The ‘Not All…’ Rebuttal Debate Continues

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.”

Dear Sir,

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.


My Hometown of Cincinnati

This piece originally appeared in the Conference Book for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual conference that took place June 7-10, 2018. I was the conference chair. 


Bon in Reds Hat“If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later.”

This quote has been attributed to both Mark Twain and Will Rogers. I’ll let you pick who really said it. Though the remark may be an outdated exaggeration, Cincinnati is steeped in tradition grown from a dominant German heritage (Feldkamp is almost as common as Smith around here). Downtown has progressed with the demands of the 21st century, but Cincinnatians hold strong to their roots. Me included.

I was born and grew up on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River where the Cincinnati skyline was always a sight to behold. At fifteen, I got a job at Riverfront Stadium. After school, I’d ride the public TANK bus to downtown Cincinnati where I’d watch the Reds and Bengals play while I worked in concessions. I worked there until I graduated high school in 1993. If you know your sports, then you know how cool that was. As a teenager, I got to work the 1990 World Series games. Very cool.

The conference is over. It was a great weekend. A joy to meet each and every one of you. I hope you take some of my affection for Cincinnati home with you. Presenters Howard Wilkinson and Polly Campbell shed light on the local political and food scenes. Jerry Springer weighed in with his perspective on celebrities entering politics, and if there was ever a Royal First Family of Cincinnati, the Clooneys would be it. Nick Clooney was powerful and insightful in his keynote talk. There wasn’t a dry eye after Clarence Page spoke of his high school advisor. Tears flowed because we’ve all been there. We all had that one teacher in our corner. Mine was present at the conference (he’s now retired and a columnist himself) and it meant the world to me.  Josè Antonio Vargas and Rochelle Riley reminded us that America’s narrative isn’t always pretty, lets not forget.  Peter Bhatia showed us what happens when an editor believes in his reporters and gives them the resources to tell the stories behind heroin crisis data we keep seeing. Connie Schultz was honored with the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award. She reminded us that our job is to bring forward our opinions with integrity and tell the stories of common and disenfranchised individuals like DACA babies with no voice.  These people and their stories need a spotlight more than any celebrity ever did. 

Greater Cincinnati’s pride revolves around its ability to preserve the city’s heritage while baring its historic scars. When you live where the north meets the south, ideals clash. Some conference guests explored Cincinnati beyond the event speakers, to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and dive into the tensions of our past (and present) but also find hope for our future.

I live a little further south, in Louisville, KY, these days, but I still write in the Cincinnati market and I make a trip to the city several times a month. Driving on the I-75 interstate, “the cut in the hill” as it’s called, I still get a nostalgic pang when the Cincinnati skyline appears before me. Cincinnati is the city that raised me. I don’t really think things happen here ten years later but I do think this big city manages to hold on to its Midwest charm. When you leave, you may feel as if you had just visited the biggest small town in the country.

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp (@WriterBonnie)