White Folks Riot, Too

In light of the assumption that black people would riot after the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Edward Wyckoff Williams writes in Salon, it's important to remember that whites have their own history of violent rioting.

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Police stand ready to confront protesters in California. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

In light of the assumption that black people would riot after the not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Edward Wyckoff Williams writes in Salon, it's important to remember that whites have their own history of violent rioting.

If there is no justice, there can be no peace. But in the American South it seems white folks suddenly believe that decorum and charm are a proper response to unspeakable acts of violence and unconscionable injustice.

The day before a jury delivered an acquittal in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger and Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith gave a national press conference to appeal for a peaceful reaction to the verdict — regardless of its outcome.

Eslinger, who is white, said "We will not tolerate anyone who uses this verdict as an excuse to violate the law." ...

Melissa Harris-Perry, on her eponymous MSNBC show, explained this weekend that "race riots" is a biased term that dismisses the underlying calls for justice, which are often the primary purpose for protests by black and brown people. She highlighted the key fact that in America's history the worst "race riots" featured violent attacks perpetrated by whites against blacks: The Tulsa race riot of 1921 and the Rosewood, Fla., riots of 1923.

In Tulsa, a mob of armed white men charged into a black neighborhood, burning homes, killing over 300 victims and leaving an estimated 8,000 people homeless. In Rosewood, a series of lynchings escalated into hundreds of angry white rioters killing an unknown number of black citizens and leaving the entire town in waste.

Yet white rage is never articulated by America's law enforcement as a reason to fear or strategically organize against. White males aren't stopped by police in disproportionate numbers nor frisked before entering movie theaters and first-grade classrooms. But there are many angry white people out there.

Read Edward Wyckoff Williams' entire piece at Salon.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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Edward Wyckoff Williams is a contributing editor at The Root. He is a columnist and political analyst, appearing on Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, ABC, CBS Washington and national syndicated radio. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM