Dear Mainstream Media: Uprising vs. Riot

Dear Mainstream Media,

There’s a difference between a riot and an uprising.

A riot is “a noisy, violent public disorder caused by a group or crowd of persons, as by a crowd protesting against another group, a government policy, etc., in the streets”. For instance, the Keene Pumpkin Festival Riot.

An uprising is “an act or instance of rising up; especially :  a usually localized act of popular violence in defiance usually of an established government”.

An uprising is what’s happening now in the aftermath of Ferguson.

This is an uprising across the United States, in defiance of common, established practices designed to keep order – that keep killing and criminalizing Black people.

Folks just aren’t “clogging streets” or “burning down businesses” as your headlines suggest. By highlighting single acts of destruction, or single direct actions, you demean what’s at hand. You minimize what is historical.

It’s tiring to read about Black folks positioned as fiery, angry folks who have lost their minds – when there is a history here. And, Black folks aren’t the only ones protesting. The mainstream media draws a dividing line when there are other people of color and white folks in the streets too protesting Black genocide.

From the uprisings, may there be a sustained movement that takes root among Black folks and those who care about the killing of Black women and men, Black LGBTQ folks, and Black children.

Questions we’re asking at Food for Black Thought? How will we direct anger towards building a movement? What spaces do people of color have in Atlanta, Detroit, Austin, Oakland, Boston, among other cities where “riots” (read: uprisings) have happened, to express anger, and channel it into sustained action? How will we express anger in a way that builds? How will we transmute anger into centered action? And, how do we already do this work?

Because the truth is Black people are dying everyday.

Every. Single. Day. From health injustice. Criminal injustice. Environmental injustice. Food injustice. Housing injustice. Educational injustice.

Police or renegade shootings are a symptom of the many ways “killing the Black body” takes place.

Shootings capture the news, but individuals and families are blamed for the systemic injustices that take and compromise our lives.

Riots make noise. Uprisings change the tide of history.

– Food for Black Thought