There are many deeply, frustratingly American contexts for the police brutality in MN, 1st against #GeorgeFloyd
& then against protesters. But I’m thinking in particular about the frame I'm seeing today, that the protesters were “unruly” & merited the response. A thread:
For me it starts w/what I wrote about in this @TPM
piece: when & how we collectively deploy a phrase like “riots” or “race riots,” vs. when & how we talk about “protests.” https://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/race-riots
Contemporary contrasts alone make that distinction painfully clear: heavily armed, highly aggressive whites are “protesters” treated calmly & w/respect, while unarmed protesters of color quickly become “unruly” (which is just a step from a “riot”) & are tear gassed.
But as ever, we can’t fully understand, engage, & change these 21st century dynamics if we don’t recognize the long histories out of which they’ve emerged. & as too often in America, white supremacist histories in particular, of who frames our events & what frames they provide.
I’d be willing to bet that when most Americans think of “riots,” they think of something like LA in 1992 after the Rodney King verdict, or Watts in 1968, or another history featuring protesters of color responding to injustice & inequality.
Each of those histories are complex & need their own collective memory & analysis. But to put it simply, there are far, far fewer of those events than there are riots featuring armed, violent white supremacist mobs (often including law enforcement) targeting communities of color.
I could spend 100 Tweets highlighting individual examples of such white supremacist riots (I prefer the term massacres, but “riots” helps challenge the general use of that term). Instead, just a few examples from outside of the South (to challenge any sense of regionality):
The New York City “Draft Riots” of 1863 were really a collective lynching & massacre of the city’s African American residents & their abolitionist allies. https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/draft-riots/
The years between East St. Louis, IL in 1917 and Tulsa in 1921 saw dozens of white supremacist riots around the country, w/the Red Summer (really the whole year) of 1919 as the focus. https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2019/06/considering-history-racial-terrorism-and-the-red-summer-of-1919/
Such white supremacist riots continued into the 1940s, including Detroit in 1943: https://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/race-riot-1943
I could make similar lists for white supremacist riots against other communities of color, but here are just a couple. There’s the 1871 “Chinatown War,” a massacre of LA’s Chinese Am community: https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Chinatown_War/3yZpAgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover
There’s the 1918 Porvenir, TX massacre of Mexican Americans (by Texas Rangers): https://www.porvenirmassacre.org/
(For more on Porvenir & many other anti-Mexican riots & massacres, see @MonicaMnzMtz
's vital @Refusing2Forget
& there’s the 1930 Watsonville, CA white supremacist riots against the Filipino American community: http://ucifilam.blogspot.com/2009/11/watsonville-riots.html
Again, our contemporary moment provides its own clear evidence of contradictory frames for unfolding protests. But when we examine these histories, we get a clearer sense still of who has actually rioted most consistently, most violently, most destructively.
Until we make clear that American riots have always been fundamentally white supremacist, & call current white supremacist riots by the same name—distinguishing them from protests, like last night's in MN—we won’t be able to grapple w/those frames, past & present. Fin (for now!).
PS. Besides the resources & voices in that thread, I'd also highlight @ProfEFP
on the Klan & @KidadaEWilliams
on the effects of white supremacist violence, as well as @MonicaMnzMtz
& the @Refusing2Forget
project one more time.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.