Paul Jacob

Listen to the experts. Challenge yourself to understand that looting isn’t bad, and shouldn’t be viewed as a violation of the rights of an innocent person or persons or a frontal assault on the essence of civilization itself.

No, looting and rioting are important human expressions for change that should be protected and celebrated. And perhaps subsidized via a pilot federal program.

Sadly, as Yamiche Alcindor reports for USA Today. “When protesters burned down a convenience store near where a police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, many condemned it.”

Oh, dear, how small-minded of them.

Thankfully, “experts say the ensuing images on national television could become as much of a catalyst for social change as peaceful protests.”

University of Missouri-St. Louis history professor Priscilla Dowden-White acknowledges that it is a “challenge to see these primarily young males and females rioting and looting as part of protest, but it is.”

“You are talking about people who are living at or below the poverty line. You are talking about people who are the products of failing schools,” she explains, “and so I look at the looting as part of survival.”

Still, one wonders just how sustainable looting might be for the people of Ferguson, Missouri. Or anywhere else.

“The looters, the robbers, the chanters, the nonviolent protests, the sign-making … all of it has value because it wouldn't be international if it wasn't for the looters,” argues Amari Sneferu, a leader of the Universal African Peoples Organization who lives in nearby St. Louis.

Sneferu was reportedly “proud” of young people for what the newspaper described as “taking matters into their own hands and not conforming to past nonviolent tactics,” saying of one young man who stole a single hubcap, “He just wanted to do something. That was his expression of outrage because a murderer is getting away with it."

Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, who graduated from a St. Louis high school and now hails from California where he’s a scholar in residence at Stanford University, returned to protest in Ferguson. He also supported the violence, declaring that “America created this. So folks took some tennis shoes, some big TVs that ended up on the black market — whatever.”

The owners of and workers at stores selling “whatever” were apparently and unfortunately unavailable for comment.

Duke University’s Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African-American studies (sporting an impressive three first names), notes that the nonviolent strategy of the civil rights movement of the 1960s may have been appropriate then, but not necessarily today.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.