A Reflection on the Events Surrounding the Death of George Floyd
There is no great way to start this essay. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, MN. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot while jogging unarmed in a residential neighborhood. The people who shot him were only arrested several months after the crime was committed. The shootings continue, and the names continue. As an American of Indian origin, I am technically a racial minority. However, unlike most other racial minorities, I have experienced a great deal of privilege throughout my life. Therefore, I consider it my duty to stand up for the marginalized in our society and stand up to the systemic biases that certainly do exist within our government and in our law enforcement and justice systems.
I fully support Black Lives Matter. I think that those who say that "all lives matter" are simply put, being dumb. No one is denying that all lives matter, but there are people in this country who don't seem to understand that Black lives, do indeed matter and that we as a society have displayed time and time again that we think that they don't. Those who say that all lives matter are diverting attention from the problem. I support the protests and demonstrations that are currently ongoing in many cities across the United States to draw attention to the reprehensible behavior of police officers during their interactions with Black people. I mean, come on, we know the situation is bad when there are police officers who are supporting the protests.
I cannot, however, support the looting. People have justified the looting by likening it to the Boston Tea Party, the French Revolution, the lunch counter sit-ins, and Rosa Parks's civil disobedience on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama. Let me refute every single one of these points. It is important to note that I am not attempting to dispute the legality of these actions and demonstrations for every single one of them was illegal. What I am attempting to do, however, is show why these particular demonstrations have been labeled as morally justifiable and why the looting doesn't fit that framework.
First, the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Part, yes, was a riot in which property was destroyed. However, this riot was directed at a monopoly tea company which supported and benefited from the Tea Acts. The riot was meant to combat a set of unfair laws (the ones that called for taxation without fair representation). But nothing more. In the French Revolution, the third estate stormed the royal palace at Versailles, yes. But they stormed the palace of those who were in power and had the opportunity and moral obligation to make things fair. To understand why the justification of the lunch counter sit-ins and Rosa Park's actions were justifiable, I believe it is important to understand the developmental stages of Lawrence Kohlberg - particularly stages 5 and 6. Stage 4 is the "Law and Order" stage, where people do things or don't do them because they have an understanding of the function of laws and how they allow society to function like a well-oiled machine. In stages 5 and 6 of Kohlberg's developmental scheme, morals start to come into the picture when making decision. Basically, when the laws are unfair, they should be broken. The key phrase is that the law is unfair. I do not see how particularly setting ablaze property is resisting an unfair law. In the case of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the unfair law(s) were the ones that created a system in which Black people were fundamentally seen as inferior to White people. Specifically, by not allowing Black people to sit wherever they would like to sit suggests that they are inferior to White people. My objection to the looting (not the protests) is that they aren't in opposition to any unfair and unjust laws and that they are hurting people who have no control over the function of society.
I do not claim to know all of the answers. There could be, and probably are numerous flaws to my argument here. However, as much as I've tried to educate myself, I still come back to this viewpoint, that the looting cannot be justified because it is breaking laws without a specific rationale. Please, do not hesitate to point out the flaws in my argument. Email me. Call me out on Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you. To the Black people across the country and across the world: please know that I will actively start participating to help make sure all of you get the rights that you fundamentally deserve. We need to combat racism with anti-racism and not silence. Thank you for reading.