‘Experts’ blasted for cautioning against use of term ‘looting’ to describe large-scale California thefts

‘People don’t need help understanding looting’

Critics reacted strongly to claims by “experts” Monday that use of the term “looting” to describe recent large-scale thefts from retail stores in California could be associated with people of color and therefore shouldn’t be used. 

According to the local ABC affiliate for the Bay Area, the California Penal Code didn’t allow for the use of the term “looting” to describe the thefts involving large groups of people because, it claimed, the definition didn’t match the act as defined by law. It also cited two individuals it referred to as “experts,” who described the term as being reminiscent of Black people and people of color being associated with the act of looting.

“According to the California Penal Code, what we saw was not looting,” it wrote. “The penal code defines looting as ‘theft or burglary…during a ‘state of emergency,’ ‘local emergency,’ or ‘evacuation order’ resulting from an earthquake, fire, flood, riot or other natural or manmade disaster.'”

The affiliate cited Lorenzo Boyd, a professor of criminal justice and community policing at the University of New Haven, and a retired veteran police officer, who described the term through a racial lens.

“Looting is a term that we typically use when people of color or urban dwellers are doing something. We tend not to use that term for other people when they do the exact same thing,” he told the affiliate.

The affiliate pointed out that they did not yet know the identities and races of the perpetrators of the recent wave of thefts, before noting that they occurred following last Friday’s acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse.

It then cited Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Robert C. Maynard Institute of Journalism Education, who was reminded of Black residents in New Orleans that were described as looters for committing “crimes of survival” following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when they stole water, food and other supplies prior to receiving aid from the federal government.

“This seems like it’s an organized smash and grab robbery. This doesn’t seem like looting. We’re thinking of scenarios where first responders are completely overwhelmed, and folks often may be on their own,” Reynolds said.

Critics took to social media to blast the attempt to describe the crime wave as something other than looting, with some suggesting the change wouldn’t make any difference, and others calling it an attempt at being politically correct. 

“It’s looting. Just like there were riots in Kenosha, not just protests,” former Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wrote, referring to the unrest in Kenosha following the non-fatal police shooting of Jacob Blake. 

“‘Experts.’ Remember– they believe if they can control the language they control reality. Time to ‘smash and grab’ this garbage,” Fox News’ contributor Tammy Bruce wrote, while another simply wrote, “Umm ok.”

One critic likened the pushback on using the term “looting” to people claiming critical race theory was taught only in law schools and not to school-age children. “There was no looting. As a matter of fact, ‘looting’ is only a term used in law school,” he wrote.