I am not insensible to the notion that those things could lead to riots — but drawing attention to structural injustices, to a lack of economic opportunity, or to metal in the water supply is clearly not what these particular “protesters” are trying to communicate.
Consider their targets: not government facilities responsible for the “state-sponsored violence” that the above commentators blamed for the riots, but pharmacies and shoe stores and a check-cashing service. They did not go searching for weapons to defend themselves from, in Dyson’s words, “the forces of oppression,” but for Pringles, Pumas, video games, and condoms. Under the hashtag “#BaltimoreLootCrew,” rioters have been posting photographs of their prizes. At least one user — who yesterday posted a picture of four new iPhone 6’s — has suspended his account.
Marc Lamont Hill, the far-left Morehouse College professor, intuited the difficulty with defending “riots” and tried to change the lingo. Preaching to CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night, Hill said he is not calling events in Baltimore riots but “uprisings.” But the difference between those two should be prima facie obvious, particularly given how we tend to employ the latter term — for example, the “Soweto Uprising,” when some 20,000 South African students opposed the South African Apartheid government’s introduction of Afrikaans into schools; or the 1953 East Germany “People’s Uprising,” when hundreds of East Berlin construction workers went on strike and marched on the city’s Soviet-backed government, spurring nationwide protests that involved 1 million people; or the “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising,” when Jews trapped in Nazi-conquered Warsaw waged a three-week battle against their oppressors. The conduct of the mobs in Baltimore is not comparable in the slightest.