No Pumpkins No Peace: On the Culture of White Violence

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The big news in New England this weekend was the successful transformation of sleepy little Keene N.H.'s annual Pumpkin Festival by a horde of drunken, partying, college-age, middle-class, overwhelmingly white kids into a rowdy, fire-starting, police-taunting, car-overturning melee/mayhem/fracas/ruckus/kerfuffle/"situation" - that is, many on social media pointed out, what in black Ferguson would be called a riot, to be dealt with as harshly as in Ferguson by the usual over-armed, under-trained, trigger-happy, riot-gear-wearing cops. In Keene - where one clueless partier proclaimed the unruly proceedings "a blast" and "f*cking wicked" and others chanted "We Will Win!" (maybe free pumpkins?) - it didn't pan out that way. The kids pulled down street signs, started fires, threw beer bottles; the cops fired paintballs and teargas and made some arrests. But there were only minor injuries, mostly kid on kid. Local officials were suitably unhappy; one organizer was caught in a hilariously testy exchange with a reporter she called a "self-promoting punk" for actually documenting the mess on view.

All told, it's hard to decide who were the most appalling players of the tawdry spectacle: the thuggish cops, or the thuggish kids. Most notable were the glaring black and white and class discrepancies. Here was white privilege at something less than its finest moment, to do with pumpkins, confronted by excessive militarized law enforcement - which at Ferguson saw dangerous thugs, but in Keene saw only rowdy dumb kids, with the accompanying race-tinged media coverage, like bemused Fox News commentators making pumpkin jokes, to reinforce it. Judging from the flurry of Twitter activity, many were not amused. Cue the hashtags #pumpkinfest and #WhiteOnPumpkinCrime and their pithy comments: "If these pumpkins would pull up their pants, turn down their music  and get jobs, things like wouldn't happen....Let's wait for all the facts. We don't know yet what the pumpkins did to those white kids to start it....Saw someone refer to the riot as a 'fracas.' White folks digging deep into their thesaurus to find descriptive words....Those pumpkins were no angels....Is it just pumpkins that incite violence? We are in apple picking season. I just want to be sure my family will be safe....Don't these people have jobs? Where are the white fathers? What will end this corrosive culture of violence?! " In response, festival officials posted the elliptical, "Yesterday gave us many lessons," quoted Mr. Rogers, and cheerily reported they counted 21,912 jack-o'-lanterns, including some of the "biggest, plumpest, most flawless pumpkins" ever, so there's that.


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