, and their employees, and maybe their families, too. It holds a lot of sentimental value and meaning, as well, the way a book does for a writer, or an album does for a singer. It’s not just a business.

As for the employees… Most of them have been on lockdown like the rest of the world, waiting for the COVID monster to weaken so they can return to work. They have been laid off, maybe, or been worrying about it. Businesses had just started reopening and they had just returned to work, or were going to be returning soon. Then their place of business gets destroyed in a riot…and they are out of work and looking for a new job to support themselves and maybe a family.

So, I worry about the flippant, callous dismissal of angry owners and employees, and to negative opinions about the rioters. People speak quickly, rashly, and callously when they are angry or sad and they might speak more thoughtfully, if they were in a calmer place, and could see the personal cost of the riots, clearly.

I worry about the effects of those words on people directly affected by those riots. Because, if the meaning behind those words is “We don’t care about your business or you,” the response may very well become “We don’t care about you, either.” The world doesn’t need less kindness and understanding.

If you’re thinking about the protesters and rioters today, if you’re praying for them, pray for the people who have been affected by the rioters and looters, as well. They need it.

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