Why We Riot

By Krystal Lambert

I must open with a disclaimer right off the bat: I am a white person writing about racial injustice that does not affect me personally and I hesitate to write about it at all because it is not my story to write. With that said, it is my responsibility as a white person to confront and unmask white supremacy and racism in its many forms so that other white people can begin to do the same within themselves. So, pay close attention fellow white folks, this song’s for you.

I doubt I can begin to scratch the surface of this incredibly complicated subject in just one article, so I will point you to another Julie article written back in January by Kjersti McDonald you can find it here called “Acknowledging My White Privilege.”  I also pulled a quote from it, but the entire article is very well written and worth a read. 

There is deep trauma that exists in white people because of the violence enacted by our ancestors. We cannot escape the knowledge that our forefathers stole, captured, sold, bought, profited off of, raped, brutalized, and murdered African slaves. And despite that being in the past, and no fault of our own, that history lives within all of us and that trauma has shaped us, just as the ancestral trauma of today’s descendants of slaves has shaped their identities and placement in today’s society. It isn’t healthy to have internalized feelings of superiority. It is painful to see law enforcement that looks like us subject people of color to violence that so closely resembles the experiences of slaves escaping plantations. The unconscious harm institutionalized racism inflicts on all of us manifests as our inability to come to terms with the reality of race relations, the lack of reparations, and the abject failure to speak honestly and transparently about the history of racism in our schools and institutions.”

I also IMPLORE YOU to watch the documentary “13th” on Netflix if you haven’t yet, and then make every white person you know watch it. I literally tricked my own father into watching it a few years ago by just saying “Hey Dad, I wanna show you this documentary.” I hate the idea that any of us would have to “trick” friends and family into learning about institutionalized racism, but I understand how uncomfortable these topics can be to discuss (especially with Boomers lol) so it can be as simple as sitting down and watching a documentary with them to start that conversation. In my opinion, this documentary should be required watching for ALL WHITE PEOPLE and can be the catalyst to helping them understand and dismantle their own prejudices and delusions about racial injustice in this country.

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I did not watch the video of George Floyd’s brutal murder as I am incredibly sensitive to violence and still have nightmares about violent shit I’ve seen on TV from years ago. I never click on those kinds of videos, but I read the transcript if there is one. After just reading the transcript of this evil act, I was heartsick and enraged for days. I still am. How anyone could listen to a grown (innocent) man plead for mercy, plead for his deceased mother, in his dying moments and not be absolutely destroyed by empathy for him is beyond me. How the cop could do it in the first place baffles me, of course. What is much more confusing and shocking to me is that SO MANY WHITE PEOPLE could watch an act so evil and cruel and still play dumb about the Black Lives Matter movement. Still defend cops as if they are mostly good dudes with a few “bad apples” here and there. Still stand behind our idiotic, ignorant President when he incites violence against peaceful protestors. 

If I watched anyone I loved go down like that I would want to destroy this town. I would hope you would all be just as enraged and moved to action if my own life was snuffed out by such a sinister act. The fact that this happens ALL THE TIME should be driving us all insane. What the fuck is wrong with us?? We are so privileged and desensitized to white supremacy that it is stripping us of our own humanity. I say us, because I can’t separate myself from the white devils that are commenting “All Lives Matter” on posts about black people begging for their lives. White people, we have to go and get our people. Round them up and talk some sense into them. Confront them. Shame them when necessary. Nothing is going to change until white people wake up, educate themselves, and get pissed off enough to stand up to the institutions that systematically oppress and murder people of color.

“All Lives Matter”

Because I have cocooned myself in a comforting social media bubble of liberal/leftist people and platforms, I feel the arguments against this phrase as a means to invalidate the Black Lives Matter movement are so obvious I shouldn’t even have to state them. The analogy of calling the fire department to put out a fire on a house that is burning down, just to have them spray down all the houses in the neighborhood that are NOT ON FIRE has been circulated for years. It’s really that simple. Black people are being murdered in great number by those sworn to serve and protect human life simply because of the color of their skin. Even if they were guilty of a crime, and more often than not they have done absolutely nothing to warrant being arrested, much less MURDERED, but even if they have committed a crime, the police are public servants. They are not the judge and jury. They have no right to take a human life so casually, and walk free. Once you understand how deeply ingrained white supremacy and racial profiling is in the field of law enforcement, you’ll understand why All Lives Matter is a ludicrous thing to say in the face of police brutality. Until you educate yourself on these matters, you don’t get to throw out useless platitudes designed to invalidate the lives and deaths of POC.

“Not All Cops”

It is impossible to be a member of law enforcement and not be complicit in racial profiling, police brutality and institutionalized racism. These things or woven into the very fabric of law enforcement. A few years ago, NPR did a story where several police officers from police departments all across the nation called in, had their voices disguised for anonymity, and described story after story of their own superiors, chiefs of police, etc. ENCOURAGING RACIAL PROFILING. One officer (I’ll never forget this) stated that every morning, the head of his department instructed he and his fellow officers to “Have a black day.” He further explained what the phrase meant. Black people are the easiest to arrest, incriminate and imprison. I wonder why that is? Oh right, because our society was founded on white supremacy and the victimization, enslavement and now imprisonment of people of color. Black people are considered criminals by default. These aren’t “a few bad apples,” and that analogy is ridiculous anyway. Human beings aren’t apples. If one officer on the force is going around brutalizing people of color for the heck of it, every officer on the force is complicit in his crimes. The officer who killed George Floyd had a long history of beating people of color. HE WAS A KNOWN RACIST. It is the responsibility of these “good cops” to hold their fellow officers accountable. The reason they don’t is because they are part of a much bigger system that is inherently racist. Cops are not here to protect and serve us. They are here to keep “law and order” for the rich ruling class. This is why prisons are paying slave wages to profit from the labor of prisoners. Why are we paying their salaries with our tax dollars if they are not public servants? Murdering people of color for walking down the street is not a public service, it is a stain and disgrace on our country. Please stop defending the police as if they are your friends, I assure you they are not. Especially if you are poor. Posting photos of “nice cops” is gaslighting at best. It is cop propaganda designed to manipulate you into buying the good cop narrative. Until the entire system changes, until cops stop murdering black people for literally no reason, all cops are bad. Tell your cop friends to do something to change the system, or stop being a class traitor.

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Why We Riot

First of all, the word “riot” itself is coded language. Designed to make protests seem criminal and destructive. When you think of rioting you imagine “thugs” (to quote our racist president) destroying property, looting, being violent in general. A better word would be rebellion or demonstration or uprising. There is a long history of ‘the people’ getting fed up with tyranny, with enslavement, with the rich royals hoarding wealth while the common people starve. I don’t have to educate you on every single ‘revolution’ throughout human history for you to understand this simple concept. The only reason the entire world is paying attention to Black Lives Matter right now, the reason your social media is flooded with posts about the protests, celebrities, even huge corporations in support of the movement, is because the people are finally fucking shit up. While 90% of the protestors are peaceful, it’s only a matter of time before we have a full on civil war in the streets if the powers that be don’t pay attention. Some institutions are so corrupt they can only be dismantled with violence. How do we peacefully protest killing? If kneeling isn’t working, if peaceful demonstrations aren’t changing things, what choice do we have? Even when people protest peacefully they are tear gassed and met with rubber bullets or worse. Our own president wants to turn our own military on us. We are going to have to fight dirty at some point or continue letting the police murder whomever they please. How can we be expected to meet violence with peace? Over and over again? This isn’t just about race, this is about class warfare. This is about capitalism enslaving us all and the class traitor cops that keep us in line. Why does the Joplin Police Department need MILITARY STYLE TANKS if they are here to protect us?? If that question doesn’t keep you up at night, it is because you are privileged enough to believe they will never be used on you. 

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In closing, I will leave you with this quote by Angela Davis from an interview in 1972, the full interview is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2BIZy0HScM 

  “When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence; without realizing that the real content of any kind of revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for – not in the way that you reach them. On the other hand, because of the way this society is organized; because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere – you’d have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person and live in the black community all your life, and walk out on the street every day seeing white policemen surrounding you….[cont] I mean, that’s why when someone asks me about violence, huh… I just… I just find it incredible. Because, what it means is that the person who is asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through in this country, what black people have experienced in this country, since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”

Here is a list of organizations you can donate to, in service of the Black Lives Matter movement:

Ahmaud Arbery Fund

Anti-Police Terror Project

Black Lives Matter

Black Socialists in America

Black Visions Collective

Campaign Zero

Community Justice Exchange Bail Funds

George Floyd Memorial Fund



Minnesota Freedom Fund

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Reclaim The Block & Reclaim the Block’s Fund Our Movement

Twin Cities DSA Solidarity Fund 


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