By Fredrick Page BU2238
Graterford Gray Panthers
Four hundred plus years of dehumanization and inequality enforced by an unjust system is more than enough to cause a people to cry out. I remind you it is recorded in the Bible that God (Elohim) heard the cries of an enslaved people who were under an oppressed system. God’s (Elohim’s) response was to send the people a deliverer. Today we see deliverance through people of all races, rising up to rid America of its systemic racist oppression.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “a riot is the language of the unheard”. Riots in protest is to, riot while protesting. Racism has always pushed people of color in a corner marred with violence against those who would choose to apply their constitutional rights to be heard. Instances of the Watts riot, Newark New Jersey riots, Riots access America after the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rodney King, Michael Brown and recently George Floyd. This history of protest and riot leaves us with many questions; how should we respond to racism today? How do we make certain our cries are being heard, and to what mechanisms should we apply to do so?
Facts after the aftermath produce the same results. Gentrification! The actual process of gentrification is rooted in racist ideals of economic gain and suppression of the people to whom fall into the demographics of obtaining these economics. In fact all throughout slavery and even the reformation following slavery, gentrification remains a present condition in communities of people of color.
So for hundred of years, people of color strive to produce communities that are equal to those who have oppressed us to their gain. People have sacrificed their very lives in order for people of color to have equal possession of what our oppressors have. That is what the United States Constitution guarantees every one, not!
People of color have advanced these ideals beginning with first accepting what they have and treating it as if it is the very best of the best. From our clothes, to our second hand hand-me down, to our dilapidated housing and automobiles. We wore it proudly. We took our empty lots overrun with trash and growth from unkempt shrubbery where people dump toxins. We painted murals on the sides of walls and planted gardens to bring out the very best of our communities. Communities which reflect the excellence of humanity because we are equal.
The result of rioting still produces the same effect; that is four hundred years of progress, gone up in smoke overnight. This we ought to rethink. Because it’s like lynching our forefathers and foremothers all over again and again and again! Some of the property that we burn belongs to people of color, some of the business we loot belong to people of color who have fought hard through the struggle to maintain a business for an in the community.
We must question the message that we are sending out because after the fires go out, we have just surpassed the racist contribution to gentrification by adding to the gentrification. We run good families out of the communities who are not fearful or who have suffered loss, we run businesses out of the community who are now fearful or have suffered loss. After the fires burn out, we look around and see the insignificance of our actions realizing all what is left appears to be a smoldering depressing plight. We have become the gentrifiers.
There is two mechanisms that occur during the attempts for our voices to be heard. Both are provoked. They are only before us, when a force is against us. They at times are present at the same time, but we have reason to rethink using them in an appropriate time. That is riot and protest.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines:
“Right” as public violence, tumult, or disorder, a violent public disorder, or tumultuous disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembling together and acting in common intent.
“Protest” as the act of objecting or a gesture of disapproval; usually organized public demonstration of disapproval. A complaint, objection, or display of unwillingness made to an official or a governing body.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us the model of peaceful non-violent protest. Rioting sets us back into depression which further enhances oppression. Many of you might remember having to go to school walking through neighborhoods that looked like war zones. Abandoned buildings and empty lots and the stench of urine and fees, rats, and roaches. Urban blight!
This is the result of rioting and remember some of the businesses hit were black owned. Now think for a moment of the economic hardship that many black business owners face. Many have stretched their credit and have to pay that back, along with some who may not have insurance coverage, etc. etc…. Yes, violence was enacted against peaceful protestors, but today we can change that, by adhering to a sense of social consciousness. Our power transcends the United States and the systemic racism that is trying to survive and show its head. Before the friends start, be reminded of the decimation left behind, after the fires burn out!