In an earlier post, I offered the question I would most like to ask in the upcoming presidential debates. If I got a second one, it would be this: “You both have denounced the recent street violence that erupted following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc. Do you therefore also denounce the violence and property destruction of John Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and the other organizers of the Boston Tea Party?
Those participating in the Boston Tea Party had a legitimate grievance with Britain. They were so angry, they destroyed property: “92,000 pounds or 340 chests of tea, reported by the British East India Company worth £9,659 worth, or $1,700,000 dollars in today’s money,” Wikipedia says.
Some might argue the analogy is a stretch. It’s comparing different eras. And the Boston Tea Party was prelude to the Revolution, where the Patriots were preparing “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them” with Britain.
The question is meant to be provocative and make a point. Those protesting today’s police brutality have grievances that equal or exceed the Founding Fathers’ objection to “taxation without representation” and the requirement that the colonies provide British soldiers housing and food.
For black Americans, in a literal sense, it’s about their very lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Under our current systems, black people are more likely to be killed by police than white people. They are more likely to be arrested and jailed. They have less wealth. They have poorer health. These are the legacies of historical and ongoing racism, baked into our civic structures.
No one should be surprised that police violence against black people has led to street violence, especially when police violence goes unaddressed.
On top of that, our current systems are working hard to prevent black, Indigenous and other people of color from being fairly represented in government. Call it “incarceration without representation.” Governments are actively working to suppress the black and Latino vote, weakening their representation in elected bodies. President Trump’s administration is actively undermining the U.S. Census, which also will undermine representation. As NPR recently reported, the black population could be undercounted by as much as 3.68 percent or 1.7 million people.
Presidential candidates shouldn’t denounce street violence without also acknowledging — and offering solutions for — the harm and violence that goes on every day against black, Indigenous and other people of color.
- Do you think the Boston Tea Party is a fair analogy to today’s protests against police violence? If not, why not?
- If you had a question to ask in the presidential debates, what would you ask?