Events are multifaceted, cultural and racial groups are not monolithic, and many things about a situation can be true at the same time. Reductionism is dangerous. Simplicity is dangerous. There are no easy, one-line answers. They don’t exist, because life isn’t like that.
The following ideas do not contradict each other.
1. There are real socio-economic and political reasons for why this riot occurred. Urban violence committed by youth and marginalized people of color does not happen in a vacuum. When you neglect a community for so long, when you treat its residents as criminals-by-default who must then prove themselves to be citizens, when you treat these communities as problem areas to be hemmed in and monitored, instead of nurtured, when tax money goes to law enforcement, not schools and development – this is what happens.
Do NOT believe what the law enforcement or the media has to say about this. The institutions of power have a vested interest in protecting the status quo, which is the continued existence of the police state in poor communities of color in London, and in similar cities across the Western world. The rioters are not individual hooligans taking advantage of a bad situation. This is not an argument for more police control, for taking away social spending, or longer prison sentences.
The official reaction to these riots confirms what activists from these communities have been saying for years; poor kids of color are either: A) irrelevant to mainstream society, or if they are finally noticed, are B) only seen as criminals. There’s very little opportunity for poor youth to be seen as the nuanced, complicated, diverse beings that they are. That’s intentional. The status quo is reinforced every time minority youth are seen as a terrifying, brainless monolith. That is what the mainstream media is going to try to do to these kids. Do not let them.
2. It’s silly to pretend that all of this violence is directed, focused, and political in intent. A powder keg of repressed anger and energy has exploded, and London is feeling the consequence of that. It doesn’t mean London deserves the violence, or that the rioters are correct in their actions. The rioters are not innocents, fighting back the only way they can against a corrupt police state. They are culpable. Their behavior cannot be excused by their political intentions; political violence cannot be purified or sanctified or reduced into something palatable and easily digestible by an ideology. Political violence is still violence, the same old beast we’ve engaged with for millions of years. Nothing changes that.
You run over me, doesn’t matter how oppressed you are. You still ran over me. I’m still dead. There are a lot of people, innocent people, who are going to lose their lives, their livelihoods, and their homes. People who we know are in danger.
Don’t you dare try to paper over that.