October 22nd, 2008
03:41 PM ET

Will white people riot?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/22/art.riotpolice.jpg caption="Police officers prepare for protesters during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver."]Wendi C. Thomas

Ridiculous question? Then stop asking it about black people.

"Would black people riot if Sen. Barack Obama didn't win the election?" That was the question a white man in Memphis recently asked a racial reconciliation group with which I am involved.

After five years of being a columnist for the daily paper in Memphis, I wasn't surprised by the absurdity of his query. Many whites still labor under the illusion that black folk act en masse and that if you ask the right one, you can get the official position of some 40 million people. If a few of us get angry, that logic allows, it must surely result in a riot.

Riot because we didn't get our way? Please. Black people have more than their share of experience with disappointment and dashed dreams. (See: King, Martin Luther; Evers, Medgar; Chaney, James.) Matter of fact, I'd go so far as to say we're experts in making the best out of a losing hand.

The reply to the curious white gentleman: "No! There is no reason to believe black people will riot if Obama does not win."

But soon after getting this man's e-mail, I started to wonder if he was on to something, if he had noticed what I had: a seething, barely constrained, ugly anger and frustration that makes good riot fuel. The kind of anger that prompts people to shout "Kill him!" and "Off with his head!" at rallies. The kind of hatefulness that would prompt a man to bring a stuffed monkey with an "Obama" sticker on the toy's head to a campaign event.

That kind of group-fueled nastiness must surely beg the question: Will white people riot if Obama wins?


soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Fay, CA

    The climate of divisiveness and anger stirred up by McCain and Palin amongst their supporters has been shameful–McCain's half-hearted denouncement of the despicable behavior at his and Palin's rallies has only encouraged them to act out more–are the McCain supporters who heckled early voters and Obama supporters in North Carolina the type of people McCain claims to be so "proud" of?

    October 22, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  2. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I think the KKK and any other Aryan nation type group possibly might start trouble if Obama wins. There's a lot of hatred in this country – on all sides of the race spectrum.

    October 22, 2008 at 3:46 pm |
  3. kyyr

    I will protest it until the end! And it has nothing to do with race so why ask that? I believe that it was a good friend of Obama's who said that african americans would if Obama loses. Has nothing to do with race, principles.

    October 22, 2008 at 3:42 pm |