It’s almost impossible to make sense of the racist, hate-filled actions that have transpired in recent weeks, specifically the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. As frustrations erupt in protests, looting, rioting and violence, Americans argue over the most effective methods of expressing discontentment.
Why now? Why do protests continue after the arrests of the officers? Why riot and damage property? The answers and suggestions are just as many as the questions. But the one position I want to address is the one that encourages people to find other “less disrupting methods” of making a point; one that advocates that “better ways will lead to better days.”
I disagree; mostly because it’s not that simple. I am both surprised and disappointed that people are leading with this message; especially since it hasn’t proven to be true after all these years. Over the past several decades, we’ve witnessed Black leaders bring awareness to ills that plague our communities—from Martin Luther King, Jr, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Marcus Garvey, WEB Dubois, Jesse Jackson, Sr, to Colin Kaepernick, and even Barak Obama. In spite of their leadership, their powerful voices, and their intentions to educate, edify and motivate us, we are still oppressed.
Musical icons have contributed to such a philosophy as well. We had Bob Marley, Gil Scott-Heron, Marvin Gaye, Public Enemy, Arrested Development, and more recent artists like J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. All of them have taken the mantle of making conscious music, keeping us aware of the ills of racism, unjust politics, and government agencies that threaten and endanger Black lives instead of protect them. Even with popular culture being utilized to inject consciousness into the masses, it can be argued that little has changed related to eliminating the injustices we face as a people.
The problem, in my view, is that Black people are still getting killed with no remorse by their killers and little to no accountability by those who can and should hold them accountable. If accountability does come, it seems to come with hesitantly and with great consideration for the perpetrator. Who can forget Dylan Roof, for example, who was taken to Burger King to eat when he was apprehended after killing multiple Black people in a Charleston church and fleeing the scene? Or Jeronimo Yanez (cleared of all charges after shooting an unarmed Philando Castile without cause), and the three (3) police officers from Chicago (who were found not guilty of attempting to cover up the fatal shooting of LaQuan McDonald. Even though footage from police dash cameras showed a completely different account of what was reported, their testimony was accepted as truth, and they walked away as free men.
What, do we say to our children who are frustrated to the point of taking to the streets? Quite honestly, I do not know. We cannot tell an angry 16-year-old to bury his/her anger and go to the polls and vote. We cannot tell an angry Black father to return home under curfew when another young black man has been killed by police and that father wonders is his son next.
I am clear that we have to be creative when thinking of solutions. Luke 55 says stop putting old wine in new skins and vice versa. We can't let the efficacy of yesterday's solutions keep us from being innovative when considering the solutions to today's problems. We must pray, but we also need new action and new, youthful leadership. Perhaps the youngest among us have a lesson to teach if we are humble enough to learn.
Speaking of children, I liken this situation to a parent/child analogy. Black America has become the frustrated parent with a child who consistently misbehaves in public (American government/police). We’ve talked, we’ve placed them in time out (withhold patronage, Black dollars), we’ve had others with more important voices come talk to them (celebrities LeBron James, Malcolm Jenkins, and Anquan Boldin), we’ve even used religion and spirituality to help us deal (pray, sing, and forgive). But despite of all our attempts to be the patient and understanding parent, the child’s poor behavior grows exponentially worse. Now we have resorted to louder talking and using corporal punishment to get our child to listen and behave.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” In the same vein, Minister Louis Farrakhan reminds us “as long as they kill us and go to Wendy’s and have a hamburger and go to sleep, they are going to keep killing us.”
America continues to turn a deaf ear to Black America when it comes to hatred and racism. I do not know if continuing to riot is the answer, but I do know that all the other ways have not garnered lasting results. Perhaps we should stop begging someone else to see value in our lives and see value in ourselves. Then, once we stop demanding justice of a system that was never meant to give us justice, we will remember who we are and where we come from. Then, with purpose, dignity and liberating-granting truth, we will love ourselves enough to preserve our own lives and seek our own justice.