Violence and Protest

“Race riot” used to mean a violent attack on one racialized group, rationalized or disguised as a conflict between two, more or less equally culpable, racial groups. Nowadays it’s more true to say that protest deteriorates into violence, in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in Europe, Asia, in Africa —when the social system, especially the advantaged classes, shows its/their inability to accommodate the need for change, equal justice and growth.

I read a letter to a (newspaper) editor which asked, “What is the logic of rioting?” But logic ceases to apply when the privileged cannot see, or refuse to acknowledge, that they’ve achieved their position through historical advantages, rather than innate superiority or “exceptionalism.”

One of our great problems, as a democracy, is that many of the beneficiaries of “white privilege” do not feel privileged! But think about it…. Is it because we’re not better off than most people in the world? Or because we’re comparing our situation to the richest, most famous people? Or to the so-called “good old days” when things seemed, in retrospect, to be simpler and easier?


About the Author:

Alan Lipke
Alan Lipke is a writer, educator and founder of Listening Between the Lines.

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