A Riot Can Be a Memorial

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'Riots are as much about collective pain as they are about anger. Aren’t these protests a way of mourning?'

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen countless people quote Martin Luther King, Jr., when talking about the protests and riots across the country. The common refrain is this specific line, which King said more than once during his lifetime: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” It seems as though many take this to mean that riots are solely an expression of anger, of outrage, of desperation.

But I’ve begun to think of riots as not just an outburst that emerges from the violence of marginalization and discrimination, but also an expression of immense and otherwise unfathomable loss. Riots are as much about collective pain as they are about anger.


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