STORY BY CHAMINDI WIJESINGHE
According to The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 96 percent of Americans are bracing themselves for a racially disturbed summer.
This was further reinforced last Wednesday with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s speech in New York.
“We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America in order to end the era of mass incarceration,” she said during the speech.
Clinton proposed a requirement for police officers to be equipped with body cameras. Yet most remain dubious as to whether this will calm the chain reaction of social disorder that started following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown — a black man — by police officer Darren Wilson.
The tension between black Americans and the police has been persistent throughout U.S. history, coming into the limelight since the 1900s.
Miami and Los Angeles were subject to some of the earlier anger, sparked by the death of Arthur McDuffie (an African American who died from injuries caused by four white officers) and beating of Rodney King (who became nationally known following the incident).
More than a decade later, Baltimore, Ferguson and New York, all cities that are entangled in a gigantic web of obvious parallels, have caused enough damage to plead a change in attitude as well as reform.
The scenes manifested in these cities are eerily similar. Yet, one writer argues that each moment is unique and each individual different. Walter Scott is not Michael Brown, and Michael Brown is not Freddie Gray.
Albeit this truth, it is hard to ignore the underlying and recurring theme of the incidents and the moments in the aftermath.
These moments have been destructive and violent with no conclusive, positive outcome.
The moment remained a moment and never became a wider movement for change (which should be the goal of any protest).
Some people argue that this is not an issue of racism, yet in all instances, it starts with the basic –appearance.
We need to make a conscious effort to not judge based on physical appearances.
As L.L. Cool J pointed out in the song “Accidental Racist,” “Just because my pants are saggin’, doesn’t mean I’m up to no good.”
The virus of racially driven hatred started by the earlier generations needs to be crushed.
It will definitely take a long time and change begins on a micro level.
Some have argued that it is too late to change the fact that society inherently blames people of color.
No one is born with racism or hatred and if it is not in us, it can be eradicated.
On the other side of the issue, some people fear discrimination against white people.
However, as Harvard University professor Michael I. Norton studied and described in 2011 via polls, while many whether racism has decreased, white people have a view on racial discrimination far from reality.
Most white people believe that anti-white discrimination is a bigger problem.
“It seems to be the case that people take markers of progress differently,” Norton said in his research.
“If you are searching around for evidence of continued racism, or you are searching for proof of evidence of a lack of racism, there are always ambiguous findings,” he said in his research.
Another factor that adds fuel to such riots is the lack of understanding of the word ‘responsibility’ in and within communities.
The mom who reprimanded her son for being involved in the Baltimore protests was praised. Was she right? Was the child prevented from showing solidarity and creating a movement?
When answering, we have to keep in mind that at that moment, Baltimore was no longer asking for change and justice, it was violent.
We do need protests to make our voices heard to leaders and advocate against injustice, but death and harm should not be a by-product.
If Martin Luther King Jr. was successful in a past where intolerance was worse, today, responsible protests can create a movement that will change society one bit at a time.
Schools should teach from a young age the difference between responsible endeavors that bring positive change and irresponsible actions that are not as productive.
Then there is the media.
“The looters, the robbers, the chanters, the nonviolent protests, the sign-making … all of it has value because it wouldn’t be international if it wasn’t for the looters,” said a resident of St. Louis.
The media has a huge role to play and a responsibility towards its readers. The readers constitute society and society is any country’s core.
Only society can help find the middle ground of peaceful protests and powerful actions. It has been done in the past and it can be done today.
Rosa Parks didn’t throw a tantrum. She protested respectfully and the media captured it all.
When and how has the message been distorted that people nowadays think that throwing rocks at the police is the only way to get the media’s attention?
Is it the increasing political corruption or the misinformation spread by the media?
We need to reform the media so that it can inform people of both the positive and negative.
Regardless of skin color, each race has people who enjoy causing trouble and unrest.
However, assuming that every single member of a certain group is a potential threat can aggravate the illnesses that this nation is facing.
Only with an honest and conscious effort to educate and dissolve the stereotypes and encourage transparency will it be possible to achieve a change in society and honor the words that young kids nationwide are taught.