What I hear from well-intentioned white folks is “why are they rioting” “why the looting”? Your black friends do not have the energy or time to answer your questions so let me, a white, cis-gendered 60 year old woman describe a moment in time when I came within an inch of destroying property.
I’ve been really lucky in life to be born at a time when financial aid was available, low income households were given help to keep food on the table and send their children to decent schools. I was lucky to work for employers who valued my continuing education. I was lucky to have parents, flawed but who loved me more than their own needs. I had white skin and while I was working class low income no one ever doubted my intentions or my ability to succeed. While some talk about the narrative of “working hard” I go with the narrative of “being lucky”.
So why that moment? I had been the target of workplace bullying for a long time. It was subtle but there and recognized by everyone including leadership. But for those of you unfamiliar with employment law, it is quite difficult to prove. So one weekend I was at work and the rage had been building for years and there was a moment when I thought “I can steal all of the artwork and kick in the doors”. I started screaming a guttural sound that I did not recognize coming from me. I started kicking doors and taking the art work off of the walls and was getting ready to throw it and break it when I had a small moment of sanity. I stopped. But if someone was there with me who shared my rage and frustration and anger and hurt and sadness for all the years of being hated, I don’t know that we would have stopped at just kicking doors and artwork. In perfect honesty—I only stopped because people knew that I was often in the office on the weekend and had the code to the outside doors. It was being caught not being moral that stopped me.
And when this happens over and over, and when opportunities are denied and when you are harmed and when your loved ones are KILLED, and when you fear for your life (not just your employment) then you want to burn the ships and walk away.
So the next time you make a statement about “why the violence” or “ why the looting” know that is the most rational irrational response to discrimination, hatred and rage. Don’t judge.