Would black people riot if Sen. Barack Obama didn’t win the election?” That was the question a white man in Memphis recently asked a racial reconciliation group with which I am involved.
After five years of being a columnist for the daily paper in Memphis, I wasn’t surprised by the absurdity of his query. Many whites still labor under the illusion that black folk act en masse and that if you ask the right one, you can get the official position of some 40 million people. If a few of us get angry, that logic allows, it must surely result in a riot.
Riot because we didn’t get our way? Please. Black people have more than their share of experience with disappointment and dashed dreams. (See: King, Martin Luther; Evers, Medgar; Chaney, James.) Matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say we’re experts in making the best out of a losing hand.
The reply to the curious white gentleman: “No! There is no reason to believe black people will riot if Obama does not win.”
Of course reading it this way, I cannot escape the inherent racism in the question. It is patently absurd. The idea that Ms. Thomas can answer for 40 million people or that all 40 million people would feel and respond the same way is ridiculous. It ignores the fact that all black people do not support Obama as well as all the white people who do. It’s utterly preposterous. But what I thought when I heard the question is, why wouldn’t black people riot? Why wouldn’t we all?
I thought of the fact that the last two elections have essentially been fixed and we’ve had a president for 8 years who was not elected by the people of this country, but by the Supreme court. He was put into office by politicians (including his brother the governor of Florida), the CEO of Diebold (manufacturer of electronic balloting machines) who promised to “deliver him the state of Ohio” in 2004, by dangling chads and most of all by the apathy of the American people. We should have been rioting back then. Why wouldn’t we riot now?
Obama has been ahead in the polls and in the estimated tally of Electoral College votes he will garner on the fourth for so long that a McCain victory at this point would almost certainly mean our election has been hijacked for the third time in a row. Will black people riot? I should hope so, I plan to. If he doesn’t win I will be in San Francisco rioting for the first time in my life and I’ll be in DC shortly thereafter. I will riot, and strike, and protest and fight until the wrong has been undone. Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Greens, Peace & Freedomers and Democrats should take to the streets and take back our government. Whether you vote for Obama or not, it should scare you that the citizens of this country have not picked the president in the last two elections, and if McCain wins, in a third.
Riot? I should hope so.