In the wake of protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, the prevailing refrain from White America was consistent. While especially contemptible cretins described protesters as animals and used racially-charged language to paint their picture, many white folks from the more reasonable reaches of society bemoaned the violent nature of the black protests.
“But why do they have to light things on fire?” you might have seen. “What good is rioting and looting?” It wasn’t the cause that bothered those detractors, just the methodology marshaled in support of the cause. These were white folks, many of them liberal, who wanted you to believe that if protesters had just conducted themselves with a little bit of that white class, White America might have lent its undying support rather than standing up for the innocent business owners caught in the war zone.
With this in mind, you might have expected White America to respond with glee when a group of black students at the University of Missouri decided to use peaceful means of coercion to get across their points. No, these students weren’t burning cop cars or throwing trash cans through the front window of a storefront. They were creating online coalitions, taking pictures, enlisting the help of college football players, and going on hunger strikes. They were using their right to peaceful assembly to demand answers from a college president who seemed at a loss for how to deal with mounting racial tension on his campus.
They were, in essence, doing precisely what White America had asked of the protesters a few hours away in Ferguson.
Imagine their surprise when they learned that White America had a new complaint. These black students were too sensitive and too demanding. Their peaceful actions, it seems, are ruining college atmospheres which, if you believe White America, are defined by the ability of students to offer race-based hate speech with impunity. In Ferguson and in Baltimore, black protesters showed precisely what’s wrong with America by refusing to act peacefully in the face of centuries of intentional and systematic oppression. In Columbia, Missouri, they were guilty of another misstep — carrying too far the baton of political correctness.
It’s in this that we see confirmation of what many knew in the wake of Baltimore. Those detractors—the people primarily concerned with the poor, oppressed CVS storefronts—were never sincere in their critiques. They never disagreed with only the tactics, and their support could never have been won with a peaceful protest. They were involved only in a game as old as time for White America — the search for the first reasonable distraction.
It doesn’t matter what black protesters do nor how they do it. Whether they’re sitting peacefully in the street, refusing to play college football, or shouting on top of a police car, black protesters are always doing it wrong. It’s White America that sets the rules, as it always has, in defining what can and cannot be in response to systematic oppression. What’s required of black protesters to win respectability is a moving target, changing on the whims of unwritten societal rules. To be violent is evidence of black inferiority, but to be creative on campus is evidence that black people just don’t get the purpose of education.