Riots aren’t unique to the United States, but they’re woven throughout the tapestry of this nation’s history. Depending on how you define a riot, there have been hundreds — or thousands — since the 18th century.
A team of economists would have difficulty putting a dollar value on the cost. The violence, destruction, hatred and distrust build resentment that can cause another riot in another place and time. The frequency and violence of riots in the United States is appalling, but I have to believe that Americans can stop the evil that haunts us. The deaths are so tragic and repetitive that they should make us want to change our ways.
From 2017 to 2019, almost 5.5 million people participated in 4,296 protests for many different reasons. There have been at least 50 protests this year alone. My study of 96 race riots doesn’t include any First Nation, Irish, Italian, Chinese, labor (railroad, coal, automobile, dock workers), war protests or sporting events.
This is about people dying just because of the color of their skin. Between the New York City Slave Uprising of 1712 and the Milwaukee/Charlotte Riots of 2016, we lost 230 white and 2,907 Black people, more than were lost on 9/11.
The Black-led events started with attempts to gain freedom, while the white-led events were based on false pretexts or retribution for real or imagined wrongs. Police or white mobs fueled by an irrational fear of Black people would overreact and begin beating, shooting, burning and lynching Blacks to keep them “in their place.”
The “score” shows why Black people have reason to be scared of white people. Is it any wonder that they would rise up?
Whether they were called a riot, race riot, revolt, conspiracy, unrest, insurrection, mutiny, war, massacre, uprisings, rebellion or protest, they shared similar traits. White vigilantes and police departments are responsible for most of the killing. Police fatally shot 1,146 Black and white Americans in 2015; 1,092 in 2016; 986 in 2017; 990 in 2018; 1,004 in 2019; and 661 so far this year.
Each death contributes to the cumulative impact.
Most of the information on racial strife in the United States has been buried very deeply. Many white people deny the atrocities that Blacks have endured, just like white supremacists who deny the Holocaust. Some old newspaper articles indicate losses in Black communities weren’t considered particularly relevant and weren’t reported.
When President Trump wanted to hold a rally, he purposely picked Juneteenth (a Black holiday) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where 300 Black men, women and children were killed in that city’s Black Wall Street. Recently, anthropologists used drones to find an unmarked mass grave, but Tulsa officials won’t allow further exploration of the site that might hold as many as 1,000 Black remains. This is ongoing systemic racism.
It’s just insane to keep doing the same things but not address the cause that wastes the American lives and precious resources. We must find a better use of our national treasure.