Reevaluate protest biases

On the evening of May 31st, police in riot gear prevented protesters from coming down N. Oakland Ave into Shorewood. This single incident is emblematic of a larger issue in Shorewood.

Granted, there were some residents, many of them younger people, who were angry and disturbed that the protesters were blocked from entering Shorewood. However, there were also many residents who instantly fled to Facebook, praising the cops for preventing the protesters from doing harm to the community, or saying that the protesters needed to obey the curfew. If Shorewood won’t let protesters march through the town, then what are all of the signs saying “Love Trumps Hate” and “Hate has No Home Here” for? It seems these residents support the protesters, until they actually have to interact with them – until the protests disrupt the peace and comfort of their lives. Many residents are more concerned about property damage than the damage done to black communities and individuals by systemic racism. These concerns are rooted in misinformation and a lack of understanding (or refusal to accept) both the purpose and context behind the protests.  

Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show, posted a video in which he delves into the reasons why looting and rioting has occurred in some places. He explains that it comes down to the social contract between the citizens and the people in power, in which the people in power protect and provide for the citizens, and in return, the citizens follow the laws. However, this social contract is broken, and has been for a long time. People in power, including the police and politicians, haven’t upheld their duty to protect black lives and ensure their safety and well-being. This begs the question: why should Black Americans be expected to hold up their end of the social contract? (Just to be clear though, Black Americans have largely held up their end of the social contract throughout history, despite it not being reciprocated). Furthermore, the fact that people have to resort to rioting to actually get any attention paid to the killing of black people by police says a lot about our nation, and says a lot about what black people in this country have to live through.

It’s also extremely important to note that the vast majority of protesters want the protests to be peaceful. And many of the protests have been peaceful. The news likes to only cover the rioting and the looting because it’s more interesting, or it makes their ratings higher. Additionally, videos on social media and witnesses have shown us that in many cases, it’s not protesters inciting violence or damaging property. The police have instigated violence, acting aggressively towards peaceful protesters, and/or tackling or tear gassing large groups of people. White supremacists have started fires or smashed windows during protests. These white supremacists are trying to hurt the image of protesters and recenter the discussion. If you’re focusing on the property damage rather than the powerful and beautiful movement that is unfolding right now, you are letting them succeed.

Shorewood is known as a liberal suburb, which is true, to an extent. 90% of votes cast in the April 7th elections were by Democrats. However, identifying as liberal or a Democrat does not mean you’re not racist. Black Lives Matter is not partisan. Many cities that have seen horrific police brutality in recent days have Democrat mayors. Your political party is not an excuse for inaction. Your political party does not automatically determine your morality. 

Amy Cooper, the woman who was videotaped falsely accusing Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man, of threatening her life in Central Park, was by all accounts a “good liberal” on paper. She had donated to politicians like John Kerry and Barack Obama. Her demographics, a white, urban and college-educated woman, don’t raise any red flags in the hunt to root out racism in our country. Yet when she was inconvenienced by being asked to put her dog on a leash, she didn’t hesitate to call the police and knowingly threaten the life of a fellow human being. This story feels strikingly similar to a mainly white suburb using police to keep protesters, an inconvenience, out. 

As liberal white people, we all have to reckon with the “Amy Cooper” inside of us. We want stricter control on weapons and guns, but do we apply that to the police? We adore our nation’s first black president, but do we get nervous passing a black neighbor on the street at night? Communities like Shorewood need to address their blindspots and shortcomings just like any other place in America.