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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.

3 thoughts on “Why don’t you denounce the violence of rioting and looting, too?

  1. Jesse says:

    It would have been nice to hear from the leadership a *public* denouncment of the violent riots that *did not* only damage property but took lives as well. Can you help me understand why this violence was not immediatly condemned in the early messages?

    Also, it’s been documented that extemesit and radical groups have been key instigators of the violent riots with an ideology that has nothing to do with social injustice. Even the Mayor Wheeler of Portland finally stated, “When you commit arson with an accelerant in an attempt to burn down a building that is occupied by people who you have intentionally trapped inside, you are not demonstrating, you are attempting to commit murder.” Why hasn’t this been addressed as a way to balance your position?

    Also, many of those being called “looters” and “rioters” are actually WHITE. And I recall at least one massive gathering of African Americans engaged in a peaceful, silent demonstration in a large open area. I remember it because it was so powerful and they were referred to as protestors. (side note: I find it very interesting that you imply the mainstream media is bent toward painting the Black community in a negative light when it seems that most mainstream outlets are doing everything they can to justify and elevate their cause.)

    My point with that last paragraph isn’t to go tit-for-tat but to encourage you to bring some balance into your position instead of painting a one-sided narrative.

    Is that something you can do?

    1. Emily says:

      Dear Jesse,
      Thanks for caring about these issues and engaging with us. It’s hard to dialog in the comment section, so if you would like to continue this conversation with one of our pastors, we’d be glad to set it up! Feel free to email us at info@whchurch.org.

      At Woodland, we unreservedly denounce all violence, including violence resulting from riots, looting and property damage. However, in this event the tragic murder of George Floyd was the most critical part and the wound that needed to be addressed immediately. We are not able to speak to the actions of protestors across the country such as in Portland, but are speaking specifically to our neighborhood.

      As more information becomes available, we are getting a clearer picture of what was going on in our city. It seems there were multiple motivations behind the violence. However, because rioting and looting are often used as a megaphone to express pain, we still believe it is important to understand this motivation as part of the overall process of engaging in race conciliation. This is all the more important in light of the fact that there is a long tradition of whites responding to black anger by focusing on the property they damaged while leaving unaddressed the causes of their anger.

      —Emily from the Communications Team

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you all for your comments and feedback! We believe this conversation is worth continuing, but are closing the comment section for now as we hope to engage individually with those of you who would like to discuss these topics in more detail. If you have further thoughts, please email us at info@whchurch.org.

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