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Why don’t you denounce the violence of rioting and looting, too?

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As Kingdom people called to be “peacemakers,” we decry all violence. Destroying or stealing other people’s property is wrong. But here it’s important to understand some history. Going back to the centuries of slavery America was built on, whites have decried the destruction of property and lack of “law and order” whenever black or brown people revolted against the racist system that oppressed them, but have not acknowledged, let alone addressed, their justified grievances. When many black and brown people heard white people denouncing the violence that followed an unjust police killing while not addressing the underlying cause, what they hear is “more of the same.”

When people respond to racism through rioting, looting or violence, it comes from a place of deep grief and a frustration with a country that consistently refuses to hear or listen to that pain. There is a “why” behind each of these actions, and it is vital we understand this. To understand is not the same thing as to condone, but to focus only on the behavior and not the underlying reasons it exists can lead us to ignore the real issues. Rioting is only a symptom of a gaping wound that must be attended to.

White people often plead for “order” (and order is not the same as true peace!), complaining that marches disrupt traffic, kneeling is disrespectful, boycotts silence free speech, celebrities speaking out are divisive, etc. But people of color have been crying out unheard for centuries and nothing seems to have caught the attention of white people, least of all peaceful protests. A riot is a megaphone of pain that is asking the question: “What do we have to do to get you to hear us?”

In addition, we encourage you to be critical of media coverage of looting. Oftentimes the words “looting” or “rioting” are only applied to black and brown people while words like “found” or “protesting” are used to describe white people engaging the same behavior. Look carefully at news reports. How are they feeding a narrative that reinforces negative stereotypes and prejudices and sets different standards for black and white people?

We denounce the violence that followed George Floyd’s murder, but we place a greater emphasis on the injustice that opened the door to this violence than on the violence itself. Besides, property is always reparable or replaceable: George Floyd is not.

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