I’m sitting here watching the news following this year’s Super Bowl where the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in a close and exciting game. And while I didn’t think the game left anything to be desired and I was happy to see the underdog win. It gave many much to celebrate. It was complete bliss for the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia finally had the prize it’s been waiting for.
What I cannot reconcile is what took place after the game in Philly. Eagles fans went in the street to celebrate their win. In doing so, they destroyed property, set fires, climbed poles, and knocked over street signs. I watched these fans ruin their city after winning their first Super Bowl, and yet, I did not see any newscasters call them thugs, looters, blame Chicago or Obama. No one blamed the type of music they listened to, how the assume rap music is coded to provoke violence. No one accused their presumed absent fathers or their genes for them being prone to violence. Instead, these folks were just written off as being rowdy or too excited.
However, I still remember the coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the country. Where black people, their allies, and supporters, were called terrorists and unpatriotic racists who should just go back to where they came from if they had a problem with how things are in America. When they were peaceful, they were met with militarized police in riot gear, hurling tear gas as if the mere presence of the social justice protesters meant impending doom.
The cause and occasion matter to the context of the event. On one side, you have people who won something getting out of control. On the other, people who feel like they lose a little more of themselves each day they are denied justice marching in the street for change. Though both occasions ended in violence, who are the real thugs? I don’t know what it’s like to have the urge to set a car on fire because my team won. But I remember too well the rage I felt hearing George Zimmerman’s guilty verdict and the anger I feel now knowing Sabrina Fulton won’t get to hug her baby, Trayvon Martin, on his 23rd birthday this week.
While I vehemently denounce violence in all forms, looting, and destruction of public property, I find that Dr. King’s words ring true during this Black History month: “Rioting is the language of the unheard.” This quote was not an endorsement, but an explanation and warning. When you take away people’s ability to speak up for themselves, speak out against justice, obtain the change and justice they demand what ensues is not pretty.
Knowing this, the difference in the way the media has reported celebrations vs. protests, I believe, is one of many moral indictments of our country and media. When rowdy fans get a pass for getting a little too excited in celebrating a win, but people marching in the streets for justice are called thugs and met with violence speaks volumes about what matters to this country. America has always been complimentary of black folks using their bodies to entertain and for sport, but never to use our minds, or voices to call out injustice or kneel in peaceful protest.