Americans Need to Stop Seeking Comfort in Feel-Good Riot Stories

Today marks one month since George Floyd was killed by four Minneapolis police officers. The uprisings that resulted from Floyd’s murder continue to rage across the country, and will likely continue for some time. In a number of cases, they’ve had significant positive results.

Despite their continuation, news coverage of the uprisings has significantly died down. In the slightly quieter moment in which we find ourselves, it is useful to take stock of what we can (and should) learn from the past month, including what we can discover about common reactions to the protests. Since I study the history of rhetoric, I think it is useful to look for historical parallels from which to draw insight.

The most obvious parallel, in my mind, is the Los Angeles riots, which were a reaction to the acquittal of the four police officers who ferociously assaulted Rodney King in the first widely-circulated police brutality video in America. The circumstances were obviously different, but there are nevertheless illuminating similarities, including what I describe below as “feel-good riot stories.”

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