I’m sticking my neck out to offer my take on recent, devastating events. None of what I say here is intended to justify anything; rather, I want us to consider the roots.
First. The person who started the rumor that a Black man was killed by police late Wednesday afternoon should be held responsible for inciting a riot. I saw a retweet of the post but didn’t take a screenshot and have given up trying to find it again [note to self: always take a screenshot]. What actually happened is a man took his own life (after allegedly taking someone else’s life) rather than be arrested. We won’t know why the suspect chose that way out. I inadvertently watched him do it (on video) and it was horrifying.
Second. Minneapolis erupted in out-of-control violence after the false news spread and those who damaged, broke into, trashed, and looted local businesses should be held responsible.
Those are two things I believe. However, it is also necessary to consider the environment in which this took place. At the time of the murder/suicide, when the false information spread, a peaceful, planned protest against police brutality and America’s culture of racism was taking place downtown. The peacefully protesting crowd was like dry kindling doused by the rumor, and a fire raged.
It is further necessary to consider the overall atmosphere of our city. People are tired, worn out, on edge. People are traumatized, and my limited knowledge of trauma is that when experiencing trauma, the possibility of “rational behavior” goes out the window. With the killing of George Floyd still hot in our collective memories, and the recent paralysis of a Black man by police as well the murder of two Black protesters by a white vigilante in Kenosha, Wisconsin, any suggestion of continued injustice is going to be met with rage, fear, and deep sorrow. And actions and behavior spring from that.
We all know — right? — that Wednesday night is related to the police killing of George Floyd, and that the killing of George Floyd didn’t “cause” any of this. It was a last straw, as it were, and people long told to stand down started to stand UP. As a white woman who largely benefits from the way our society is run, I can’t really know what systematic oppression feels like, but I can listen to people who do. That is what we, as white people, need to be doing — listening and believing the eyewitness accounts of millennia-long tragedy and injustice.
Furthermore, there are always bad actors. Always. People who want war, people who are bored and often unjustifiably angry, people who want to see our city fail, who want to see our democracy fail — these people, originating from all points on the political spectrum, showed up, quickly. Both from within and from without. There is a reason the highway exits into downtown were eventually blocked by patrol cars Wednesday night: It was an effort to try to keep more of those people from finding their like-minded brethren and inserting themselves into a volatile situation. Much like we saw happen in late May and early June.
Add to this the fact we are in the powder keg of a contentious national campaign, with a sitting president insisting the vote will be rigged; a pandemic with little signs of slowing that has obliterated any sense of normalcy; environmental disasters coast to coast and across the globe; and worldwide rising political tensions inspiring massive migration, refugees with nowhere to go, and uncountable civil and human rights violations. We are all hurting in some way and, as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.
I am not suggesting bad behavior should be excused, but I am pointing out that there are reasons, and it would be wise to recognize that.
Me? I’m praying and writing and praying some more. And I am studying topics that will increase my understanding and knowledge. And I am calling out in anguish, begging Jesus to defeat the evil that has taken control — that has, really, always been in control. I am praying for peace and for justice, fully recognizing there will be no peace without justice.
Marti Martin is a psychology and political science student. When not reading or writing, she is feeding the birds, tending the garden, or walking her dog, Henna.
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