Tweet of the Day: ‘In Defense of Looting’

As Ben Bowles noted recently in a post memorably titled “#BlackLivesMatter leader headed to jail — er, make that Yale,” community organizer (read: professional noisemaker) and onetime Ferguson protester DeRay McKesson is currently teaching a one-credit course at one of the nation’s leading — and most liberal — Ivy League schools. The title of the course, “Transformational Leadership in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” provides a clue to the content.

But the reading list is still likely to raise a few eyebrows, even among liberals. A student taking the course tweets:

The link in the tweet takes you to an article at the website The New Inquiry that is titled “In Defense of Looting.” The dateline is August 21, 2014, meaning it was written during the Ferguson riots. The bio of the author, Willie Osterweil, indicates he “is a writer, editor, and member of the punk band Vulture Shit.”

The article is long and a bit blatherly, but if you stick with it, you eventually arrive at this nugget:

White people deploy the idea of looting in a way that implies people of color are greedy and lazy, but it is just the opposite: looting is a hard-won and dangerous act with potentially terrible consequences, and looters are only stealing from the rich owners’ profit margins. Those owners, meanwhile, especially if they own a chain like QuikTrip, steal forty hours every week from thousands of employees who in return get the privilege of not dying for another seven days.

Looting, vandalism, riots in Ferguson via KMOV
Looting, vandalism, riots in Ferguson via KMOV

And the further assumption that the looter isn’t sharing her loot is just as racist and ideological. We know that poor communities and communities of color practice more mutual aid and support than do wealthy white communities — partially because they have to. The person looting might be someone who has to hustle everyday to get by, someone who, by grabbing something of value, can afford to spend the rest of the week “non-violently” protesting. They might be feeding their family, or older people in their community who barely survive on Social Security and can’t work (or loot) themselves. They might just be expropriating what they would otherwise buy — liquor, for example — but it still represents a material way that riots and protests help the community: by providing a way for people to solve some of the immediate problems of poverty and by creating a space for people to freely reproduce their lives rather than doing so through wage labor.

So looting, which on its face seems vulturous and selfish, is actually a magnanimous gesture that nourishes the soul and the soma of the underclass, while financing future acts of civil disobedience.

natalie duboseSomeone should try telling that to Natalie DuBose (shown right), a resident of Ferguson whose bakeshop was burned to the ground by looters who were first careful to empty out the till. If DuBose was rich, greedy, or exploitative, she did an effective job of fooling everyone in town who knew her.

And plenty of people who didn’t. After the story of her loss went nationwide, she was the recipient of $271,000 in charitable donations made largely by total strangers.

Unfortunately, “Prof.” McKesson has chosen to ignore her story, both during and after the riots, focusing instead on bitterness, division, and fomenting future unrest.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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