- Kelly O
- This is one of the amazing photos that Kelly O took last night. Click on the photo to see the rest of them.
Sometimes, following Yes You're Racist on Twitter can be very uncomfortable. (If you're not familiar with the conceit, it's a Twitter feed that retweets the unbelievably racist things white people say on Twitter, which are frequently led with the phrase "I'm not racist but...") Last night, the feed was incredibly uncomfortable and absolutely revelatory. Whoever runs @YesYoureRacist retweeted dozens of unrepentant racists responding to Ferguson with absolutely no empathy at all. White people were angry at black people for being angry. White people were especially angry because protesters in Ferguson were attacking stores and used car lots. Defenseless places of commerce!
You know why angry protesters target stores and banks? You know why protesters in Seattle and New York shut down major roadways last night? Because white America does not care if a police officer murders a young man in broad daylight, but white America howls with outrage if you interfere with the lifeblood of commerce. It's the only way to get a response out of the mainstream media, and it's the only way to get the suburbs to even notice that something is wrong. (Notice the media in Seattle really only started paying serious attention when Macklemore, the most commercial artist this city has produced in a couple decades, showed up at the protests. Same idea.) When you're hurt, you want someone to notice, to help. Experience tells protesters that candlelight vigils disappear into the void. Speeches go unheard. But if you break the windows of a convenience store? Those TV news vans will show up in a split-second, their enormous antennas flying high in the sky. People—powerful people, rich people—will pay attention.
In fact, it's the only way the people of Ferguson can apparently earn that attention. For decades, the people of Ferguson sat down and shut up and behaved the way racist white people on Twitter claim to want them to behave. They were "rewarded" for their silence with a city government that did not represent them, that seemed to actively hate and target them. In an August editorial, the New York Times editorial board pointed out that "only three of 53 [Ferguson police] officers are black." Further, "Blacks account for 86 percent of the traffic stops in the city, and 93 percent of the arrests after those stops." Behaving didn't help those problems. In fact, it got a young man killed.