Riots and Tea Parties
Burned-out buildings. Broken windows. Empty store shelves. Defaced landmarks. Reckless death.
In my mind, these words paint images of dystopia, loss, and confusion. For others, they describe scenes of righteous indignation and evidence of warranted pushback against the powers that be. There are people who condemn the riots that have overtaken our cities since June, and there are also people who applaud them. I belong in the “riots are not peaceful protests” camp, because I don’t think destruction, death, and discord bring any amount of justice or progression to current issues. Of course, people are free to disagree with me. As they should! This is America, after all.
Recently, I’ve seen lots of social media posts likening these riots to the Boston Tea Party protest. My immediate reaction is to laugh – not in a way that’s condescending or rude, but because I genuinely find the idea funny. Maybe that’s just me, but allow me to present my logic here for your review. And if I’m off-base, let me know.
The information I’m referring to below is sourced from Samuel Adam’s personal letters; he was a major leader in the Boston Tea Party.
The Boston Tea Party was committed in response to an identifiable wrong.
As we all know, back in the late 1700s, American colonies remained under British colonial rule. It was fine – that was, until the British Crown began governing the colonies while ignoring the voices of the people who lived there. Excessive government involvement scared the Americans because it threatened their autonomy and individualism. Typically, we remember the high taxes as the reason why they dumped the tea in the sea, but tensions had been brewing long before that happened.
Fast-forward 250 years, and think about why these riots are happening now. What is the identifiable wrong these people are protesting? If it’s because of the unjust murders of people like George Floyd, okay. I understand the sentiment, but I don’t believe it’s a good enough reason to destroy other black peoples’ businesses and livelihoods. (I don’t think a good enough reason even exists). If they’re mad because they believe black people are subject to white privilege, they’re wrong. If they’re mad because black people don’t have any opportunity, they’re wrong. If they’re mad because no one is listening, they’re wrong.
The Boston Tea Party organizers were mad because they were subject to colonial rule
without a right to their own voice. They were mad because they didn’t have an opportunity to act separately from the Crown. They were mad because no one listened to them. These were complaints that have been legitimized by history. To continue to the comparison, the state of the black community has moved far from the oppression our ancestors endured as slaves. Black people are not ruled by the hand of white people, barred from opportunities to excel, or silenced by people who don’t care. With that in mind, I don’t see how trashing entire communities could ever be justified.
The Boston Tea party was a nonviolent last resort.
Before organizers decided to throw the tea away, they tried to settle their argument lawfully. Multiple times. After their requests to return the tea were denied, they resorted to (what they thought was) the best way to get their message across. Even in doing so, they avoided intentional injury and left the ship floating in one piece.
Today, we can’t say the same. We can say that numbers of private properties, businesses, and homes were threatened, damaged, and in some cases destroyed. We can say that people have been seriously hurt and others have lost their lives, including children. We can say that houses have been invaded and innocent people have been trampled on. And these actions were preceded by, what? Efforts to mobilize the vote? Petitions to change laws and precedents? No, unfortunately. The calls for real action were drowned by yelling and screaming “activists” as they pillaged American cities.
The Boston Tea Party might not have been the best plan.
Even though most Americans fondly remember the Boston Tea Party as on the first acts of defiance against British rule, not everyone appreciated it. George Washington actually criticized the event, because he believed it imposed on property rights. He, among others like Ben Franklin and John Adams, were against mob rule as a method of government. Their influence led to checks and balances, and the rule of law that we see included in the Constitution. While it does protect free speech and the right to assemble, the Constitution doesn’t grant clemency to lawbreakers because they’re acting in protest. If that were the case, I could easily set fire to cars with cheesy bumper stickers in the name of protest and get off scot-free.
Consequences will always exist, friends. We can’t escape that. In the end, the Boston Tea Party led to a serious government crackdown, and ultimately, war. And even then, the solution was to permanently cut ties with the British. Is that the answer these “peaceful protestors” are looking for? Do they want to permanently distance themselves from America? If so, they're well on their way, and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. That behavior should not be respected, admired, or tolerated.
I didn’t know all these details about the Boston Tea Party before researching this post. I don’t even think I learned about all this in school, either. And I feel like this new information will probably stay in my brain a little longer than historical facts usually do, because I took the time to figure things out on my own. You may want to try it. If you see something that seems like it could make sense, test it. Look up the history and find reliable sources to verify or disprove whatever it is. It’s better than taking someone else’s word for it.
As always, thanks for reading!