Violent riots for Black Lives Matter are ineffective, hypocritical


Kyla Pelham

Opinion Editor Brianna Tang writes that peaceful protests accomplish much more than violence.

Brianna Tang, Opinion Editor

All of my opinions come from the perspective of a non-black American, which is important to acknowledge because I will never understand the anger and injustice black Americans face every day, not to mention how the anger has been heightened during the past few weeks.

If you have been keeping up with images of protests, riots, anger and chaos over the news and social media at all over the past few days, you should be knowledgeable about the resurgence of Black Lives Matter and why many people of all races are supporting the movement. 

Black Lives Matter, which began in response to the acquittal of Travyon Martin’s murder in 2013, has reached another tipping point where riots and protests have resurfaced following the murder of a black man, George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Floyd is only one of 1,949 black Americans who have been victims of police brutality between 2013-2019, reported by the Mapping Police Violence dataset.

The root of police brutality comes from the systematic oppression on black people in the criminal justice system. Reported by the NAACP, African Americans are five times as likely to be incarcerated than whites, and although African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32 percent of the US population, they make up 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015. This goes to show the severe racial disparity in the United States criminal justice system. 

Over the past week, millions of people across the country have been participating in peaceful protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. With righteous anger, most protesters have remained peaceful and respectful, but there are also some who haven’t. 

I have seen countless photos and videos circulating the internet of looting, severe property damage and fires. Not only am I seeing these images, but I am also seeing a popular sentiment on social media suggesting that unless you’re able to overlook the rioting, you’re not actually supporting the protestors or movement.

I understand the argument that at the end of the day it is just buildings and glass being destroyed in comparison to human lives, and sure businesses such as Target will be able to rebuild due to the fact that it’s a huge nationwide corporation, but what about all of the small businesses and personal property? And when does the violence come to an end? 

Reported by The Atlantic, about three-quarters of nonviolent movements get some or all of what they want, compared with only about a third of the violent ones. Rioting has historically been counterproductive to achieving racial justice. According to a recent study published in the American Political Science Review, peaceful protests for civil rights in the 1960s tended to build support for the movement, but the support decreased after violent protests. A similar study reported by The New York Times states that the political history of both the 1960s and 2010s suggest strong evidence against the political effectiveness of looting, vandalism or arson. In addition to physical damage are the direct costs for the communities where riots break out. 

The people who have turned to taking out their anger through violence are putting innocent lives at risk, not to mention the dangers of potentially furthering the spread of COVID-19. Furthermore, the small business owners impacted by looting did nothing to deserve their life’s work being destroyed. Dealing with racism does not provide an excuse to be violent and for a movement that is fighting for human lives, it is quite hypocritical if individuals, part of the movement or not, are condoning violence. 

Instead of overlooking violence, we can channel our righteous anger towards spreading awareness, promoting political reform, and voting for the right candidates. Police funding comes from the government, and police power is exercised by the legislative and executive branches of the state. For there to be higher order of change in this country, the best you can do is continuously taking action and living by high morals in your daily life. 

If you’re looking for resources to be educated on the issue, I highly recommend watching “13th,” a Netflix documentary that explores the history of racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system. There are so many resources online and books such as “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Davis and “Memoirs of Malcolm X” by Janet Mock. I have been watching Danielle Coke’s livestreams on Instagram about turning awareness into action, and they have been eye opening. 

I believe that what we need as non black Americans is an in-depth self-evaluation and change of heart. Black Lives Matter is not a political movement or a social trend, it is a terribly delayed movement for basic human rights and fighting systematic oppression. It is doing good work and the organization needs support from all races. However, instead of rioting, why not peacefully protest, vote and educate yourself and those around you to do better and be better in daily life?