When I awoke Monday morning to the scenes of widespread disregard for the basic underpinning of a lawful society, brazen looters gleefully smashing store windows and flaunting their lawlessness, a host of angry feelings came rushing to the fore.
I thought of the loss of good will that had been generated by the Black Lives Matter movement as viewers of the early morning news conflated the chaos with the peaceful protests a few weeks earlier. I saw the Trump monster smugly proclaiming the righteousness of his law and order agenda. Fearfully I lamented the loss of Biden votes that would result. And I was not above some unbecoming personal resentment as well, as in “why bother to be supportive in the face of such inexcusable behavior?”
It is a good question for all of us to ask, and how we answer it will determine the fate of democracy.
My fervent hope is that America not only demands its legal system holds the perpetrators accountable but has the courage as a country to take historical responsibility for the festering sin that to this day creates the environment that fosters the violence.
For hundreds of years - going on to this day! - millions of black AMERICAN CITIZENS have been fenced into decaying neighborhoods, denied quality education, deprived of adequate health care, and been the targets of a biased legal system that substitutes incarceration for civil rights.
Want to express your outrage? Make a note of the senators and congressmen who voted for Trump’s tax cuts that gave billions to corporations while reducing aid for the communities suffering from the deprivations that led to the rioting. Make a note of the corporations and brands that got billions of dollars of pandemic relief targeted for the mom and pop stores and the waitresses and clerks and chefs and mechanics who waited months for their relief checks.
My personal plea is to the elders, both black and white. Show up! Step up!
African Americans have arrived at a historical moment for which they have waited a lifetime. The tide is toward a movement, but misdirected violence will thwart it from cresting.
Consider this, in 1965 when the voting rights act was passed you were at the age of the youths plundering the heart of the movement as well as the posh stores on Oak Street. At the time, there were six African-American members in the House of Representatives and zero in the U.S. Senate. Progress has been made; you’ve marched for it; shed blood for it.
Continue to set an example. Make sure your progeny do not lose sight of the larger picture. The photos of smashed glass in front of Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue must not portray what you have fought for all your lives.
The schools may be closed but we grandfathers, white and black, can still teach our kids about the history of racism in America. And guide them to mobilize in appropriate ways in the pursuit of a more equitable future.
By casting votes, not bricks.