Friday, May 29, 2020

Riots are the Language of the Unheard

This is Eric and my collective thoughts, written this morning after a disastrous night. Typing from the safety of our back deck with the sun shining on us, we recognize the privilege we have in making statements from safe spaces. However, we, from thousands of miles away, join our voices in chorus with those who have been silenced for too long.

We are 100% against looting. Looting is against the law. Looting isn’t a true representation of protest. Looting and protesting are two different things. Looting is wrong; peaceful protest is a form of lawful speech. However, we need to have the maturity to examine the underlying conditions that lead to hopelessness and frustration, that ultimately led to the lawbreaking we saw in Minnesota last night. These conditions start with a history of systemic racism and oppression, and are evidenced today in the racially charged attitudes and lack of appropriate response to injustice by those in power.
  • An officer is caught on video with this knee on the neck of a black man for 9 minutes as the man begs for his life. Begs for him mother. The man dies. No law enforcement agency or person in the country has condoned the restraint technique used by the officer, and many have actively spoken out against it. It is worth noting that this officer has a long history of use-of force-cases, some still pending. Even with all this information, the officer is STILL not under arrest.
  • Protesters calling for the arrest of the officer in Minnesota are met with pepper spray and rubber bullets. A black reporter, commenting live on CNN and wearing his media credentials, is arrested and placed in handcuffs for “being in the way” while a white reporter from CNN one blockover is quickly confirmed as part of the press and allowed to continue his work. The protests turns into a riot and looting begins. These individuals are called THUGS (in capital letters) by President Trump, and he insinuates they should be shot so clearly that Twitter flags his tweet as inciting violence.
  • In Georgia, a black man jogging is pursued by two white men and shot dead in the middle of the street. For two months, no investigation takes place because the District Attorney is friends with the suspects. The family’s cries for justice are ignored. The only reason action finally occurs is because video of the incident is released, but its important to know the reason the video was released is because the owner thought that the video would prove the correctness of the white men’s actions and make the black family shut up.
  • Before these recent events, Black Lives Matter was started to bring attention to injustices that happen daily to black men and women in the US. President Trump characterizes members of the advocacy group as “very bad people.”
  • A black NFL player, after meeting with a white former special forces soldier, decides to peacefully protest police brutality of black men by kneeling during the national anthem. The President directs a negative tweet storm at the player and the NFL, and the NFL blacklists him.
  • White men in Michigan decide to protest the Governor’s continued closing of the state. They storm the capitol building, brandishing firearms, wearing body armor and holding signs advocating for violence against lawmakers. Police allow the protest, and do not confront the protesters with pepper spray nor rubber bullets. These protesters were called called “Good Men” by the President.
  • In Charlotte, white supremacists march in the streets, and lash out violently against counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring others. The President tweets that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest.
Anyone see a problem here? Anyone see the inconsistent messaging happening? What if this were you? What if YOU peacefully protest and are consistently mocked, denigrated or ignored, while others engage in similar actions are excused and permitted their behavior? How to you react? At what point does the frustration at not being heard, not being protected, and not being valued boil over?
Violence should not be met with violence, but pain should be met with compassion. Frustration should be met with listening. Changes should have been made long ago.

Make no mistake, looting is wrong, but the people in power and their lack of response are at the root of the looting, and they are bearing absolutely no responsibility here – they are satisfied to continue to blame the oppressed for their oppression.

I believe that it is up to us to cut through the noise of the riots, and listen to hearts. To reject the blame and shame that has already come down on the heads of hurting people, and hold two thoughts at the same time: I reject violence and I understand why violence happened. I can sit behind my computer and write to my heart's content, but what I need to constantly remind myself of, is that my voice should never outshout those who need to be heard.

I need to sit quietly, and I need to listen.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

No comments:

Post a Comment