Sunday night saw an explosion of pumpkins in Keene, New Hampshire at the annual Pumpkin Festival held there. As inebriated college students and fraternity members defended upon the town destroying the event for no reason other than chaos, the country watched–jaws agape–at a clear illustration of race and class differentials in this country. As it was only a matter of months ago that Ferguson exploded over the shooting death of Michael Brown, and people took to the streets in rage frustration resulting from an apparently unaccountable militarized police force, the response in Keene seems lukewarm by comparison. Certainly the local and state authorities descended upon the scene in riot gear, but they adorned not with camouflage uniforms but standard black gear; not with military grade assault rifles and tanks but with batons and tear gas; they were defending not against looters and rioters destroying their community but against unruly college kids sowing their oats in a misguided and overzealous prank. The city is not under curfew, and the University and Colleges associated with the town are being asked to handle the affair in cases where arrests have not taken place–so apparently this is an academic misconduct issue rather than a criminal one and is a clear illustration of classism and white privilege in effect in this country.
Where are the armchair psychologists and sociologists declaring this a result of the downfall of the American family structure? Where is the outcry for “white leaders” to make statements and cry out for a return to civil morality? There isn’t any, because nobody doubts the background or character of these students in their criminal acts. Nobody is blaming their parents, the unemployment rate, or the education they received. There is a general nonchalantness to the whole affair. Boys will be boys, oh well. One of the rioters put a real laser target on the source of the violence for the Washington Post:
“It’s just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops…”
“It’s a blast to do things that you’re not supposed to do.”
– Steven French, age 18, from Haverhill, MA
It’s a rush to revolt from the cops indeed. Apparently for some it is a simple game to uproot an entire town, in this case a community they aren’t even from. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the majority of the rioters were from the nearby University and not locals either. While the Governor of New Hampshire assures the public that she is taking this seriously, and I’m sure she is, had this been a black and brown neighborhood or if the rioting youths had been reasonably brown on the whole this entire affair would have a different air about it. Where are the admonishments of the roving mob? The gangs? Where is the call to dissolve the fraternities and hold the leadership accountable? Where is the militant and aggressive language? This whole affair is going to be treated with kid gloves.
Sure, there have been some arrests but imagine the quote coming from Mr. French had he been in Ferguson. There’d be no end to the soundbite. The quote would be a new banner, and would certainly be cause to roll in the tanks, the mobile police command stations, and to put a curfew on the town while community outreach was never attempted and all young men walking the streets would be potential rioters in the eye of public opinion. Pumpkin colored bandanas would be banned for fear of a gang war.
The fact that this isn’t a continuing conversation happening throughout the country and that parallels are not being drawn in the mainstream is what makes this a clear illustration of White Privilege. I’m certain that there must have been some brown people at this riot (either fleeing or partaking) but it remains that it was a largely white (or seemingly white) population that destroyed the property. Perhaps there are variables, but those variables are also accouterments to the conversations.
Maybe tanks weren’t rolled out because the neighborhood doesn’t have tanks. Why do you think that may be?
Maybe it isn’t being spoken about because nobody was killed. Why do you think that may be?
Maybe it isn’t being spoken about because you can’t make white people scared of pumpkins or other white people on the whole. There’s an idea.
So if we live in a place where a community can rage against the slaying of a teenager in the streets, and protest in justification of that, and run crowdfunding in support of that, and roll out tanks to suppress that, and claim that these people are burdens and blights on society, but a community of another color, of another socioeconomic class, of another educational status can flip over cars and smash an otherwise fun spirited affair “because it’s a blast” and leave the punishments to the schools rather than the police we have to point our fingers at it and say “this is a privileged class, group, or community”.
In the end the riots were not entirely similar, but were riots all the same. I wonder if a roving gang of poor, black, and brown people kicked over the jack-o-lanterns and flip cars, and destroy the community because its fun…I wonder how the media would be discussing all week. Would they be claiming parallels to John Oliver’s tongue-in-cheek prediction of a terror attack at this festival or would they be making outlandish claims of the downfall and spiraling bad choices of a community? Hooligans should be equal to hooligans, right? Except one group is being suppressed and oppressed and the other is being exonerated.
At least the Twitter isn’t letting it go….