America is on fire. Literally. Whether you think peaceful protests are devolving into riots from white instigators, police making the first move, or the protesters themselves, it’s clear things have gotten violent. How did it get to this, and where do we go from here?
The purpose behind the protests
Truthfully, the protests and riots happening across the country are long overdue and completely predictable. Martin Luther King Jr. remarked that “a riot is the language of the unheard“. For decades, black people have been trying to be heard. They knelt at football games only to be called unpatriotic. They said “Black Lives Matter” only to be told “All Lives Matter“. They were told to “follow police orders” even as they were being killed while unarmed and obeying the rules.
At every single point when white people could have come together with their fellow Americans to lift the country up, they turned their back instead and reinforced the status quo that was killing black people, keeping them in poverty, keeping them incarcerated, and keeping them disenfranchised. The black community exhausted all “appropriate” avenues of recourse long ago. Yet the needle has barely moved on the reforms needed to give them an equitable place in American society.
Riots are a driver of change
John F. Kennedy once said that “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable“. Throughout our country’s history, this has proven to be the case. Riots and progress go hand-in-hand. While some may say it is peaceful protest that moves the needle forward, in reality it is impossible to separate riots from the rest of a movement and say that it would still have been successful. Riots played key roles in the LGBTQ rights movement, civil rights movement, labor rights movement, women’s suffrage movement, and even the founding of our country.
Making riots obsolete
So how do we make riots obsolete? Well, first, criticisms and critiques will not solve anything. In all likelihood, they will divide our country further. Instead, I would suggest that those criticizing the riots ask themselves “How can I ensure these people are being heard?”. There are many ways white people can help black people in the struggle for equability – such as advocating for strict bodycam policies at your local police department, electing officials with progressive and equitable policy proposals, supporting black businesses, and speaking up when someone engages in racism (jokes, behavior, speech, etc.).
Both white and black people (as well as many others) benefit from the reforms the black community seeks. Advocating for and bringing about this change will not only make riots obsolete, but make our country better for everyone.