I saw so many people online saying: “These riots are disgusting, this is not how a society should be run. You do not loot and you do not burn and you do not… this is not how our society is built.” And that actually triggered something in me, where I was like: man, okay… society, but what is society?
And fundamentally, when you boil it down, society is a contract. It’s a contract that we sign as human beings amongst each other. We sign a contract with each other as people, whether it’s spoken or unspoken, and we say: “Amongst this group of us, we agree in common rules, common ideals and common practices that are going to define us as a group.” That’s what I think a society is, it’s a contract. And, as with most contracts, the contract is only as strong as the people who are abiding by it.
But if you think of being a black person in America, who is living in Minneapolis or Minnesota or any place where you’re not having a good time — ask yourself this question when you watch those people: What vested interest do they have in maintaining the contract?
Why don’t we all loot? Why doesn’t everybody take…? Because we’ve agreed on things. There are so many people who are starving out there, there are so many people who don’t have. There are people who are destitute, there are people who, when the [Corona] virus hit, and they don’t have a second paycheck, are already broke, which is insane, but that’s the reality.
But still, think about […] the have-nots say: “You know what, I’m still gonna play by the rules, even though I have nothing, because I still wish for the society to work and exist.” And then, some members of that society, namely black American people, watch time and time again how the contract they have signed with society is not being honored by the society that has forced to sign it with them.
When you watch Ahmad Aubery being shot and you hear that those men have been released and, were it not for the video and the outrage, those people would be living their lives, what part of the contract is that in society?
When you see George Floyd on the ground and you see a man losing his life in a way that no person should ever have to lose their life at the hands of someone who is supposed to enforce the law, what part of the contract is that?
And a lot of people say: “Well, what good does this do?” Yeah, but what good doesn’t it do? That’s the question people don’t ask the other way around. What good does it do to loot Target [shops]? What does it, how does it help you to loot Target? Yeah, but how does it help you to not loot Target? Answer that question. Beacause the only reason you didn’t loot Target before was because you were upholding society’s contract. There is no contract if law and people in power don’t uphold their end of it.
It’s the same way we tell parents to set an example for their kids, the same way we tell captains or coaches to set an example for their players, the same way you tell teachers to set an example for their students. The reason we do that is because we understand in society that if you lead by example, there is a good chance that people will follow that example that you have set. And so, if the example law enforcement is setting is that they do not adhere to the laws, then why should the citizens of that society adhere to the laws when, in fact, the law enforcers themselves don’t?
When Colin Kaepernick kneels, they say: “This is not the right way to protest.” When Martin Luther King had children as part of his protests in Birmingham, Alabama, people said: “Having children at your protest is not the right way to do things.” When he marched in Selma people said: “This is not the right way to do things.” When people marched through the streets in South Africa during apartheid they said: “This is not the right way to do things.” When people burn things, they say it’s not… it’s never the right way because there’s never a right way to protest, and I’ve said this before, there is no right way to protest because that’s what protest is. It cannot be right because you are protesting against a thing that is stopping you.
Trevor Noah (excerpted from here)
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