When people protest for human rights, as in the case of Black Lives Matter, law enforcement brings out its best militarized gear and sets a tone of violence before any real threat is even present. When sports fans decide to vandalize their own cities as a way of celebrating a win, law enforcement takes an entirely new perspective. This was so eloquently displayed after the Eagles won the Superbowl on the Feb. 4 when fans took to destroying the streets before halftime was finished.
It’s as though they see the rioters as small children in a new environment, going the extra mile to protect them from themselves by greasing light poles and asking residents to kindly put away their flower pots. There was no condemnation from officials or representatives following the Superbowl riots, and I shouldn’t have even hoped to expect any. There was no public outcry saying it was disrespectful to deface the city for the contradicting purpose of celebrating hometown pride. After all, it’s just a twisted privilege we allot to sports fans, right?
Do the damages inflicted by a political riot and a sports riot not mirror each other? In both instances, some individuals take it upon themselves to set a poor example. People climb and smash light posts, bust open windows, flip cars and start fires in the streets. If the damage looks the same, what are police seeing differently that changes their response? It’s the exact distinction that has created the problems we face with police-civilian relations: skin color.
We hesitate to even call the Superbowl riots what they are, year after year. The words we choose over “riot” are used essentially any time that the events are white enough, harmless enough or passive enough. It’s unbearably easy to simply turn the other cheek because no one is earnestly offended by a celebration. However, people of color and our allies taking to the streets to protest and mourn the unjust deaths of community members at the hands of our sworn protectors does make people uncomfortable. And it ought to. The way society decides to handle riots, regardless of whatever spurred their creation, must change.