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Rioters Need Our Prayers And Activism — Not Our Criticism

I've been a good little Negro, working on a painting in silence. 

But, if I'm honest, after the images I've seen of the slow, suffocating execution ofGeorge Floyd, and after learning not only did he cry out for air, but also for his mother, water and for mercy...

I feel like burning s--- down. I genuinely feel like burning s--- down right now.

I get the protesters in Minneapolis; and a part of me secretly envies the rioters. The desire to inflict pain on others who don't understand so that they can understand is real. I get that. I feel it.

Respectability politics don't work for black people. Just ask Mr. Cooper, a black man bird-watching in Central Park, who could have been arrested (or even killed) because of a white woman willing to weaponize her race, gender, and tears to destroy him, simply for requesting that she leash her dog.

If not for a video, the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery would still be at home enjoying freedom. Two months passed before anything happened to them. And even now, I worry they'll be exonerated.

The rioters in Minneapolis, they are not animals. They're enraged, hurting, angry, traumatized. They need our understanding and help, not our criticism. They need our prayers and our activism.

Remember those white militiamen who in protest stormed the Michigan Statehouse with loaded weapons?  Remember white America's collective shrug about their actions? President Trump identified themas "very good people" who were "angry" and want "their lives back again"?

Aren't the Minneapolis protesters and even the rioters also "very good people" who are justifiably "angry" and want their right to life back again?

I'm not condoning looting. I'm not condoning destroying small businesses. But setting a city ablaze as a way of screaming to anybody who will listen "WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE!" — I get that.

The protesters — even the rioters — are just as American as we are. People repeatedly stepped on, dismissed and crushed by systems of oppression, wind up burning s--- down.

Imo Imeh is a professor of art at Westfield State University. Two years ago, he led a public art project that lasted 17 hours, one for each year of Trayvon Martin's life.

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