Why You Shouldn't Listen to Cole Sprouse, a "Straight White Male and a Public Figure"
The actor's Instagram post about being detained during a Santa Monica protest shared thoughtful reflection on racial and class privilege.
With 32.3 million followers, the 27-year-old Riverdale actor knows very well that eyes are on him.
But during this current moment of national protest and collective outrage over the death of George Floyd, police brutality, and all forms of oppression against people of color, attention shouldn't be on rich, white, straight actors–and Sprouse knows it, according to his recent Instagram post. While participating in Santa Monica protests, the actor was among a small group of protesters who were directed to disperse by police but found their exit path blocked by police. In the resulting confusion, a few dozen individuals, including Sprouse, were zip-tied.
"I was detained when standing in solidarity, as were many of the final vanguard within Santa Monica," Sprouse wrote. "We were given the option to leave, and were informed that if we did not retreat, we would be arrested. When many did turn to leave, we found another line of police officers blocking our route, at which point, they started zip tying us."
The demonstrators were then kept in holding cells for about an hour and a half, charged with the misdemeanor of violating curfew, and then freed. One protestor, David Brown, told Buzzfeed News, "I was shocked and traumatized by the whole thing because I was there to witness, to document. The whole time police were settings up to arrest us. In hindsight, the curfew was 4 PM and at that point we were breaking the law, but I wish he would have just said you can leave now or you can be arrested."
Out of more than 400 arrests made in Santa Monica that day, some were for looting, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, and assaulting a police officer, while most were for violating curfew. As is the case in most instances of looting, the perpetrators are not associated with the protests but rather opportunistic criminals who are taking advantage of the unrest. They are widely decried by peaceful protestors.
Still, Sprouse underlined that "peace, riots, looting, are an absolutely legitimate form of protest," which echoes Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous comment that "riot is in the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?" While stories of looting and violence during protests serve as a distraction from the police brutality and systemic racism being decried, "the media by nature is only going to show the most sensational, which only proves a long-standing racist agenda," Sprouse wrote.
Most importantly, the young, white, male actor highlighted how to uplift other voices as an ally. He added, "It needs to be stated that as a straight white man, and a public figure, the institutional consequences of my detainment are nothing in comparison to others within the movement. This is ABSOLUTELY not a narrative about me, and I hope the media doesn't make it such. This is, and will be, a time about standing ground near others as a situation escalates, providing educated support, demonstrating and doing the right thing. This is precisely the time to contemplate what it means to stand as an ally. I hope others in my position do as well."
Sprouse concluded, "I'll speak no more on the subject, as I'm (1) not well versed enough to do so, (2) not the subject of the movement, and (3) uninterested in drawing attention away from the leaders of #BLM movement." Certainly, while heeding the popular protest slogan, "Silence Is Violence," remember that being silent is not the same as not listening; everyone can reserve their voice to uplift others' experiences as a wordless form of support.