News & Politics

Looting and Race: Should It Matter?

Photo by Eliot Blondet/Sipa USA (Sipa via AP Images)

Due to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there has been an unfortunate necessity for the news to discuss looters. After all, in every community there are those who would glomp onto an opportunity to take things that don’t belong to them simply because they can.

During reporting on the situation, however, some ire was directed toward one newscaster who presented blacks as “looters” and whites as carrying “found” goods.

As my friend Kira Davis, a black woman, noted at RedState, though, much of the ire was really kind of irrelevant.

So what if it’s an unfair comparison? Is no one going to say anything about the fact that it’s a damn embarrassment as a black person to watch other black people so gleefully and pathetically steal the labor of others when the people around them are at their most vulnerable? We should be talking about how disgusting it is to watch our own people act like thieves and feral animals. We should be talking about how there is an entire segment of our community that seems to think these actions are justified because of oppression, slavery or hypocrisy. Black Lives Matter demands that all Americans display more respect and compassion for black Americans, but has no words at all about the disrespect we show for ourselves. How can we expect the American majority to take us seriously and show us more respect when we refuse to be accountable for the rot in our own communities?

So what if someone fails to see white looters as actual looters? Those ignorant looters in Florida weren’t making some social justice statement. They were stealing…and they belonged to us.If we’re content to saddle every living white American with the actions of their long-dead ancestors then logic follows we must saddle ourselves with the actions of our currently living brethren. We can’t have it both ways. “Look over there!” is not a legitimate defense of embarrassingly criminal actions.

As it turns out, the reporter who described the white Houston “looters” as carrying found items was indeed correct in his assessment. The people he originally pictured were carrying food items they found floating in the water. Aside from that, had the black people in the Florida video been snatching food, the outcry might not have been so serious. It’s a stretch, but maybe even if they had been stealing shoes from a flooded store that might(and it’s a big might; stealing is stealing) be excusable in some form as all the inventory would be written off by insurance anyway.

As a white man living in a predominantly black community, I get where Kira is coming from. To a point, at least.

You see, the whites actually were carrying things they found. In this case, it’s noted that it was food that was floating in the water that they salvaged. That’s a far cry from looting, but if they actually had been looters, I’d get the point. Why declare whites as something else if they’re engaging in the same behavior?

Personally, I’d have a problem with that double standard. After all, I have a problem with all double standards.

Yet Kira’s underlying point is very important. From the outside, it appears that what is bothering the black community isn’t that there were looters, but that they were identified as looters. This is troubling to me. Had white looters been identified as white looters, that wouldn’t have bothered me so much. The fact that they were looters would have been what made me angry.

Kira has some excellent points here, points worthy of deep discussion, and I hope everyone will take the time to read them and discuss them as they deserve.