Race riots

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ferguson and how to frame what I want to say. I’m just about old enough to remember the “race riots” of the 60’s, and I use that term with trepidation, because even then what was going on was not about race. It was about anger, frustration, and being ignored and considered valueless. Those emotions were based in race. But “race riot” paints a picture of black people running amok and white people cowering under their beds. Some of that did happen, in the 60’s and in Ferguson, it’s true. I wonder, though: why wasn’t it a “race riot” when a mob of whites burned the black town of Rosewood, FL, to the ground? Or the Chinatown of Tacoma, WA? Or when South Dakota “militiamen” ambushed and massacred 75 Lakota at Stronghold? When for decades in the south and midwest the KKK held rallies and then looked for the nearest black man to lynch, why wasn’t that ever a “race riot?”

For the same reason north is at the top of the map. Privilege is invisible if you have it, impervious if you don’t. And that, right there, is the heart of what happened in Ferguson, and the heart of the matter.

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