If you’re a white person living in the suburbs of a major city and worrying about whether protesters might do damage to your property or person, I’ve got some news for you: You’re a coward. It should go without saying that Black Lives Matter and it should further go without saying that white property matters less, but home ownership does wild things to the morality and paranoia of white families. If you have a little house in a suburb like me — or a big house for that matter — it’s a good time to remind yourself of one very important thing: You don’t get to opt out of citizenship.
Also, and this is more of a practical point, most protesters are non-violent. And even among the small subset of protesters who are employing violence, few do some randomly. If you don’t live in a police precinct, shut the fuck up. If you do, send me an email. I want to hear that story.
Many parents won’t attend protests because, in this pandemic moment, childcare presents real risks and many are concerned about the safety of their children at said protests, which is reasonable though hardly courageous. That said, there are images from across the country of suburbanites pulling out guns and boarding up windows and putting the dogs on patrol in their own front yards. These people should be ashamed. The selfishness, egocentrism, and cowardice that sort of behavior displays is breathtaking. It’s why people still choose to live cramped lives in cities.
Politically (and unfortunately no literally) speaking the suburbs are purple. No surprise then that’s there’s a lot of centrism going around. “Well, I’m in favor of equal rights…” says Doug, trailing off between sips of his Samuel Adams, “…but I don’t want there to be rioting and looting about it.”
A few things:
- Sam Adams literal expertise during the colonial era was inciting mob violence. Hope you don’t mind your tea served with salt water.
- No one is pro-riot. Even the people who are rioting are not pro-riot. They didn’t want to riot. They just want not to get shot for no reason even more.
- “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Any right-thinking person is horrified by the murders of George Floyd, David McAtee , and Breonna Taylor. But that’s the easy bit. The hard bit is to be optimistic: It’s to see the future in the photos of protesters. It’s to be willing to at the very, very least get out of the way of those people willing to do the hard work that constitutes America.
Even Donald Trump’s former Secretary of Defense seems to understand this. This week, General Jim Mattis condemned Trump’s threats to use military force to stop the protests. In response to this Mattis said: “We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers…The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.”
The suburbs can feel like a land apart. They were designed that way. But they aren’t. They are part of the nation. Buying a plot in a sub-division is not a free pass from history.
The protesters aren’t a threat to your town. They likely aren’t being bussed in and even if that happens, everything will be fine. What is a threat to your town is moral cowardice. Property values don’t rise or fall when citizens fail to meet the demands of a moment, but moral injury is done to those who dwell on the danger of damage instead of the opportunity for progress.
Live in a safe town? Good for you. So should everyone else.