WATCH: BLM co-founder shares thoughts on looting & capitalism with Penn State students

She defended violent protesters as “real people who are expressing righteous rage."

She praised business owners who "take that L" after having their stores looted.

A BLM co-founder spoke during a recent Penn State event.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said that capitalism is “tragic" and praised business owners willing to “take that L" after having their storefronts vandalized and shelves looted.

The comments came during a recent virtual event hosted by the Pennsylvania State University Student Programming Association, which states on Twitter that it "brings amazing live entertainment to students with your student activity fee!"

The discussion was structured as a question-and-answer session moderated by Jordan Broiles, an activist and Master’s degree candidate.

The event began with Cullors discussing the story of Black Lives Matter’s beginning. Cullors founded Black Lives Matter alongside BLM co-founder Alicia Garza following the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013. She said that she does not think of her day job and her personal life as separate and sees her activism as rooted in building a world in which she wants to live in.

Cullors began her activism training during her teenage years when she worked on projects related to global warming and “environmental racism” for the Labor Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles.

“I use the word ‘global warming’ and not ‘climate change’ because, if people know about right-wing think tanks, they actually changed that name, just like they did with Obamacare,” she added.

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In reflecting on the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide unrest following George Floyd’s death — which she repeatedly called the “national rebellion” — Cullors explained that she was already having a lot of conversations with her audience about abolishing the police.

“While the COVID-19 illness is tragic, what’s more tragic is capitalism. What’s more tragic is racism. What’s more tragic is our inability to actually create a safety net for communities that are most attacked in this moment by both the crisis and the pandemic of racism, but also the crisis and pandemic of COVID-19,” Cullors said.

When asked about protesters destroying small businesses, Cullors stated that many protesters are “at times, those are real people who are expressing righteous rage and responding to their environment.” With respect to those individuals, Cullors said that conversations should ensue about avoiding a situation in which “people feel like they have to be so desperate that they disrupt people’s businesses.”

She also lauded business owners who will “take that L," with their property being damaged, so that “black lives matter someday.”

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In response to a question about the role of social media in forwarding Black Lives Matter, Cullors explained that sites like Facebook were not built for social movements. Rather, she said they were initially for “mostly white people to relate to one another online.” Cullors said that social media has been an "amplifier" for Black Lives Matter, yet has also been used against Black Lives Matter in the form of bots and trolls during the 2016 election cycle.

“We have to both see the tools that we have and keep using them, but we also have to challenge the companies and the corporations that often use these tools against us,” Cullors said.

For students wondering how to start conversations about race with friends and family, some of whom may disagree with the Black Lives Matter organization’s methods and beliefs, Cullors advised students to rely on their “chosen family” — individuals who agree with them — for support. 

This will fortify students when they must have “hard and courageous conversations” with those who do not hold the same viewpoints, she said.

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Cullors challenged students to push for change at Penn State and within their communities. She also encouraged them to consider careers in community organizing.

“We’re taught that you can be a doctor, a lawyer. We’re taught that you can be an artist, even. But it’s very rare that a young person is taught that you can spend your life… focusing on a certain set of issues that you want to change.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft