What we’re watching unfold both in our cities and in our culture is a broadside against the country itself, its institutions, its self-image, and its history.
A 28-year-old man was assaulted Tuesday outside the Wisconsin capitol building. He was driving to an area hospital to pick up his girlfriend when his vehicle crossed paths with a horde of demonstrators. One of the rioters threw a bicycle at his car, prompting the man to step out of the vehicle. He was immediately swarmed by a pack of 50 rioters, who assaulted him, stole his wallet and phone, and vandalized his car.
The Mostly Peaceful Protests continued.
Rioters threw a Molotov cocktail into a municipal building. They assaulted a state senator. They toppled the statue of the abolitionist Hans Christian Heg, decapitating his effigy and dragging the bronze remains into a nearby lake.
One demonstrator named Ebony Anderson-Carter explained to the Wisconsin State Journal that having a statue of an abolitionist outside the state capitol created a “false representation of what this city is.” If she would rather an avowed racist stand outside the capitol to better “represent” the city, there has never been a better time to buy.
Why do we continue to indulge the rioters? We do so precisely because we have collectively insisted that the killing of George Floyd was not an individual injustice — an evil act the perpetrators of which could face decades behind bars — but a link in a cosmic chain from slavery to Jim Crow to the present. When police officers knelt on Tony Timba and killed him, no one burned an AutoZone to the ground; if they had, would anyone in power have defended it? Tony Timba was fourth-page news, George Floyd was a martyr: One death is a footnote, the other indicts the country itself. Allowing the riots to proceed is something like a national indulgence: “Riots are the language of the unheard,” we are told. America is reaping what it has sown.
All of this bluster and revolutionary playacting obscures the killing of George Floyd; it obscures — intentionally — the fact that his murder evoked immediate and universal condemnation. Everyone was disgusted by what they saw, and how couldn’t they be? Derek Chauvin’s callous indifference as a man withered and died beneath his knee was enough to stir even the most hardened soul to outrage. But Floyd’s death seems almost a footnote now to the umpteenth iteration of our National Conversation about Race.
After Floyd’s death, protesters across the country screamed, “No justice, no peace!” Tony Timba got an article in the Dallas Morning News. Hardly a murmur has been heard lamenting the reams of black victims of gun violence in Chicago this month. The Floyd incident, by contrast, was the subject of 24-hour news coverage. The four perpetrators were arrested and charged. Congress began debating police-reform legislation, and Minneapolis considered disbanding its entire police department. Corporate America pledged near-universal allegiance to Black Lives Matter. As a sort of societal penance, our leaders variously looked away from or apologized for the rioters as they destroyed businesses, toppled statues of the Founders, defaced national monuments, assaulted elected officials, and desecrated cemeteries. Public figures who made racially tinged jokes a decade ago faced personal and financial ruin. Tomes like How to Be an Antiracist and White Fragility shot up the New York Times bestsellers lists.
No justice, no peace. Can we have peace now?
No: This quest for “justice” will not be sated by the conviction of Derek Chauvin, nor by police reform, nor by other targeted changes to the criminal-justice system. What we’re watching unfold both in our cities and in our culture is something more profound — a broadside against the country itself, its institutions, its self-image, and its history. If the iconoclasts were just concerned about the blight of honoring traitors who fought for the preservation of slavery, the vandals would have been satisfied by toppling the statues of the Confederates. But they went after Washington, and they want Lincoln next.
Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome said that “if this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.” If the actions of the rioters are any indication, we ought to believe him.