Last weekend, basketball fans rioted in Lexington, Kentucky.
The riot in the streets near the University of Kentucky’s campus saw shots fired and cars, couches, chairs and other furniture set alight.
Pictures of the riot show it to be by white youth — anyone else is hard to find. But the race of those involved has gone uncommented on.
Would any riot involving any other race not see that fact at least mentioned? Not only that, would it be denied by many that it even was a riot?
Back in 1994, there was what does get called a ‘race riot’ in Lexington, following the police shooting of Tony Sullivan during a botched arrest attempt. It involved the damaging of some police cars and some rock throwing, not dissimilar to the weekend’s events.
An eight month FBI investigation after the riot determined that, as police had said at the time, the officer who shot Tony had indeed accidentally discharged his weapon while trying to uncock it. However, few black residents of the housing projects believed this version of the story. Even before a verdict was reached, the younger residents staged several street demonstrations and marches in the strongly segregated city.
Then in 1996, the town was hit by another riot. This was started by the white college population of the town after the famous local basketball team, the Wildcats, won the national championship.
According to news reports, the University campus and the surrounding areas were a disaster the morning after the win in ’96. Citizens who had the misfortune of parking their cars on the streets surrounding campus awoke to find nothing but a burned-out shell where their vehicles sat the night before. Store windows were smashed and buildings had been tagged with spray paint. [Source.]
Professor Sorin A. Matei writes:
Some critics compared the coverage of the 1994 with that of the 1996 events. While the 1994 coverage was inflected by urgency and importance, the critics pointed out, the 1996 events were treated as a ‘boys will be boys’ phenomenon, the tone being one of levity, not gravity. This amplified the suspicions of the black community in the city that their image is differently treated by the local media.
In 2012, the riot was again treated in many quarters as “boys will be boys.” Thousands apparently tuned into the Lexington Police Scanner as a joke, as entertainment. One mainstream sports blog said that the scanner “stole the show.”
Another sports blogger wrote:
“It’s still not so much a riot, but more an uprising in celebration in Lexington.”
Sports blogger Bison Messink insists that the weekend’s events were not a riot, writing:
According to reports, a few cars were turned over by the mobs, a few dozen people were arrested, one man was shot by incidental gunfire (!) and Lexington officials say they put out more than 40 fires. Not a bad night’s work, UK [University of Kentucky].
It certainly did not attract the sort of headline I saw on one, solitary bulletin board: White Thugs in Lexington, KY Riot, Destroy Property.
Jerry M. Lewis, a professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State University and the author of the book, ‘Sports Fan Violence in North America’, told Fox Sports:
“In America the rioting is typically with young white males, and it’s always after championship play or an important playoff game. Why do they do it? It’s a way they identify with the victory. Fan violence becomes an act of sporting success. They can’t dunk a basketball, but they can be violent, which is a metaphor for athletic success.”
Americans like to point at Britain and its supposed soccer riots. But the fact is that there hasn’t been one for years because the authorities have made a systematic effort to stop them and, more importantly, the culture has changed.
When is white America going to own and start asking questions about its own riots?
Photo credit: CBS News screengrab