Unjust Streets

Several weeks back I saw a press conference in one of our embattled cities where the backdrop was a repeated logo that boldly declared “No Justice, No Peace.”

This sight has stayed in my mind, and been refreshed there every time the tension in America has spread to a new city.

I am not sure what the person who wrote the slogan meant by it. Perhaps they were saying that ultimately we will find peace by creating a society that practices justice. In this manner it could have been a call for justice in America.

But on the other side of the coin, it could be taken as a call for violence, lack of peace, in order to force the nation to behave more justly. This was how I took it, and it seemed to be (as much as soundbites can reveal), what the speakers in front of that curtain were asking for.

The problem is that nothing is more unjust than rioting in the streets. Any person or property caught in the path may meet the anger of the crowd. Instead of injustice occurring individually or in isolated incidents, hundreds of people will be caught in the grind of injustice simply because their homes, businesses, or workplaces are in the affected regions.

The people most adversely affected by violence in the streets are the same ones who were offended by whatever initial event sparked the unrest in their area. In this way the violence in the streets becomes a downward spiral, further disenfranchising and socially alienating those they hoped to help.

I am sure that some of these people are hoping to return to actions similar to those of Martin Luther King. In his era, he was the figurehead for a movement that brought about positive change. But please study your history and remember that he did it by advocating non-violence. He didn’t tolerate roaming neighborhoods, burning businesses, or looting. Nor did he advocate attacking police, not even when they were attacked.

Trying to address injustices in America is important, but doing so by spreading injustice is nonsensical.

Advertisement

Culture of Distrusting Government

New York City, like too many places in our country, has seen division created by racial tension. This division has erupted in violence that has destroyed trust, common sense and in the worst cases entire neighborhoods. All this destruction has a real cost on society, but especially on the people and neighborhoods affected.

The destruction stems from people making decisions about events they have no first-hand knowledge of. They assume a suspect was treated a certain way because of racism. Second-hand or third-hand reports of the situation are mixed with basic assumptions about the shape of society to make an explosive mix.

Many of the protestors, bloggers and commentators have painted the police as the villains. I believe the majority of law enforcement officers are honest, fair people attempting to do an extremely difficult job well. I don’t doubt that some will make horrible mistakes. Painting an entire group by the actions of a few is exactly what we are all against. Failing to see the police as people worthy of respect and assuming them to be villains has resulted in many needless confrontations and at least two deaths.

In a sense it all comes down to which group a person chooses to make negative assumptions about. And if you look at it that way, the central point becomes why do we make the assumptions we do about any group? I believe the way news is presented is a part of it. I believe history is a part of it, too. Unfortunately, I also believe, in recent times, presidential politics is a part of it. The president has waded into a number of situations in such a way as to exasperate the situation. It is sad when the highest elected official in the land contributes to the cultural distrust of government.