Recently a 43 year old man and father of seven, Keith Lamont Scott, was killed by police in Charlotte, NC. As is often the case, there are conflicting reports as to what actually happened. Currently, an investigation by a separate state agency is taking place to determine if this shooting was warranted or was an act of racial profiling. In any event, investigations of this nature can take months to complete. In the meantime, people are up in arms about another killing of a black man that, for many, appears racially motivated. Police in riot gear are trying to keep protestors from becoming violent yet their efforts are falling short. Looting local businesses typically accompanies rioting and Charlotte is no exception. Along with physical injuries, there was an innocent civilian who was murdered by a civilian, all due to the chaos that is germane to violent protests.
I totally understand the anger and outrage at a presumed killing of an innocent individual, and protests, if handled correctly, can be a powerful tool in voicing one’s concerns as well as influencing much needed reform. However, here are some of the reasons why protests of this nature do not work.
Flawed From the Get Go
First, upon hearing such news, people are quick to jump to conclusions and make assumptions about the guilt and/or innocence of all parties. This is typically decided by a predetermined mindset or belief that the person subscribes to. Rather than review all of the facts, they pick and choose those details which support their beliefs and discredit those that contradict them. Their actions are a reflection of those beliefs, however accurate or erroneous they may be.
Secondly, once an individual has made a judgment call, they are eager to disseminate that information in order to attract followers and thus gain momentum. When they condemn the supposed guilty party before an accurate determination can be made, their agenda incites hatred towards the alleged perpetrator typically followed by outrage and violence. Fear (that justice will not be served) fuels this behavior in an effort to gain power and control over their (perceived) oppressors.
However, rather than achieve the positive changes they are seeking, the opposite actually occurs. Rioters lose the respect of the community and nation; they are seen as hate-mongers who are unable and unwilling to negotiate an issue rationally. Whatever trust and cooperation could have occurred between both sides is dashed as their actions support the belief that (based on their violent behaviors) they are untrustworthy.
While their concerns may be valid, their actions elude to another agenda. The deliberate destruction of another person’s personal property, i.e. the looting of local businesses, damage to vehicles, assaults on innocent individuals, etc., suggests that their protest is actually an excuse to cause mayhem and destruction. Additionally, those in the black communities who accuse whites of racial profiling are only further hurting their cause for justice by reinforcing the violent image many people have of them as they engage in unjustifiable destruction and harm to their communities and fellow citizens.
The Path to Righteous Change
Violence is never the way to change. From a Karmic perspective one cannot engage in negative, hateful actions and expect to reap a positive end. In Biblical terms, (Galatians) God tells us that “You shall reap what you sow.” Therefore, the only way to create justice is through fairness and rational, respectable actions. Ghandi stated it so eloquently, “I must first be the change I want to see in the world.” It cannot be any clearer than that.
Here are the questions all agitators need to consider before engaging in destructive acts: will this help or hurt my cause? Will this make the situation better or worse, now and in the future? Clearly there is nothing constructive that has emerged from any of these riots. On the contrary: blacks have further damaged their image and race relations are more strained now than in prior years.
While violent protestors are dangerously misguided in their way of thinking, that violence is power, the truth is that responsibility is power. Only when we take personal ownership for the sad state of our lives rather than blame others do we have the power to change it. Peace is power. “I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life” says God. God’s way of love and kindness and concern for one another is the path to a more just and safer world. It is our Divine right to be free from harm and to be treated with dignity and respect. But that will not happen through the use of force. It will only occur when each individual chooses to be respectful towards all of humanity, even towards those who may be acting out; to rise above, to be the example of what is means to be fully human.
When both sides are willing to come together in a meaningful dialogue to share their concerns and grievances, to listen not only with their ears but more importantly with their hearts, when they are willing to forgive the transgressions of the other party and put the past behind them, only then do they stand a chance at ending the hatred and coming together as one.
You cannot beat a child and expect him or her to trust and love you. Likewise, you cannot riot and loot and injure and destroy and expect others to respect you. “What you reap you sow.” Positive change can only occur through positive actions. Let go of the fear and anger and hatred. Let God’s way be your way. And in doing so, the world will finally find the peace and justice it is so desperately seeking.
Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.”
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