The Actual Hypocrisy in America

Americans should not be outraged over the protests, but because of the systematic factors that caused them.


photo from NBC

People of color are protesting because unjust systems have given them no other option.

Michael Taffe, Technical Director

On June 1st, an article was published on The Uproar’s sister site, NAEye, titled “Hypocrisy in America.” The three things I agree with in this article are the title, the writer’s anger at the brutal killing of George Floyd, and his freedom of speech to give his opinion. 

After justifying the outrage over Floyd’s death, the author then highlights how the peaceful protests turned violent. He asked why it was justified “to burn down a police station because of the actions of a couple bad cops?” He followed this up by asking why “domestic terrorism” was “acceptable” now.

To answer the first question: It became okay to burn a police station down after no meaningful legislation was created and passed after the peaceful protests following a white police officer shooting Michael Brown in 2014, after the peaceful protests following the death of Stephen Clark, and following the peaceful protests after the police killed Eric Garner for standing on a street corner in which no indictments occurred. Person of color after person of color have died from police brutality, followed by peaceful protests, followed by government inaction.

The second part of the question plays down the atrocities carried out by police by saying “a couple of bad cops.” The first thing to note is that it is more than a few. On the low end of the estimates, one in five police officers domestically abuse their families. On duty, police officers killed 7,666 people between 2013 and 2019, and in those incidents, Black Americans were nearly three times as likely to be the victim. In states such as Utah, that number could rise to as much as nine times. As a concession statement, let me acknowledge there are good-hearted cops. Good-hearted cops whose duty it is to enforce racist laws and who protect the bad cops around them. I’m sure there were Russians who joined the KGB to create peace in their country as well. To initiate meaningful reform, being good-hearted is not enough. Officers must acknowledge the flawed system and actively work to enact change. A few bad cops would mean a statistical anomaly. A nation of police forces sworn to carry out racist laws with friends in the court system to protect them against any action is gasoline on a revolutionary fire.

The other rhetorical question brought up in the article asked why domestic terrorism was now okay in our society. First, the definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Under this definition, the Floyd protesters are terrorists. As were the American revolutionaries. As were the people in Tiananmen Square in 1989 fighting for democracy. As were the Jews that lashed out against the Nazis. As were the LGBT members of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. As are the Hong Kong violent protesters, hailed by same people now calling the Floyd protesters “thugs.” By using the word terrorism, I assume the author of the article was trying to draw a connection between the protesters and Jihadist groups such as ISIS, so let me help him connect this situation to the Islamic State. The Islamic State targets and kills people based on who they are and imposes a curfew on their territory to prevent protests or violence. But that doesn’t sound like the side of the protesters, does it?

The author of the article at no point tried to see the situation from the other side. A great article by The Verge includes a list of police violence with video evidence that shows that the protesters were not the only instigators. The police “brutalized lawmakers,” and stopped a car with two African Americans in it, tasing them and “tearing them out of their car.” The list goes on without even mentioning the New York police driving a car into a crowd. All of this occurred despite much of the protests being carried out peacefully. The protesters might be escalating the violence, but the police are the ones throwing the matches on the fire.

This is where the hypocrisy of America comes in. Currently, police are throwing tear gas on silent protests where the individuals are sitting down. In the Michigan protests about reopening the country, police calmly waited for white men with military-grade weapons to calm down. The Michigan protesters were called “very good people” while the Floyd protesters were called “thugs.” 

Even when white people begin looting and rioting and lighting things on fire, they are not called thugs. Detroit experienced looting, stabbing, and rioting after their basketball team WON the championship. Googling “Detroit 1990 riot thug” doesn’t give you a single article calling any of the rioters thugs until the second page, a place most people don’t know exists. Looking at the headline of the article, you then realize it isn’t talking about the 1990 protests, but rather the ones going on right now led by Black Americans and not white ones. For a more recent example, the same thing happened in Boston in 2015 after the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Google “Boston riots 2015 thug” and no article appears until the second page. But even then, it was an article from 2015 highlighting the same point I’m making now.

The American Revolution only turned violent after all other options were exhausted. No American would call George Washington a terrorist. Likewise, for many African Americans, there are no other peaceful options. Martin Luther King Jr., a champion of peaceful protests, was shot and killed. Rosa Parks was arrested. Colin Kaepernick was called a disgrace and thrown out of the NFL, an organization that still has not welcomed him back. When a step is taken forward, new laws spring up to take the country two steps back. Jim Crow laws replaced slavery. The War on Drugs was introduced to target minorities. Gerrymandering made minority votes inconsequential. Polling sites were closed in minority heavy areas. Attempts to pass racist voting ID laws are still happening. In February of this year, new voter ID laws determined to have been racially discriminatory were blocked for the 2020 election. In 2013, election changes, as well as voter ID laws, were struck down in federal courts, citing that the laws served to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” place “barriers between citizens and the ballot box,” and that “it sent a message that contradicted some of the most basic principles of our democracy.” People of color have been shouting for over 200 years for equality in a country that claims to be founded on the principle that all men were created equal. With their lungs and voices exhausted, unable to make another sound because they “can’t breathe,” people of color are now hoping their hands will pick up where their lips left off.