The Power of a Brick
Many who have worked with me or know me well have heard me talk about the power of an ordinary brick – equating it, of course, to the potential power of an ordinary burrito. I didn’t come up with this on my own; it was one of the few inspiring scenes of the 1993 movie Indecent Proposal (so inspiring, in fact, that I list the entire movie as one of my all-time favorites).
Woody Harrelson (actor) said… that Louis Kahn (actual architect) said:
I awoke this past Monday morning to text messages and photos showing our beautiful, recently re-opened, very-much-covid-debilitated Boston Common Boloco restaurant trashed and looted.
Amongst the many photos I received, I noted one in particular. There it was. A simple, ordinary brick.
I waited for my internal reaction, but there was none.
I was unphased.
I was not angry.
I felt not even the slightest bit of worry.
On my own terms, I understood.
I blamed nobody.
Well, that last part is not true. I don’t blame the people who actually launched the brick through our storefront. Who stole the computers and the cash.
Instead I blame all of us who are complicit in accepting the injustices we see in front of us every day and yet doing nothing about any of it. We who walk by homeless people, most of whom are not white. We who turn or veer away from certain strangers in the street, especially when its dark, most of whom are not white. We who experience frustrating police rudeness only to let it go, knowing that were it not for the color of our skin, rudeness could have been, and too often is, replaced with brutality or even murder.
For over a week now, many people are fighting back. No, it’s more than fighting back. People are acting irrationally, that’s what they are doing. A black man dies, but its murder and is caught on video, and look at the movement that has taken hold. In many quiet as well as some very public circles, “rational” people of all colors and genders are calling for peace and order. Really? You are calling for peace and order? “That shit’s not working,” millions upon millions are thinking. And so they take it to the streets.
Chaos and violence, one could argue, paved the way for MLK to do his thing peacefully. And we all know that while MLK didn’t condone violence, he understood why riots took place – “the voice of the UNHEARD.” The Brits expected the colonists to be rational, but in the end, they chose irrational. The Civil War wasn’t rational, not even nearly. But how else was slavery going to really be challenged? Most real change requires irrational passion, irrational effort, and irrational behavior at some point along the way. A part of me hopes people don’t stop acting irrationally until something concrete changes. I think most of us can’t articulate what that means. But if it means looting and damage are necessary to get the message heard, to keep everyone’s attention on the problem, then that’s just what it might take.
Here’s the thing… the looting and damage is a 2-way street. Just because the shit going the other way is silent and “rational” doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Those of us born into privilege, those of us who have found success, carry this disease of racism as effectively and asymptomatically as some of us carry covid-19. We don’t know we have it, we display no symptoms, we appear to be safe, we sometimes deny the possibility that we carry it (either because we actually don’t see it or we don’t want to be “discovered”), but we unknowingly spread further injustice and harm to millions of human beings. Most of us can’t even see what our effect is. We are quick to point fingers at others, but are we really looking in the mirror with the same skeptical eye we use to judge others?
I thought about that brick a lot in the ensuing hours, and by the time I asked “where is the brick?”, it had been thrown in outside dumpsters. Despite having a hundred other priorities calling for their attention, I asked Erin who was on site to retrieve the brick.
They took a picture of it. Look at it. How powerful it is. How it aspires to be heard, to make a difference, to make change.
In the evenings since Monday, more bricks have followed in cities around the country, and I suppose our restaurants could be subject to more damage and looting. I won’t be angry. I won’t be sad. But I might become irrational. That’s probably not throwing physical bricks for me, but it could be engaging in uncomfortable conversations, asking hard questions, taking action, showing up in places where we all feel vulnerable. If we can show up to support the frontline workers for the Covid-19 crisis, a mostly invisible disease, we sure as hell can do the same for racism, that other mostly invisible disease, that has plagued our country since its founding.
Invisible, that is, until those common, ordinary bricks made their dramatic entries into our lives and demanded we no longer ignore the problem.
Today I learned that destroying private property is an acceptable way of conducting myself and furthering My interests and the interests of this like me.
I will use my experience as a combat vet to better train instigators and would-be rioters so we can all bring more attention and change to our nation.
Thanks Steve. I understand and respect your experience but as to the sarcasm, but that’s hardly the point of what I wrote. Thanks for reading regardless.
Found your article on reddit, and decided to give it a read.
I understand the symbolism used with the rock and your window, but I disagree with the rioters and destruction and will never agree with it. People worked hard to get where they are today, and small business is the backbone of our great country. Many people have had homes, businesses, and cars destroyed or looted in the name of “Awareness.” I’m also willing to bet a lot of these people that picked up a brick, could care less about anyone that died. People with the real message dont feel the need to destroy, and if you look at the videos of people protesting… its the protesters that are stopping the rioters in most cases.
I just want to say, I am not racist. I do agree that there is a serious problem corruption in SOME law enforcement and injustice to minorities. I’m just not sure the destruction of property is the best way to go about it. I’m happy to see business owners, such as yourself, taking a stand here and using your platform for good. We need change. We need a system of law enforcement we can trust. We need to work together to make all of this happen, big guys and the little guys. I really hope this desire to change and the want to change continues past the protests. Too often i feel important changes get left behind when the “mood” shifts to the next big thing.
I support the protestors. I do not support the rioters.
My wife and I make less fortunate bags for the homeless. While working, I will commonly hand out bags of simply toiletries and such that most people take for granted. I’m not looking for praise, but if everyone just did their part, the world could be a better place. White, black, orange, purple… it doesn’t matter. These are people. Human beings. Someone who once had a loving family, maybe still does. Little boys and girls who had dreams, aspirations, and goals. People forget that we are all human.
My son is 6. He doesn’t see color at all. When I tried to tell him what was going on, he simply didn’t understand. I asked about his friend from school (who is an african american) and i asked him if he notices anything different about him. He can honestly say no. We can all learn so much from a 6 year old.
On a side note, i used to do service work for your huntington location every month at 7am or so. Used to get me a truck stop every time. Your food is delicious and your staff is awesome. Thanks for the read!
Hi Jay, your intentions for seeing everyone as human are good. I just want to point out that “not seeing color” is actually lessening the black experience. In fact you should be telling your children it’s okay to see color! It’s a difference in melanin and it IS visible to adults and children alike. And it’s OKAY that we are different and we can respect those differences without erasing them. And from there, we can acknowledge that those differences lead to differences in privilege and make lasting, generational change. I’m not trying to attack, but rather educate with some of what I have recently learned myself.
Thank you Kara. This is super helpful to think about. Appreciate your jumping in.
I really appreciate your thoughts here. To be clear, and perhaps I should have made this more clear, I don’t condone the rioting and looting, etc… but I have sought to understand it. If for no other reason than to have a more informed response and set of actions.
By the way, our youngest is 6 too. We’ve had the same conversation. And yes, seeing the world through his eyes has its moments!
It is far easier for Boloco to hide behind their B Corporation status and give a payoff to BLM (which will all end up going back to the DNC anyway) instead of actually helping people by being honest with them. I don’t blame them since honesty would get them shut down by the ignorant mob.
What does honesty look like?
>It would be explaining to people that POCs have a bad reputation because they commit far more *violent* crimes per capita, than whites and Asians.
>It would be explaining that that POCs pay far less in taxes than whites and Asians.
>It would be explaining that “White privilege” is a myth – Asians do better than whites (fewer arrests, much higher income per capita) in a majority-white country.
>It would be explaining that POC culture doesn’t value education as much as white and Asian cultures.
>It would be explaining that one graphic, violent video does not accurately represent reality.
>It would be explaining that the reality is that the biggest threat to black people are other black people, not the cops. Not being killed by cops is also pretty straightforward (don’t commit a crime and don’t resist arrest)
>It would be explaining that the reason they are not given respect is that their reputation is terrible because of the amount of crime they commit. They can easily fix this reputation by changing their collective behavior.
>It would be explaining that every perceived slight is not because of racism.
>It would be showing them that countless immigrants come here with nothing and make it big – they can too.
Your donations will not help because the mob does not want to be helped, they only want to feel good. They don’t want the doctor to tell them to diet and exercise, they want the doctor to tell them it’s not their fault.
The mob will not listen to reason or evidence or care about your thoughtful positions. They will burn you down again no matter how much time and money you give them. Apologizing, “listening” or sharing your feelings won’t help you either.
Throwing money at BLM isn’t going to help black people get respect. Anyone with half a brain sees these “protests” and makes a note to 1) never live anywhere near these types of people and 2) don’t open businesses near these types of people – or you’ll get what you deserve
A real leader is courageous enough to stand up to the mob and give them the truth.
Ask yourself if a donation to BLM would help or if an honest conversation would help more. Ask them if the same lies they’ve been fed will help them or maybe an dose of the truth. I think the time for honest conversations is here.
I don’t expect you to actually do this because our insane cancel culture will lead these morons to try and tear you down if you actually gave them a taste of what the facts are.
Its fine to believe what you believe. But when you say “It is far easier for Boloco to hide behind their B Corporation status and give a payoff to BLM (which will all end up going back to the DNC anyway) instead of actually helping people by being honest with them”, I am not hiding behind anything. I’m in plain sight. You, on the other hand, are undetectable. Boloco won’t “do well” because of anything we’ve written here. We are barely surviving as it is, and I’m not sure this is what the marketing experts would recommend at this juncture. We are calling it like we see it… for better or for worse. We aren’t always correct, and have been called out for it by the very same kinds of people you seem to damn in this post… and we listen to them as well as to you. And then we decide. In this case, I don’t agree with most of what you’ve written. And that’s ok. Thanks.
It takes a LOT to listen, to REALLY listen. Thank you for for listening to your employees about their very real experiences with customers who would likely argue that they don’t see color, yet treat her rudely. Thank you for listening to those who disagree with your brave stance and hide behind statistics that don’t make sense… 12% of the population could NEVER pay the same amount in taxes as 61%, that’s just math. I for one have been a Boloco customer since it was The Wrap and I will continue to be one gladly.
I am African American and I do not approve of the looting. I also noticed that the people I saw on the news looting were not exclusively Black, and as some were outed on TV, they were not all Bostonians. These were opportunists, and I am sorry they took the opportunity to loot your store. I appreciate your trying to make sense of what happened and taking the high road of not getting angry. I am amazed by how many store owners have chosen to be change agents, not victims.
Furthermore I appreciate that you have taken the time to try to move in a different direction. Your staff diversity and competitive pay structure demonstrates to me you are “not racist”. Your willingness to listen shows that you are anti-racist– a more profound and important position. Thank you for taking a thoughtful corporate position, and for taking a loving and profound human position. I hope some day in the future I will enjoy a burrito and a George Washington Carver shake with my grandchildren.