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McFeely: So please tell us, what's an acceptable form of protest against police brutality?

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Smoke lingers as firefighters continue working Friday, May 29, 2020, in the area around the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis, which was destroyed overnight during protests in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

A black man kneeled a few years ago, peacefully and silently, and a good portion of America lost its collective mind. He was protesting police brutality.

"Ungrateful," that football player was called. "Unpatriotic," he was, because he had the audacity to kneel at the most poignant moment. "Son of a bitch," is what the president called another black football player who kneeled in protest.

Black people, and others, are protesting and rioting in the Twin Cities this week, loudly and violently, in response to more police brutality.

Many of the same voices who were so deeply offended by the peaceful protest of the football player years ago are again, unsurprisingly, offended by the violent protests in Minneapolis.

"Animals," they are called. "Criminals," too. "THUGS," was the president's contribution via Twitter this time.

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Those seeking racial equity, it seems, are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Damned if they remain peaceful and respectful. Damned if they turn hostile and disrespectful.

So please enlighten us, those who are so unnerved both by a black man kneeling and by people rioting.

What, exactly, is an acceptable form of protest?

What needle must be thread so you, precious as your sensibilities are, won't be aggrieved by black people and their supporters trying to make a point?

Because, to be honest, kneeling and rioting pretty much cover the spectrum of available protests from least violent to most violent and you've ruled those to be unacceptable.

So we're just kind of wondering what would make you listen to the substance without being offended by the method.

Are those outraged because a handcuffed, compliant black man was killed by a white cop kneeling on his neck for eight minutes allowed to protest with silent thoughts and prayers? Writing in their personal diary? Hushed conversation in small groups?

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Because as it stands right now, it kind of seems like you don't want to hear the message no matter how it's delivered.

Like you don't want to be inconvenienced with the idea that another group of people doesn't live in the same, comfortable America you do.

Like you don't want to know that black men can be killed by cops for no reason, and often the cops don't face any consequences.

Like you don't want to know that there are often two sets of rules in this country, one for white people and one for black people.

Like you don't want to hear from them because they're black.

And, see, that might be part of the problem. Maybe if you would've listened when they kneeled in protest they wouldn't have had to riot in protest.

A popular quote making its way around social media these days comes from Martin Luther King Jr.

"A riot is the language of the unheard."

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Do you hear them now?

This is assuming you want to hear them.

The evidence provided thus far strongly suggests otherwise.

Opinion by Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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