In case you missed it, the armed siege of government land is finally over. If you did miss it, its probably not due to any lack of attention on your own part. The fact of the matter is, the rest of the country seemed to forget about it as well. Can you blame them? Ever since the brigade of white American Separatists and militiamen stormed a federal building in Oregon, armed to the teeth with assault rifles, there has been a shockingly low level of media attention paid to the ordeal. So after 41 days of armed occupation - call it what it is, a hijacking - it's finally over. Today, I logged on to the wonderful world wide web, and the headline on Yahoo read, "Patience Pays Off in Ending Oregon Standoff".
For over a month, government officials, local and state police, politicians, and the media all practiced a great deal of patience. When the army of angry white men stormed the property waving guns and flags, they were allowed to set up camp, host press conferences, and host a celebratory cookout. As they raged over the misuse of government land, the powers that be urged calm and vowed to "hear them out". After threatening to "kill any cop that stepped foot on the property", law enforcement stepped back, viewed from afar. Even after a shootout with the police, occupiers remained. Patience is the perfect word to describe the approach to armed, dangerous, deadly, hostile Caucasian protesters.
You see here-in lies the problem. Patience is not a luxury afforded to all.
The standoff in Oregon began on January 2, 2016 - five months after the murder of Sam Dubose in Cincinnati and Sandra Bland in Texas, eight months after the death of Freddie Gray and the resulting protests in Baltimore, and two years after the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. The patience of the Oregon protests displays the dichotomy of toleration when it comes to the constitutionally granted right to protest; patience was the least practiced approach when dealing with African Americans.
The Oregon militias justified their occupation by citing government corruption and abuse of the legal system. in each instance, protesters in Baltimore, and Ferguson, and New York City challenged a long-standing history of - wait for it - government corruption and abuse of the legal system. This is where the similarities end. Oregon protesters waved guns and flags; Black protesters held their hands in the air and and poster board signs. While the Oregon militias threatened to kill police, Black protesters begged the police not to shoot them. Demonstrators in Oregon were "patriots" and "activists", but Black protesters were "thugs". When the occupation in Oregon began, authorities urged calm. In Baltimore, in Ferguson, In Cincinnati... authorities declared a state of emergency.
While the white protesters were met with patience, protesters of color were met with militarily armed police dressed in body armor, armored tanks, tear gas, rubber bullets, and smoke grenades. Nobody offered to "hear them out", instead they were bombarded with immediate resistance and hostility. Even media attention was vastly different. When unrest in urban areas were experienced an onslaught of twenty-four hour breaking news, Don Lemon shucking and jiving and attempting to reinforce his ethnicity, and a near incitement of aggression with headlines like "How Bad Will It Get?" or "Will the City Burn?". In Oregon, Media outlets didn't embed the camp with Anderson Cooper to delve into the mindset of the occupiers, there were no round table conversations that attempted to explore the motives, psychology and aggressive social culture of a group with a deeply rooted history of dysfunction. They did not attempt to tie the hijacking of federal land to a wider, more problematic sense of Caucasian-American entitlement. They let the situation play out and only disseminated the bare minimum amount of information.
Imagine if the tables were turned. Hypothetically, had a group of armed black militants conducted a hostile takeover of the courthouse in Ferguson, would there be a push for patience? If a groups of hundreds of bearded men of Middle Eastern decent occupied a federal government building armed with assault rifles, would they be called "patriots" or "terrorists"? The fact that the overwhelming majority of #BlackLivesMatter protests have been peaceful yet, still, met with Selma like levels of police aggression should answer those questions.
The funny thing about patience is, during protest conducted by people of color, the only people that are expected to practice it are the protesters, themselves. If an indictment is demanded, the say "let the legal process play out". If the release of a video is requested, they reply with "When its convenient for us". When protesters demand the firing of officers that have taken the lives of unarmed African Americans, they are instead place on a glorified paid vacation until a farce of an investigation is conducted. When we ask for immediate and concrete changes in policing and the court system, they reply "be patient".
They say that patience is a virtue. Well, in America, patience is a luxury, and that luxury is not afforded all demographics.