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The words “peaceful” and “protest” seem to contradict one another. Is it possible to be calm – to not be enraged – when society, or ironically, the justice system, has failed to provide justice?
But more importantly, is the peaceful protest effective, or does it simply downplay the tragedies we so desperately want to stand up against?
The Arabic poet, Rumi, once said, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” But what if the proverbial flowers are lives? Human lives – black lives – teenage lives – and unarmed lives.
The fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., has reignited the flames of racism. Some argue that those flames never truly died.
Chaos has yet to cease since the verdict that Wilson would not be charged for Brown’s murder was announced Nov. 24.
In Ferguson, stores were looted, cars were set ablaze and police fired tear gas into the crowd while protesters shouted “don’t shoot.” Signs were held that read “Black Lives Matter” and citizens have since taken to Twitter to publicly dispute the decision.
During a speech in the White House press room Monday evening, U.S. president Barack Obama urged protesters to stay calm in the wake of the grand jury’s decision.
The family may be right but the unfortunate reality is that violence seems to be what keeps this news relevant.
“There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry,” he said. “But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
It’s a vicious cycle and many people are growing weary. Tragedy occurs, then there’s a “peaceful” protest, then it’s swept under the rug and we wait for the next tragedy. But does this really evoke change?
Sadly, more often than not, it takes thunder to be heard; not rain. Would this story continue to make headlines internationally without such vicious backlash? It’s well known that the only news is bad news.
“There are ways of channeling your concerns constructively, and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively,” Obama said.
Responding to violence with more violence is obviously not the answer. But then how are people to make their voices heard? This is the frustration that many face when such tragedies occur.
I, too, would like to see the day when constructively channeled concerns are acted upon – and not just conveniently pushed aside and forgotten.