On Monday I wrote about the obsession many white people have when it comes to looting or rioting by black people when racially-charged tragedy has once again struck a black community. We’re seeing this now in Ferguson, Missouri, where the police’s killing of Michael Brown — an unarmed black teenager — has prompted protests and vigils, but also looting, vandalism, and arson. And while the latter should be condemned and reported on since they are after all news, we can’t let the actions of a few morons make us forget that another unarmed black person has been killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Or maybe the looting and vandalism shouldn’t be condemned?
“It seems far easier to focus on the few looters who have reacted unproductively to this tragedy than to focus on the killing of Michael Brown. Perhaps looting seems like a thing we can control. I refuse. I refuse to condemn the folks engaged in these acts, because I respect black rage. I respect black people’s right to cry out, shout and be mad as hell that another one of our kids is dead at the hands of the police. Moreover I refuse the lie that the opportunism of a few in any way justifies or excuses the murderous opportunism undertaken by this as yet anonymous officer.”
Quite obviously, the black people of Ferguson — and anyone else who’d like to join them — have every right to be enraged, to protest, to yell, to chant, “Fuck the police,” and most importantly, to demand justice. And they should do all of those things. Even though the circumstances behind Brown’s death aren’t entirely clear, mass demonstrations will intensify pressure for a thorough investigation.
Cooper is a self-described “next generation black intellectual,” but refusing to condemn looters and vandals because she “respect[s] black rage” even when it leads to criminal acts against people who had nothing to do with Brown’s killing is just about as intellectually unserious as it gets.
Not only that, Cooper is excusing the selfishness of those engaged in these criminal acts. Instead of doing what the majority of Ferguson residents outraged at Brown’s killing have done — i.e., protest and not break the law — these goons are using his death as a reason to steal and destroy property. Through such actions, they have now made the story about themselves instead of what it should be about: how another black person died at the hands of police.
Cooper can give them cover if she wants, but in doing so she lowers the standards of behavior for black people by implying that some of them are just so angry they can’t even control themselves.
That’s not black rage. It’s just criminal activity. To conflate the two is not only wrong, it plays right into the hands of racists who’d be all too happy to agree they’re one and the same.