To those of us who are first to the front lines to protest in the streets: Thank you! BUT please pause for a minute. Our emotions can get us in trouble, no matter what our original intent. If we are passionately fighting and arguing with everyone who disagrees with us, we need to stop. Similarly, we cannot allow ourselves to be overtaken in the violent storm of rioting and looting. When we bicker and fight among ourselves when we end up destroying our own communities, those who hate laugh at us. If we respond to the laughter with more violence and threats, we play right into their hands.
Something that we have to address upfront is shaming each other for not participating. The “silence of our friends” is being demonized as being practically the same as those who are hateful or racist. This has to stop.
Think about it this way; when was the last time you donated or volunteered in support of the homeless? When was the last time you donated or volunteered for the mentally disabled? What about drug addiction? How about starving children? Cancer patients? Foster children?
The list of tragedies needing help is never-ending. If you haven’t supported them in any way, does that mean you don’t care? That you’re a horrible non-volunteer or ‘silent’ on an issue? Who’s to say what is or isn’t more important?
Rioting and Violence
There are those who say that rioting and violence need to happen, that our voices aren’t heard, and therefore, this is the result. They say that we won’t be peaceful until we see justice. Others may point to the evidence that hateful groups started it. It simply doesn’t matter. We need a new blueprint. We need to stop believing that ‘activism’ in the form of signs, roadblocks, and marches in front of buildings are the best ways to lead to change.
In fact, we’ve already proven it doesn’t work. We’ve protested, rioted, and looted before, and we still are where we are today. More destruction is never the answer, and doing so is ignoring the efforts those who have gone before us have put in. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is insanity.
The string and history of injustices didn’t occur because the majority is hateful or racist. It is because, in a sea of 300 million people or seven billion people globally, if only one percent were bad or hateful, that is still *millions and millions* of people. We need to understand that the majority of people do not want bad things to happen to each other. But millions and millions of bad people do.
Similarly, peaceful protesting only takes one person to make it ‘not peaceful.’ We’ve seen it time and again, a single instigator in the crowd or a single officer with bad intentions can cause tear gas and rubber bullets. The result is a sea of emotions and escalating responses all from one bad person in a crowd of thousands. How do we control one person? We can’t.
Because of this dynamic, we have to acknowledge and understand that *every* peaceful protest can turn ugly very quickly. If you want your loved ones to go to these protests, are you willing to accept responsibility when it goes wrong? It may be someone else’s fault ultimately, but you still bear the responsibility of your family and friends being hurt.
Group Think, Group Organization
If we want to go out and protest, it means we have to manage each other individually and not be afraid of stopping each other from going too far. The problem is that when some of us are trying to do the right thing, there are others who are already caught up in their emotions and see us as the enemy.
To help curb that, we need to manage the group as a whole. If we go out and protest, at the least, the entire group has to have a consistent message and rules to follow. Along with this consistent message, group leaders need to be identified. Otherwise, the group will end up following the whims of whoever is the loudest – probably not a great idea.
If we want to protest, we need to establish vocal but positive leaders and volunteer teams equal to the size of the protest to help facilitate the protest. It means we need to help each other follow the rules and stay calm. If we simply identify a date and location, then let everyone run wild, it will be like playing roulette with each other’s safety. Instead, we need to identify and socialize a consistent message before and during every protest.
Rules for Protesting
Rule #1 – Always identify a leader and a team that will internally enforce rules before going to or coordinating a protest. The team needs to be equivalent to the size of the protest, the same way we would plan any big event. It needs a host and a team to coordinate.
Rule #2 – Ensure there is a specific goal that the majority doesn’t already understand or agree with. If the majority already agrees, there is no need for protest.
Rule #3 – Establish rules of conduct for every protesting event. First and foremost, *regular laws already apply*. For example, throwing something at someone is assault, as would be some verbal threats. Other example rules: Daytime only or certain areas only.
Rule #4 – No alcohol or drugs. This is a protest, a means to achieve a specific common goal, not a socializing event.
Rule #5 – Make it known that troublemakers, to include those who are overly emotional, will be escorted away and asked to leave.
Rule #6 – Have disband rules in case things begin to escalate too far or if troublemakers are refusing to comply.
Rule #7 – Socialize the established rules in every communication, before every event, reminding everyone how a single bad apple can ruin the protest.
Guiding the Emotional Train
Anyone who has been in any sort of physical altercation knows that emotions can quickly flair out of control. Once we’ve established that we don’t care or that we’re willing to fight or be hurt, it’s like a freight train barreling down the road. Anyone who gets in the way will get hit. Sometimes, we may not even be able to stop that train from hitting our loved ones. Everyone handles emotions differently. Some will scream and curl into a ball, while others will break things or hurt people.
The feelings are valid; the feelings are justified. But trying to manage strong feelings and emotions in a protest or crowd in front of a group of police, who indirectly represent part of the problem, is a recipe for disaster. We simply should not be trying to protest until the intense feelings are controllable.
Not only that but losing control because someone disagrees with us simply cannot continue to happen. We need to all seriously work on our ability to manage our emotions. Unfriending those who support police or Black Lives Matter is not only childish, but is the essence of the real problem.
The sobering truth is that another injustice WILL happen even as we make great progress. It’s not reasonable to expect a race crime to never happen again, just as it is not reasonable to expect a murder to never happen again. Let that really sink in. If we make improvements, if we start to move towards a common understanding, one hateful person could perform a targeted crime and we’re right back where we started. We must control reactions and put them in perspective.
By losing control, we are simultaneously relinquishing control to everyone else. The hateful can just say a few nasty words and set everything ablaze. Those who don’t agree or don’t understand can just say a few words and set everything ablaze. Taking this in fully before responding and interacting with others is imperative.
Three Degrees of Separation
One thing that may help keep perspective is the closeness of everyone involved. Originally, six degrees of separation was proposed and popularized by author Frigyes Karinthy in 1929. Essentially everyone we know could, on average, reach anyone else in six friend circles or less. That number is now somewhere between three and four based on Facebook and Twitter’s statistics. We are only three or four people from any other person on average. That means that between one or two of my friends and one or two of your friends, we probably have a mutual connection in some way.
Someone we know within just a few people is likely connected to someone who was on the receiving or the perpetrating end of any injustice. It’s like saying one of our friend’s friend’s family members is connected to the injustice. We don’t normally think about *us* and *them* as friends and family of friends and family. We need to remember this and never label an entire group for *any reason*.
Affecting Change Means Unified Solution
Traditionally, protests were done in front of government buildings and in front of businesses to put pressure on the wealthy and the lawmakers to incite them to change. In the 60s, Martin Luther King was specific about wanting to desegregate the US. Not only was there unjust violence, but people couldn’t use the same bathroom or bus. Although violence was a problem, King answered that by continuing to push for love, compassion, and desegregation. That single unifying solution to the problems was a beacon in the dark.
Today it is not the same. When we discuss the unjust deaths of others or crimes that most people already agree are wrong, there is no major confusion or misunderstanding. We already aren’t supposed to be segregated, hateful, racist, and discriminatory. We already aren’t supposed to kill someone who’s unarmed and not resisting.
We struggle to affect change because we have a hard time identifying a specific unifiable solution to our problem. We don’t even have a real solution that is being presented consistently. If we could solve murders by a law, we’d already be good. Trying to solve crime or disparities in crime cannot be solved by laws. It’s like asking: “Hey murderers, could you please be more non-discriminatory when you kill someone? Thanks.”
It clearly doesn’t work that way. They are crimes. They are against the law, and anyone who has love in their heart knows it. That means affecting change requires something more. It’s going to be through changing the structure of the system, changing our local communities, and changing the hearts of as many people as possible by standing together.
Structure of the System
The first important step is extreme accountability, which has not consistently occurred. In other words, police the police and hold them more accountable. Accountability for injustices has not been swift or consistent enough. One possible reason is that traditional local courts are too small, and everyone knows everyone. The judges, the lawyers, the district attorney, the police, and the most prominent criminals will all likely know each other in local scenarios. Another possible issue is that judges aren’t held accountable. Also, police need to hold each other accountable before problems evolve. Removing corruption and bias from these situations requires not only multi-person integrity but requires that positions are regularly rotated from outside of local areas.
Another step is trust and integration. This means that we need to integrate the community into the police force in any and every way possible. Programs like “My Brother’s Keeper,” for example, are in place to provide ways to integrate the community as much as possible. It will be hard to convince many of us to trust the police, but research has found ways to integrate and improve trust in the communities.
A third possible change is robots and AI. This sounds like science fiction, and many of us will probably disagree, but cameras are already doing this for us. They are the reason we are getting to expose the injustices. Robotic sentries that use *open-source* code would be much less discriminatory. For those curious, commercial robot sentries have been out for almost 10 years. Google the Knightscope K5 as an example. Having camera footage or biometric information when a crime occurs is more than enough. We wouldn’t need police for everyday situations. We could reduce the police footprint to focus on violent situations and investigation.
Finally, we can implement more personal tracking. For better or worse, we are quickly approaching a time where we all will be recorded 24/7 to identify injustices. We cannot and should not force this via a law; however, personal dashcams and automated drone recorders for emergencies are not at all outside the realm of possibility.
Change Our Communities, Change Other’s Hearts
Protesting for change is commendable and worthwhile for the right injustice when many people don’t agree or see an issue. However, when many already agree with us or see that there is an issue, protesting for change is like asking for someone else to figure out what to do. Lawmakers clearly have no clue. Politicians have no clue. We need to take things into our own hands by implementing positive but viable and specific solutions in our communities to the highest levels we have available to us.
Please remember before you go out to protest, before you go out to advocate for whatever it is you believe in, to have well defined, specific solutions identified. Ensure that the protests have a direct connection and are needed for the solution. Doing anything less is gambling with everyone’s emotions. When we identify specific solutions to drive toward and approach them with a unified and organized front, we will reduce the likelihood of riots and violence, we will stop bickering and fighting with each other, and those filled with hate won’t have anything left to laugh at.
“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.