We’ve seen this quote resurface in recent days as protests, riots and looting sweep the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death. It’s clear that what we’re seeing now is a “fed up”-rising — the revolution of a people treated unjustly by their government.
No one wants to see more people hurt or buildings and businesses destroyed. It isn’t something to be accepted or condoned as we stare down the barrel of the racial tension gun that’s been pressed to this nation’s cheek since inception. We support city leaders who are doing what they can to mitigate more loss and violence to protect their citizens. But when we look across the history of America in regard to black people, it’s clear that we still need to wake up.
Dr. King — whose pacifist work during the Civil Rights Movement propelled significant discussions and actions that changed modern society — saw this truth before his tragic death. In a speech that addressed the language of the unheard, he noted riots do not develop out of thin air and that “certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots.”
His words still ring true. Without accepting the violence, we can seek to understand it and use that knowledge to empower positive change. Footage of crowds cheering for those officers who decide to kneel alongside protesters showcases the desire on both sides for healing and unity.
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who called himself Floyd’s “twin” brother since childhood, publicly addressed the lack of officer accountability in the U.S. when he said: “You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’”
It’s time to stop protecting those officers who use their power and authority to do harm. When we go to clean up the broken glass, we need to come away with a promise to do better by one another.
While King condemned the rioting, as do many of today’s protesters, he was very cognizant of why some felt scared, angry and helpless enough to act violently. He posed the question that still needs asking today: What is it that America has failed to hear?
He answered, “It’s failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. It has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity … As long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.”