We’re witnessing one of the worst series of riots in recent American history. If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, America is currently in intense turmoil triggered by the death of George Floyd through the use of unnecessary and excessive force by police officers in Minneapolis.
At this point in the crisis, most of us are already too exhausted to fight back. Images of cities burning across America and footage of people being assaulted to the point of death are demoralizing our spirit. Yet, fight back we must since it’s mostly during times of crisis when irresponsible and corrupt factions will try to exploit the tragedy to the long-term detriment of the public.
During this emotional storm we’re all experiencing as we’re overwhelmed by the avalanche of bad news, our judgment is clouded with fury and fear. Lives are being destroyed right in front of our eyes, and lives have also been lost in the violent protests – like the unjustified death of 53-year-old Federal Protective Service officer Patrick Underwood of Pinole, California.
In the chaos of this nationwide crisis, we would be wise to listen to the voices of people who remain clear-headed, sensible, and rational. Hence this article is written on behalf of my good friend Keon Antonio Grayson, who’s calling for an end to this madness.
This is the voice of a black man who has spent his lifetime working to help fix the social and economic issues in his hometown of the inner cities of Miami-Dade. And unlike protestors who are egging on the riots, he’s pleading for the violence, looting, and rioting to stop.
It’s easy for most of us to just hop on Twitter, type a few words, and signal to others on where we stand on an issue. However, for people like Grayson, who have to live with the consequences of the riots, the problems their community will face following the aftermath of the violence will be long-lasting.
Keon Antonio Grayson’s Background
Before we address the economic damages caused by the violence, we need to remember that the devastation we see on our screens represents the lives of individual people who have to live in the community that’s being destroyed.
Keon Grayson is one of these individuals. He has dedicated decades of his life to try to fix and improve his local community of inner-city Miami-Dade. Before his career in public service as Councilman of Miami-Dade County, he served the nation as part of the Navy. Currently, Grayson is running for office in the Florida House of Representatives District 109 – under the Libertarian Party.
As someone who previously experienced unfair treatment by the police due to his race, Grayson understands why the public is enraged at the police brutality. But he also understands that law enforcement is necessary — he was once put in a coma after he and his brother were brutally attacked by thugs in his neighborhood.
Needless to say, Grayson has gone through a lot in his life. Still, he hasn’t moved out of his hometown because he is adamant that he needs to help improve the neighborhood in which he grew up. And when he saw the riots across America, he knew just how bad the looting and vandalism would be for the local community caught in the crossfire. He made a plea to others in his community not to engage in the violence and the rioting because it will bring about the economic ruin of his neighborhood.
Looting and Destroying Businesses Accomplishes Nothing
It’s easy for people who have nothing at stake to encourage the protests and cheer on the riots. However, for people like Grayson, who have to live in the community that’s actively being destroyed, this sort of liability-free spectatorship is not a luxury they possess. The poverty caused by the economic devastation experienced by the residents in these communities is concrete. Men and women will lose jobs and will have difficulty supporting themselves and their families.
What do the citizens in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of inner-city Miami-Dade have to gain from all the infrastructure destruction?
And for what? For the punishment of a corrupt police officer in Minnesota? What do the citizens in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of inner-city Miami-Dade have to gain from all the infrastructure destruction? It’s easy for protestors from outside the city to swarm into a foreign neighborhood they don’t sleep in and throw bricks at the windows of businesses they don’t shop at. Once done, they’ll just wipe their hands clean as they retreat home to their suburban safety net and hatch a plan for their next “activist action.”
A Lifetime of Savings and Future Livelihood Destroyed
The retailers and local businesses, however, are left with massive losses as a result of the increasingly violent protests. The infrastructure that’s destroyed and the stolen merchandise cost local business owners massive losses to their capital. This loss of capital then leads to jobs being terminated. In turn, the innocent bystanders who live in these communities will be the ones who end up suffering the most from this devastation.
It’s already a huge challenge for minority-owned businesses to take off from the ground. Now they have to watch helplessly as their businesses get burned to the ground.
It’s heartbreaking to see men and women come to face the reality that what they’ve worked for their entire life is gone in an instant from the insanity. The economic destruction suffered by local businesses from these violent riots is simply illogical, disproportionate, and morally unjustified. It’s already a huge challenge for minority-owned businesses to take off from the ground. Now they have to watch helplessly as their businesses get burned to the ground.
Future Growth Will Be Stunted as Investors Will Be Less Likely To Provide Capital for Businesses
For those who state, "Well, insurance will pay for it," please know this a frightfully short-term view on business. In the long-term, insurance premiums will rise significantly in the affected neighborhoods. Insurers will factor in the risk which the riots and looting have now attached to those communities.
This increases the insurance costs for all the businesses in the area. Long after the riots are gone, this increase in business cost will be yet another roadblock to future development. Quite often after a riot, the area is never the same, and life there is worse for everyone. Why would small business owners ever embark on taking the risk of starting a new business in a struggling neighborhood if their life’s work can be undone in a snap of the finger?
Insurance premiums will rise significantly in the affected neighborhoods. Insurers will factor in the risk which the riots and looting have now attached to those communities.
Do the rioters and looters think about that? Is the perpetuation of the cycle of generational poverty justified for the sake of these violent protests?
Perpetuating the Cycle of Poverty
Burning down your local community will ensure that the community will never escape the cycle of poverty. One of the damaged stores which made headlines was a Target in Minneapolis, an experimental storefront for the company to learn how they can successfully bring their business to lower-income neighborhoods.
Grit Daily reported that “the East Lake Street Target in Minneapolis was a headquarters location that the company used to test new surveillance and loss prevention tactics.” It’s common knowledge that poorer neighborhoods have Walmart, while Target stores are catered towards more affluent neighborhoods. Looting and destroying this Target sends a signal to the company that management shouldn’t even bother trying to bring their elevated shopping experience to people in poorer, problematic neighborhoods.
Burning down your local community will ensure that the community will never escape the cycle of poverty.
A community can’t escape their cycle of poverty if industries won’t move into their cities because they can’t conduct their businesses profitably. What’s left for the community then is to rely on government welfare and handouts. Most will not admit this truth openly, but being dependent on welfare is a miserable way to live.
This Madness Is Not Endemic to Black America
African American communities have peacefully protested against police brutality for a long time now. I’m told by Grayson how the madness occurring right now with the violent riots is not representative of the majority of the black America he knows. Most of his brothers and sisters are God-fearing, church-going folks who preach the virtues of peace, tolerance, and love. They unanimously reject violence.
Hence this rejection of violence is the reason why Grayson denounces the Black Lives Matter movement, which he views as straying from the ideals of peaceful civil disobedience as endorsed by the late and great Martin Luther King.
Shameless opportunists exploit Dr. Martin Luther King’s words and corrupt his message for their own benefit.
Still, shameless opportunists would exploit Dr. King’s words and corrupt his message for their own benefit. We see irresponsible activists arguing that Dr. King would approve of riots for the sake of “social justice.” This is not only wrong, but it also sullies the good memory of Dr. King. I seriously doubt Martin Luther King would have endorsed anything that has to do with ANTIFA.
And Grayson isn't alone in calling for the community to look inward if they're ever going to solve the societal problems. Other's like Lil Wayne also recognize the underlying factors like personal responsibility that have to be addressed in order to change things for the better. In George Floyd's case, even his own brother is speaking out against the rioting and looting, saying that Floyd himself was a man of peace, a "gentle giant," and that he wouldn't have supported rioting and destroying the community.
When we see someone else in pain, our natural instinct is to help that person. As Keon Grayson told me, “Perhaps George Floyd’s death could have been prevented had the many onlookers been brave enough to step up and do something to help George Floyd from being crushed to death under the knees of that officer instead of just standing around and filming his death.”
But what’s even more unhelpful is the destruction of property as a form of protest. Not only will the economic devastation not help to solve the problem faced by the black community, but it will also further perpetuate the poverty of that segment of society. It’s time we heal as a country, and we can do so by helping each other improve our lives by making things better, instead of destroying one another.
Readers can contact Keon Grayson at graysonkeona@gmail if you’re interested in having a conversation with him. Also, feel free to show your support for his run for office in the Florida House of Representatives.