In light of what’s been going on in Ferguson, and other parts of our country. I’ve been at a loss for words. It seems like people are crying out for justice, mercy, peace, diplomacy, change…the right to be heard. Diplomacy has become one of the battle cries of the unheard. How do those who have been hurt, who’ve had the volume of their voices turned down, and tuned out remain diplomatic? The frustration alone is enough to insight even the most peaceful of souls to riot.
A riot is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as a violent public disorder; specifically: a tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and acting with a common intent. With that being said rioting has been a form of protest for the oppressed for decades. For those out there who may not understand why those with muted voices riot, let me explain. Rioting although violent from inception is a way that those who have had their voices muted…justice deferred, and power and opportunity that was rightfully theirs denied, to fight back. Typically used as a last resort, it’s a way to regain a temporary sense of power that’s been forcefully stripped away, as well as punish the system that the oppressor has used to unfairly target the oppressed.
Although, the motive behind rioting maybe justice; in partaking in this form of violent protest those with muted voices don’t realize the harm they bring upon themselves and others like them. Rioting is a temporary fix for releasing anger and frustration caused by the injustices and failures of the system, but it does nothing to supply a long term remedy to the cancer within that system. It does however feed the cancer growing inside of those with muted voices; allowing bitterness, inferiority, and futility to set in their minds and hearts; eroding away at their hope. Hope for change, and hope that those with un-muted voices would stand up and use their voice to take a stand for the oppressed.
Rioting does little to help un-mute our voices to those possessing power and privilege. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says this “The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, that is surely followed by a sense of futility.” Al though Dr. King had an understanding of why people rioted, he was also well aware of the negative consequences of rioting. Like Dr.King I do not intend to condemn those who decide to riot. However, I do want us to consider the consequences; both the consequences of our silence,and that of the noise we choose to make. Justice, and solutions that lead to justice require diplomacy from all. Justice requires acknowledging that there is an issue of injustice that needs to be stopped, and in order to acknowledge that a greater conversation that addresses tough questions is needed. What is the message of those with muted voices, and how do we teach those with power & privilege to listen to those voices?