Spanish – Major cities across the U.S. joined the uproar over what they call institutional racism, after the death of George Floyd, a Black man choked to death by a White police officer. In reality, Black communities have been the most affected by the “Black Lives Matter” protesters.
The social outburst occurred after weeks of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. This period hit the productive sector hard, particularly the small businesses that are called “mom and pop” stores in the United States since they are mostly family-owned businesses. After that hard blow to the economy came a worse one: devastation and looting.
About 60 million people, almost half of the U.S. workforce, are employed by small and medium-sized businesses. Now, with 20% of the working population unemployed due to lockdown measures, the same businesses, that have not been making any money for months, have to restock the stolen goods and rebuild the destroyed property.
“Whose businesses are getting destroyed? Black and minority-owned businesses,” said Project 21’s Marie Fischer, adding that many of the same officials, who won’t lay a finger on rioters, will go after law-abiding citizens, who violate the coronavirus lockdowns.
"Whose businesses are getting destroyed? Black & minority-owned businesses," says P21's Marie Fischer @ebonyjewess, adding that many of the same officials who won't lay a finger on rioters will go after law-abiding citizens who violate #Covid19 lockdowns.https://t.co/49Fn2MtBts
— Project 21 (@Project21News) June 8, 2020
The peaceful demonstrations, accompanied by a wave of looting and vandalism, began in the city where Floyd died, Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the “Mercado Central,” the Spanish name for “market” because it has several retailers and restaurants for the Hispanic community. Mercado Central has been closed since March due to the virus outbreak. Restaurants were supposed to be allowed to have outdoor seating on Monday, June 1, but last week’s violence and looting forced a delay, general manager Eduardo Barrera told US News.
“I lost everything in one night,” said Sam Mabrouk, an Egyptian-born store-owner from Columbus, Ohio. He pleaded with looters to spare his store alone as well as other nearby minority businesses. He told them he understood their cause, but it did not work. His denim store was ransacked, and merchandise worth 70,000 USD was stolen. “That was my savings from 11 years of working. That is what hurts more than anything,” he lamented.
Dead for defending their community
So far, the Black community has suffered the most from the violence of the demonstrators. They have seen their neighborhoods and cities destroyed. Moreover, the community has also lost lives, particularly police officers such as Patrick Downing in Oakland, California, and 77-year-old retired police officer David Dorn in St. Louis, Missouri. The latter responded to the call of a friend whose pawn shop was ransacked.
Dorn tried to talk to the looters about the damage they were doing to his community. And in response, he was shot. His killer has already been caught, thanks in large part to the fact that the murder was filmed live and posted on social media.
Justice isn’t the goal
Violence is rampant across the country. And cases like this one show that the robberies and looting were not of basic necessities. On the contrary, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where 53.7% of businesses have only one to four employees, up to 200,000 USD worth of merchandise was stolen from a jewelry store owned by a Bangladeshi migrant.
“I have no money right now,” Siddiquee told reporters at The Wall Street Journal who toured the neighborhoods worst affected by the looting. His wife comforted him during the robbery, “Don’t get down, don’t get stressed, just let them go.”
Siddiquee’s worries weren’t just about himself. Another store that he rents out, Paradise Gallery, was also destroyed and ransacked by the mobs.
Besides the economic loss of the stolen goods and the expense of rebuilding their businesses that were destroyed, tenants must pay an average rent of 2,000 USD per month.
Melaku Antoine, who was born in Ethiopia, rents space from Siddiquee. He estimated his loss at 80,000 USD and has no insurance for the damages to his store. This affects not only him but his entire family. He has lived in Philadelphia for over 30 years and is the father of two American-born children, one in college and one about to graduate from high school.
“It is empty,” he said, pointing to the bare shelves. His immediate concern was coughing up the 2,000 USD to pay rent.
“They are not angry. They wanted free stuff,” exclaimed the owner of another business in Philadelphia.
Riots began in Philadelphia pic.twitter.com/2HmY0fumW8
— Norbert Elekes (@NorbertElekes) May 31, 2020
White rioters face Black police officers
It is worth noting that the Black community is not the only one involved in the destruction. White rioters, especially members of self-proclaimed anti-fascist brigades, have stood out as protagonists in the destruction.
In fact, a White man, Matthew Lee Rupert, 28, was the first person arrested for a federal crime, charged with civil disorder, possession of unregistered explosives, and participation in and organization of a riot.
After investigating his profile on social media, authorities found a statement from him after Trump’s 2016 victory saying, “I am going to miss Obama. Now I am scared for the sake of America.”
The social fragmentation discourse also overlooks the fact that frontline cops in Black neighborhoods are often members of the community themselves and born and raised there, including the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department. Protesters want him to be fired from his job by calling for abolishing the police.
The idea that some Black owned businesses could get destroyed by some dumb white people hijacking a rebellion against racism to create chaos for chaos’ sake is beyond tragic. https://t.co/IUKJblD14h
— Will Poulter (@PoulterWill) May 30, 2020
It is common to call the Black population, African-American, even if they were born in the U.S. But the truth is that it is those born in Africa who are setting an example. These include business owners who have prospered, showing that the American dream is possible for everyone.
But especially Nestride Yumga, a Cameroonian migrant and former member of the U.S. Air Force, who rebuked the members of Black Lives Matter by calling them a farce.
— Cristián G. Malebrán (@CristianMalebra) June 5, 2020
She claims, in line with the statistics, that the highest rates of violence occur within black communities. Therefore, if they really cared about those lives, they would improve the situation in their cities, not destroy them, as has happened so far.