Professor Robert C. Smith Analyzes Looting at Protests: Criminal Activity or Organic Expression of Rage?

Monday, June 15, 2020

USA TODAY -- Robert C. Smith, an emeritus professor of Political Science at San Francisco State University, sees the images differently: What if looting is an organic expression of rage – lashing out not just against police abuses, but against the historic legacy of a societal knee on the neck?

What if, he said, big-box stores and swanky malls were targeted not just because they have really nice stuff, but because they are perceived as symbols of economic inequality and institutional racism?

Smith said burglary rampages during protests – known colloquially as “Christmas in August” – are seen within the oppressed Black community as a legitimate response to longstanding injustice. Even when plundering is committed by whites, which was widespread in the days following Floyd's death, the motive may have been racial solidarity rather than self-indulgence, he argued.

At the same time, Smith said, sometimes young people get caught up in the moment and seize a chance to take things.

Smith said he’s too old to be on the street, but he’s been watching the demonstrations. He realizes the optics of smash-and-grabs may hurt civil rights efforts. But they also deliver a message, he said, and griping about looting during widespread demonstrations is like complaining about thunder in a summer storm.