In the last weekend of May, I was horrified and astonished that my hometown and current residence of Minneapolis became the locus of a wave of violent rioting, fires, and property destruction that soon spread to the rest of America and throughout the Western world.
I’m in my forties now and living relatively safely in the suburbs, but in my adventurous twenties I had lived in some of the grittier parts of Minneapolis that I was now seeing burnt to the ground. After having moved away and spending years in New York and Washington, D.C., I often remembered fondly the residential neighborhoods of South Minneapolis. These locales have green, fenced-in yards and leafy avenues but are still walking distance of the good food and drinks in the urban center. Cramped in my Manhattan apartment, I would tell friends that I would come back and retire to “The Shire.” That was my nickname for the cozy provinciality of those Minneapolis residential districts, which happen to be just a short walk from the site where George Floyd would die.
The Shire has been scourged. I read with alarm over the weekend police scanner transcripts reporting that rioters armed with clubs and pipes were spotted roaming through these neighborhoods after being dispersed from Lake Street by the National Guard. Then, I watched videos of Minneapolis police and National Guard troops marching down those residential streets, firing pepper balls at the residents who broke curfew to gawk at the military procession from their porches.
I confess that as a Midwesterner, I had entertained the smug idea that race relations in Minnesota weren’t as bad as they were in the rest of the country—certainly not as bad as in Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore. We’re just nicer to each other up here, you see. Certainly the progressive leftists in charge of the city and state governments, as obnoxious as they are, never missed an opportunity to be as solicitous and accommodating as possible to the state’s aggrieved people of color.
I guess that didn’t count for much. Neither did Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s display of tears on the podium over Floyd’s death; the Third Precinct police station that he ordered abandoned was burned just the same. Nor did Minnesota Governor Tim Walz move the hearts of the mob when he called the ashes of the burned buildings, “symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard.”
The next day, Frey and Walz and the compliant local media suggested that, rather than being a spontaneous expression of valid black anger, the riots were driven by right-wing extremists and white supremacists. Given the hundreds of hours of riot video of mostly black youths interspersed with black-clad white leftists in Antifa regalia, and nary a hint of anything that looked like a white supremacist, this pivot was brazen even for the progressive leftists in charge of the city.
But there were more surprises still. As my city was still burning, and the fires were spreading across the nation, so-called conservatives from the Washington establishment began releasing their own statements designed to pander to the rioters. “It’s important to understand that the death of George Floyd was personal and painful for many,” wrote Nikki Haley, former Trump administration UN ambassador and Republican governor of South Carolina. “In order to heal, it needs to be personal and painful for everyone.” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the rioting “isn’t just about Mr. Floyd. It’s also about years of unaddressed injustice.” Former Trump administration Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis denounced his former boss as divisive and a danger to the Constitution, writing that “‘Equal Justice Under Law’…is precisely what protestors are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind.”
This depiction of principled motives and righteous grievance motivating the riots coming from our supposed leaders on the right is so delusional that we should pause and wonder. Department stores, liquor stores, clothing, jewelry, and footwear retailers looted by mobs of mostly black youths, smashing and grabbing—and we are supposed to believe that this is a political statement, rather than a basic breakdown of law and order.
Meanwhile, I strongly suspect that neither the opportunists on the left nor the panderers on the right really care anything about the death of George Floyd. If they did, where are the outrage and virtue-signaling tweets after a retired black policeman in St. Louis was murdered trying to defend a store? Not to mention four more police shot in that city, and another in Las Vegas on life support after taking a rioter’s bullet to the head?
For that matter, in 2017, an unarmed white woman named Justine Damond was fatally shot in Minneapolis by a black Somali cop named Mohamed Noor. There was no violent looting while the mourners of Damond patiently awaited justice. Nor was there rioting earlier that year when a mentally handicapped white boy was kidnapped and tortured in the suburbs of Chicago by four black thugs, who shouted epithets directed at “Trump” and “white people” as they beat him. Nor were any fires set last year when a white man resting outside Minneapolis’s Target Field suffered an unprovoked, random assault from a dozen or so black people. After being beaten down, several of the assaulters jumped on his ribcage with both feet, stripped him of his pants, and smashed heavy flowerpots down on him. One person rode over him on a bicycle. This incident hardly registered a blip on the consciousness of Minneapolis, let alone for the nation or the rest of the world.
“If white people rioted every time a black man killed them, we’d never have any peace,” proclaimed a tweet that circulated widely during these latest Minneapolis riots, apparently wrongly attributed to retired professional boxer Mike Tyson. A Tyson spokesman later told Reuters that the former heavyweight champion didn't write it. That's a shame. It would have been to his credit if had. Tyson was rescued from a life of juvenile delinquency, raised like a son, and trained to superstardom by his white, Italian-American coach, Cus D'Amato.
It reminds me of the outburst another black heavyweight boxer of the current era, Deontay Wilder, expressed in 2018. A multi-millionaire with multiple homes, Wilder complained that he and his people were still oppressed. “If anybody don’t understand that, then God be with them—go look up their history. Don’t everybody believe in Google?…You know we’ve been fighting 400 [years] and still fighting ‘til this day!” Wilder shouted at an interviewer.
That in a nutshell is a narrative that, once imbibed, can be used to excuse or ignore any kind of violent action against a white person by a “person of color” as a justified punishment.
Never mind that throughout history every ethnicity has been enslaved or oppressed at one time or another, or that whites were also enslaved by the millions in Europe and most recently in the North African slave trade—which continued even after the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation.
Never mind that there is no “systemic racism” in America anymore—at least not toward blacks, who now are given preferential treatment by our educational and corporate hiring systems. Rich and famous black people are everywhere in the media, sporting, and entertainment worlds, and have occupied the highest positions in government.
Never mind that statistics show blacks are not disproportionately shot by police above other races, given that they disproportionately commit more violent crime.
What is most bizarre and disconcerting about this situation is that most people of all races in the U.S. are rightly afraid to talk honestly about these issues and to challenge the narrative of black grievance that is used to justify violence against them.
We live in a multiracial society. If we are going to live together in peace, we need to have the courage to say that everyone is held to the same standard, and no one gets a free pass because of past wrongs.
(The 11th paragraph of this article was corrected to reflect that a widely circulated tweet about the riots was misattributed to former boxer Mike Tyson.)