Usually, if a riot involves black people, it's connected to intense episodes of where systemic racism is undoubtedly at work. These episodes include the 1992 Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King beating verdict, the riots in Oakland after the 2009 BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant, and the national outcry immediately following the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That outcry included the city of Baltimore, where blacks now represent roughly 2 out of 3 residents.
But when a mob of mostly white people take to the streets, vandalizing cars, storefronts and street signs in the process it usually means someone either won or lost a game.
As Mic's Zak Cheney-Rice noted in January, these rioters are usually called "revelers," "celebrants" and "fans." They're not even called "rioters" in many cases. They're not derided as "criminals," "thugs," "pigs" or even "violent." Those descriptors, as events in Baltimore Monday night revealsyet again, are only reserved for black people. They're the ones who need to be quelled by militarized police forces. They're the ones who need to be off the streets, immediately. They're diminishing the validity of their cause. Yet, somehow, reckless behavior over a sports team, not a systemic matter of life and death, is viewed as a costly nuisance.
One can only wonder, with the current state of affairs — if the same tropes and police treatment deployed against black people were used when white people take to the streets, how would the general public have treated any of these following situations?
2014: Keene, N.H. Pumpkin Festival
"CNN reported that those involved — many of whom were students at nearby Keene State College — yelled expletives at police, started fires, flipped cars and tore down street signs." One participant even told CNN that "revolting from the cops" was a "rush" because "it's a blast doing things you aren't supposed to do."
1992: Chicago Bulls win the NBA Championship
According to ESPN, more than 1,000 people were arrested, nearly 100 police officers injured and an estimated $10 million in damages was committed.
2011: Penn State coach Joe Paterno fired amidst child sexual abuse scandal
Although some news outlets described the situation as a "riot," other stories, including a report from the New York Times characterized the situation as an "unruly protest" and a "clash with police." The event itself took a roughly $190,000 toll, according to The Patriot-News in Pennsylvania, and even included Penn State students and fans tipping over a news van — all in the name of a now-deceased coach who knowingly ignored his colleague's track record of sex abuse allegations.
2015: Ohio State University wins the NCAA football championship
Fans set nearly 90 fires, tore down an Ohio Stadium goal post, according to the AP.
2011: Vancouver Canucks lose in the Stanley Cup finals
As ESPN noted, nearly 100 people were arrested and almost 150 injured in a riot that included the burning of 15 cars and vandalism of approximately 50 businesses. "Total damages are expected to run well into the millions of dollars," ESPN reported.
2014: San Francisco Giants win the World Series
One report from Reuters called it "fans taking to the streets." The San Francisco Chronicle's headline noted "40 arrests, 2 shootings in Giants fan revelry." Couches burned, buildings were hit with graffiti and businesses were vandalized. But neither story characterized the incident as a "riot."