How about saying “Not all protesters are looters?” That’s the snarky response I’ve gotten the most as a rebuttal to my recent op-ed titled “Not the time for ‘not all’ rebuttals to racism.” I even received the bellow email from a reader that I’ve decided to share my response to with the encouragement from Enquirer Opinion Editor Kevin Aldridge. Here’s the reader email:
Dear Ms. Feldkamp:
Please consider the following challenge. Try to look at it as an invitation to exercise your skills at listening to and understanding others’ perspectives.
Write another version of your opinion article in the June 7, 2020, Enquirer, this time using the headline “Not the time for ‘not all’ rebuttals to rioting, looting, destroying property, and injuring innocent people.” Try to structure it the same way you structured your article. Then submit it to the Enquirer for publication.
Are you game to take this challenge? Being in your position as [communications] director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, it will make me really wonder if you’re not.”
Thank you for reading and taking the time to write a response.
My mom died when I was seven. I couldn’t fully process its effect on me until years later and through my adolescence I raged, I destroyed property, and I hurt innocent people. In middle school, I was arrested for destroying a wooden fence behind what was then a fast-food restaurant. When the police officer showed up, he didn’t believe I was the one who’d done it. My group of friends included two male friends who were with me when it happened. I told the cop I had done it. He still didn’t believe me until after he compared my bloody fists to those of my male friends. They were innocent.
When I went to court, my punishment was to write an essay about ten positive ways I could deal with my anger. The result was I did not end up with vandalism on my record. I can’t help but wonder now if being a white girl played into my light sentence.
I was angry, I was grief-stricken, and unable to process such a great loss. This may not seem relevant but hang in there with me and I’ll explain.
I have a hard time labeling looters or even differentiating looting from other forms of protest. I was certainly protesting when I destroyed that fence. I was also forcing my father to deal with me while he was having a hard time processing his own troubles.
I had lost one invaluable person – my mother.
What we are experiencing in the aftermath of George Floyd and Breona Taylor’s murders are examples of open, active grieving from the community.
The black community has not lost one person. They have lost generations of family members. They have lost family names, lineage, languages, traditions, dignity, and still continue on with no opportunity to grieve what they’ve already lost, because they just keep losing.
I recently interviewed Mark McConville, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and author of the book Failure to Launch. We talked about some of the reasons adolescents struggle in their transition to adulthood. McConville says many people struggle to achieve the three skills of adulthood, which are to become Responsible, Relational, and Relevant. And the more you layer on trauma, the harder it becomes.
I shared my story of rebellion and destruction with Dr. McConville, and also told him how, following my destructive teens, I ended up homeless for two years – floundering until I found my footing as an adult.
Dr. McConville told me, “If you think of the alternative as being deeply bereft and depressed… or becoming void of any emotional expression, then what you did is far preferable.” What rebellion and protest says is “I am not going to succumb to this loss, I’m going to do everything I can to recruit adults so like-it-or-not they’re going to have to be involved in my life. I tend to think of that as heroic.”
Protesters. Looters. Those destroying property. All are protesting. Standing up and acting out, and forcing a system built on inequities to like-it-or-not be involved in community change that addresses its failures.
Even as a homeless person, which was not easy for me, I know that my privilege gave me an advantage to make it through. So, while it’s not the time for “Not All…” rebuttals of any kind, maybe it’s also not the time to get caught up in semantics with tit-for-tat conversations. We are an adolescent nation under trauma looking to take that leap into maturity which requires us as a nation to become Responsible, Relational, and Relevant into a better future.
This was the op-ed that spurred the retorts
For more articles on social justice go to my Articles and Clips page.