As an MSU alum, I’m always irritated to hear about the student body’s unending affinity for rioting after sports. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m getting older and my perspective has changed, or if the fact that this trend that started when I was in high school is still going on despite the fact that I’m old enough to use the phrase “I’m getting older and my perspective has changed,” but whereas I used to be all, “Meh, some dummies rioted,” I am teetering on outrage about this last one.
It’s not just that a bunch of privileged white kids care that much about the outcome of a game, but that they seem to believe that rioting – destroying property, lighting things on fire and flipping over cars – is somehow this rite of passage to which they are entitled to. Because they’re privileged white kids. This deeply troubles me, and I’m just an aged privileged white kid.
Do you know why people riot? In the real world? They riot because they’re being oppressed. They riot because they face governments that violate their human rights and make their lives miserable. Those are reasons to riot. Then rioting becomes a real expression of fighting back against a system that refuses to give people a voice through appropriate channels. If you are an American college kid rioting because your totes fave sports teams won or lost, you are an idiot. You aren’t just an idiot, actually. You’re an idiot who is appropriating a desperate and serious act humanity normally reserves to cry for help in hopeless times. You’re completely shameful.
What is even more shameful to me is the notion that a bunch of privileged young adults think they have the right to do this, and to get away with it, because they’re privileged. A blog written by an MSU student and passed around the internet yesterday blasts the local police for using a $20,000 reward offer to incentivize students to provide them with information about those involved in crimes that evening. Crimes. Here’s what he wrote, asking his fellow students to use his name if they want to report someone:
“Let me save you the trouble of ratting out a friend. Let me rid you of the temptation to rat out that kid down the hall, caught on camera tearing down a street sign, who is going to school for engineering, or that bare-chested tool, studying psychology, slamming his shirt against the hood of a police car.”
I’m sorry, who does this guy think he is? Some sort of gangster protecting a dangerous crime ring? Does he think “no snitches” is a concept with any sort of parallel to this situation? Does he think he’s being brave or noble, impersonating criminals who use coercion and death threats to frighten people into silence? It’s laughable, ignorant and classist. This guy seems to believe that if you are a engineering or psychology student, you are allowed to commit crime without suffering the consequences. Having a future means that punishment for these petty crimes are beneath them. Save those handcuffs for people without GPAs and LinkedIn profiles.
I wonder if he would feel the same way if some poor person robbed his parents’ house, set their furniture on fire and tore down trees on their property. That person would undoubtedly be charged, because that activity is illegal. Being a well-kept college kid doesn’t give you a pass. In fact, without the repression and social desperation faced by people who commit crimes of necessity, these kids have no excuse. They should face worse punishment.
We live in a country in which privileged people already end up in jail far less often than those who have been historically oppressed. Flipping over a police car because your community has been oppressed by the authorities is a desperate form of expression. Doing the same because you’re drunk and bored exposes a lack of appreciation for a society that has given you protection, privilege and a wealth of benefits. Perhaps if some of those blessed engineering and psychology students face real punishment for the real crimes they committed, the insanity would finally stop.