On the early morning of Tuesday, April 4th, 2017
an estimated 55,000 young adults took to the streets.
Some of them set fires.
Some of them had mistaken themselves for Jackie Chan, climbed to the tops of light poles and recklessly dangled-
placing their safety and the safety of those below in danger.
Some set fires, despite warnings by police not to.
The cause of this uproar?
They weren’t showing their disapproval of the Donald Trump admin. decision to no longer protect 7 million student borrowers from ridiculously interest high fees.
That would have been understandable.
The crowd wasn’t gathered to protect the an indigenous community’s right to live near and enjoy clear water.
And no… they were’nt protesting racial injustice
This was a celebration.
The group of 55,000, mostly white young adults were celebrating their college’s victory in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game.
They won a basketball game.
The fires. The light poles. The 7 injured & 4 burned.
They weren’t the result of protesting a capitalist system that exploits young men of color à la Black Lives Matter.
Instead, theirs was a celebration of a system of exploitation, perfectly engineered by the The University of North Carolina & the NCAA.
But early Tuesday morning, a large group of thousands disobeyed laws and police warnings. Despite the fires and the sustained injuries, their demonstration is lovingly embraced as a fabric of the American sports experience while Colin Kaepernick, who quietly chose to protest injustice, is excoriated as an un-American nuisance.
I’m a sports fan. Deeper than that, I am a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.
I understand the feeling of unbridled exhiliration that must be shared with a community of others after winning the big one.
And to be fair, the celebrants of Monday night’s Tar Heel victory
weren’t as disruptive as sports rioters of the past.
Continuing in fairness, the actions of a few arsonists and light pole climbers shouldn’t define the law-abiding many.
But that “f word”-fairness and the lack there of is precisely the problem.
Because in America, in places like Ferguson,La a large group of law abiding African American protestors are unfairly tainted by the uncivil minority amongst them.
When mass gatherings have black or brown faces, the media uses the actions of a few to justify it’s bias towards the righteous cause of the many.
In America, public disruptions are viewed as “kids just being kids”….as long as said kids are white.
Rowdiness, delinquency, and criminality are accepted.
Movies like the recently released “Fist Fight” and 2014’s “ Neighbors” celebrate white students lack of respect for authority, rules and property to the point of fetish.
At big universities, disorder and destruction are practically a right of passage.
A columnist for the local paper ‘News & Observer’, ACTUALLY said
“The smell of smoke is a good thing on Franklin Street. It smells like victory.”
It seems that when you’re white, Vice becomes virtue.
And remember, the University of North Carolina won their match.
This happened after a victory. We shouldn’t forget what happens when University of Kentucky students lose. In 2014 & 2015, Kentucky students & fans flooded the streets unified in righteous basketball anger. Setting furniture ablaze and damaging cars.
We know that empathy and mercy are rarely on the media’s menu when black bodies get together in solidarity.
Whether it be in pride, protest or the interaction of both, Black Americans and Native Americans are derided as thugs, barbarians and met with harsh if not brutal police opposition.
Can you imagine how the headlines would read if FAMU students & fans poured onto MLK blvd and climbed atop city property?
Does anyone honestly believe that a group of thousands of Black, Morehouse men storming the streets, setting fires in the early morning would have been so warmly received or calmly ignored?
The problem is in how our society makes excuses for the humanity and failings of the majority race & gender, while mercilessly persecuting people of color for the same accused indiscretions.
This discrepancy in treatment is why the acquitted Nate Parker became a controversial hashtag while John RK Howard, the Idaho teen who was only given 300 hours probation for his role in the rape of an African American, disabled teammate, is a footnote.
When Trayvon, Mike Brown and other Black men and women are unnecessarily murdered, many in news media and social media lazily point to the victims’ criminal records as justification.
Meanwhile, David Becker a white, 18 year old tri-athlete charged with raping 2 unconscious women avoided jail time and having to register as a sex offender because the judge didn’t want to “impede” David’s “college experience”.
I, like many others wish to live in a land that uses empathy and condemnation fairly and across racial lines.
But in a country that is ok with spending more on weapons than it does education-
and in a country that is still ok with young men working FOR FREE on national television while others make millions and billions off of their talents, labor & sweat,
my hope is clearly a naive one.