On the 1-Year Anniversary of Mike Brown’s Death, Run the Jewels Explain Why Riots Work.
One year ago today, Michael Brown, an 18-year old unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. The event, and the subsequent failure to indict Wilson for the shooting, set off widespread rioting in Ferguson and across the country, and also marked the commencement of one of the darkest 12-month periods in U.S. history in several decades. Since this day last year, there have been several deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of or in the custody of law enforcement officers, including Eric Garner (whose choking death was captured on video), Freddie Gray (whose spine was severed while in police custody), Sandra Bland (who allegedly hung herself after being held in jail for three days following a minor infraction that led to volatile altercation with the officer), Tamir Rice, Eric Harris and Walter Scott. Along the way, chants of “Black Lives Matter” have grown louder and more pervasive, but have often fallen short of securing justice or political reform.
The continued pattern of seemingly systemic violence against Blacks by police officers has led some to believe that words and protesting are not enough, but that actual full-scale rioting is required to affect meaningful change. Run The Jewels’ El-P and Killer Mike recently spoke with the BBC about the historical roots of riots in this country and the results they’ve achieved in Ferguson. “Riots work,” said Killer Mike. “I’m an American because of a riot. The Boston Tea Party is sold to us from the time we’re kindergarteners to the time we graduate from high school, we’re told that Americans and Patriots got so fed up with paying taxes to the crown that they decided to burn some sh*t to the ground.” Mike then goes on to list the positive changes that have occurred in Ferguson since the riots.
While Mike’s comment’s are clearly controversial, and likely designed to re-galvanize the conversations around these deaths rather than actually incite riots, does he have a point? Is extreme civil unrest what’s required to make a difference in the world?