May 31, 2020
by Steve Stofka
There are three kinds of rage: the silent and composed rage of men who kneel on necks. Derek Chauvin, the killer of George Floyd in Minneapolis, belongs to that group. There is another group that loots and destroys to express their rage. There is yet another group that displays their rage in organized protest. On Saturday in Minneapolis, that group cleaned up the debris left by the looters Friday night. A CBS reporter was disheartened, or bored, by the lack of violence.
Those in the first two groups – the destroyers – are mostly men. Those in the first group – the quiet destroyers – are middle-aged men who rob others of life, dignity, and basic human rights. They destroy the self-esteem and social cohesion of others. Those in the last group, the noisy ragers, are young, shot full of testorone and unmuzzled. Neither of these groups cleans up after the wreckage they leave behind. Their instinct is to break, not build.
A hundred years ago white people in Tulsa, Oklahoma took out their rage at the success of the black community in their town (Brown, 2018). They burned down most of the black owned businesses and homes, killing more than 300 people and leaving thousands homeless. Rage and revenge provoked many lynchings of black citizens by white mobs. In 1963, white people in Alabama threw rocks at black children trying to go to school (Bell, 2013).
It’s been almost four years since Philando Castile was shot in his car by a police officer in St. Paul. It’s a 20 minute drive across the river from the site of Castile’s death to George Floyd’s death this week in the sister city of Minneapolis. Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Castile, was found not guilty of 2nd degree manslaughter. Derek Gauvin, the murderer of George Floyd, has been charged with 3rd degree manslaughter. Unlike 2nd degree manslaughter, the prosecution does not have to prove intent.
Over 1200 black people have been shot by police in the past five years (Code Switch, NPR, 2020). Only four police officers have been convicted of some crime (MPV, n.d.). Many victims were going about their day when police officers targeted them. Guilty of being black. Some, like Tamir Rice, were children. Such is the rage of white society that they will not let black children play with toy guns.
Mr. Trump, the self-styled King of the United States, threatened to shoot black people for looting stores on Main Street (Lichtman, 2020). White people looting in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles on Saturday night were arrested and loaded into police wagons. Don’t shoot white people. White people stood on charred police cars and took selfies. How many likes could they get?
Four hundred years of white rage against black people. Four hundred years of systemic looting of black labor through slavery and forced prison labor. Two hundred years of vandalism of black communities through housing discrimination and vicious lending practices. When will the rain extinguish the rage in our spirit?
Bell, D. (2013, June 11). George Wallace Stood in a Doorway at the University of Alabama 50 Years Ago Today. US News & World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/press-past/2013/06/11/george-wallace-stood-in-a-doorway-at-the-university-of-alabama-50-years-ago-today
Brown, D. (2018, September 28). ‘They was killing black people’. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2018/09/28/feature/they-was-killing-black-people/
Code Switch. (2020, May 30). A Decade Of Watching Black People Die. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/05/29/865261916/a-decade-of-watching-black-people-die
Lichtman, A. (2020, May 29). The ugly history of Trump’s ‘looting/shooting’ threat. Retrieved from https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-ugly-history-trumps-loot-shoot-threat-20200529-64c2wp6vhjeazigbgega76r33q-story.html
MPV. (n.d.). Police killed more than 100 unarmed black people in 2015. Mapping Police Violence. Retrieved from https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed