Looting Is Good

Posted: Aug 31, 2014 12:01 AM

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.

It is the very educated opinion of University of Texas Professor Keisha Bentley-Edwards that the goals of looters and peaceful protesters were the same. She complained that “people romanticize the 1960’s. … But people forget Martin Luther King was arrested several times."

Of course, Dr. King’s arrests were not for looting or any acts of violence whatsoever, which might be seen by some less sophisticated observers as a slight distinction.

Let’s not be naïve, however. Violence can indeed make headlines, and headlines can spark needed conversations and actions that can lead to positive changes.

No doubt, Martin Luther King’s non-violent civil disobedience was made even more compelling and effective because it could be juxtaposed to Malcolm X’s call for change “by any means necessary.” Yet, make no mistake it was the tactics of non-violence that shamed so many whites and ultimately broke the resistance to integration and equal rights in reality as well as law.

I support change, even revolutions — with the stipulation that those revolutions must be about a respect for rights, and the innocent, not an abrogation of rights and open season on innocents.

Last week I called for action to prevent police brutality and repair the relationship between police and the people they serve, pointing to two straightforward reforms: (1) ending the War on Drugs, which has oppressed and decimated black communities, and (2) mandating that Ferguson police wear the cameras they already possess to protect both themselves and the public (as should cops everywhere).

Too many of those earning a nice salary studying and bloviating on the topic of race find looting to be uplifting and life-affirming behavior to be championed. Those concerned about reform and protecting their communities see things differently.

There were two known instances of protesters in Ferguson blocking looters from breaking into stores. Christopher Scott, a 24-year-old from Northwoods, Missouri, sat guard at a business stopping a crowd of would-be looters. “It’s not right for us to tear down our own community.”

Mauricelm-Lei Millere, an advisor to the New Black Panther Party from Washington, D.C., did likewise at another store.

“I protected it because I’m not a thief,” he said.

How delightfully uneducated.