What Violent Protests Have Taught Us
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
To start off—yes, I stand with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, even after non-violent protests in the past became violent “riots”. Now, before we start labeling each other as this or that, it must be stated that as a follower of Christ, and therefore a peacekeeper, I do not believe in violence. One thing has proven true throughout history: violence always breeds more violence.
However, I can attest to the fact that I have “violence” within me:
I have lashed out against people.
I have struck enemies and friends alike.
I have threatened people, angered them, and much more.
Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever been so angry, so full of rage that you felt there was no other way to vent that wrath—no other way to be heard—without harming something? Now, what if you were to add an additional layer that if your wrath and your voice were not heard today, then it may cost you your life tomorrow?
That is the distinction between our wrath and theirs, and who is allowed to "rage" in the public sphere.
When looking back at Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, and other demonstrations that sparked the BLM movement, can white folks, viewing the pain of a marginalized people on their television screens from afar, believe they are somehow morally superior because these communities responded to police violence with violence?
So when folks ask, “Why do you support the BLM movement?” I realize they would not be asking me, and we would not even be having the conversation, if the protestors had not turned violent. Similar to the Civil Rights Movement, it wasn't until violent confrontations made headlines across the U.S. that folks even paid attention to the plight of black people in the 60's and 70's. Sadly, it's no different in present-day circumstances.
Ask yourself this: why does it take violent demonstrations to catch our attention today?
Overall, I need to thank the violent protestors because it took their anger, their rage—their humanness—to reveal my lack of compassion, my willful naiveté to social issues, and my blind adherence to cultural norms and racist systems that still exist today.
Because of them, I learned about the non-violent protests happening all over the U.S.
Because of them, I started looking for the peaceful means in which to affect change.
Because of them, I was able to join the conversation.
My faith compels me to strive for restoration in our world. The first step in that process is recognizing that all lives do matter, even the ones who are looting and committing arson. No, we do not need to condone violent acts to sympathize with their struggle, but we do need to see through their actions—to see the systems of oppression at work in our governments, cities, police departments, and communities that their anger points to.
Today, it is the continued work of non-violent protests and the elevated voices within the BLM movement that help us understand that black lives matter too.