Dear Asian Youth,
As the Black Lives Matter movement becomes more prevalent in our media, the conversation has shifted from racial inequality and police brutality to looting and rioting. These acts have gained negative attention, therefore reflecting poorly on the movement. However, the reason why it is often a choice for people who feel like they have no other option is that it works. Riots are caused by real injustices, such as police brutality, residential segregation, economic inequality, and racism in general. These fights for justice bring serious attention and change to the issues that caused them. Although there are many forms to express this discontent, riots are caused by a long culmination of anger due to conflicts in a community. So by drawing attention to real pain in suffering communities, like committing acts of violence, they can lead to reforms to fix whatever led to the violent fury, giving a necessary voice to the voiceless. Recently, we have even seen how rioting draws media attention and can spark uncomfortable, but long overdue, conversations about race in America. This awareness is what leads to action and reform.
Historically, riots have granted us many rights we have today. The Boston Tea Party and the Stamp Act Riots led to the push for the war that ended with American independence. After that, Shays’ Rebellion revealed flaws in the Articles of Confederation. Also, in 1965, the Watts Riots broke out in Los Angeles, which led to pushes for reforms in education, housing, healthcare, and the police department. In fact, riots are a part of America’s foundation. When Freddie Gray died in police custody in 2015, the town of Baltimore protested his unjust death, and riots broke out. This placed a national spotlight on policing problems, particularly in minority communities. Eventually, the U.S. Justice Department looked into the issue more, and found the Baltimore Police Department guilty of racist practices, such as regularly arresting people for meager reasons or no reasons at all, and using excessive force against them, especially black citizens, making it clear that they were targeted and abused by the police. The investigation caused the police to create important changes within their department, like Governor Larry Hogan signing bills that would double how much people injured by police can collect in civil lawsuits, encouraging police departments to begin body camera programs, and requiring them to report all police-related deaths to the Maryland State Police.
Although rioting is often biased to only affect political and racial issues in society, the action affects social and LGBTQ+ as well. The Stonewall Riots propelled a movement for LGBTQ+ equality. At a time when being gay was illegal in almost every state, the Stonewall Inn was one of the few openly gay places in New York and was frequently raided by police. However, on one summer night in 1969, customers decided to resist arrest, which caused this protest gained support and lasted for six days. This movement marked a shift in the LGBTQ+ movement as they began fighting for their rights instead of hiding Their efforts led to numerous changes for the community; New York’s first gay pride parade was held a few months later that year and advocacy groups appeared all across America the following year. Violent protests like this have shaped our nation, and by claiming that the current protesters should practice nonviolent tactics, we imply that we better understand how to enact change, despite not having experienced the same inequalities.
Additionally, most of the groups who are against rioting do not understand the injustices that African Americans have had to face in the past and present, blinded by privilege. In 1921, the Tulsa Race Riot destroyed the wealthiest black community in America. White residents attacked African American residents and looted and destroyed businesses, and it is often referred to as the Tulsa Race Massacre because of the mass amount of casualties. But citizens with these beliefs also riot for other reasons, like when their sports team wins, when their sports team loses, or just to feel "a rush." Surely protesting institutional racism is more important. This kind of hypocrisy is an excellent display of privilege, and to those who have not only not been the victims of generations of anti-black violence but rather benefited from it, have no right to judge how African Americans protest.
- Maesha and Erika