By Raymund Liongson, PhD
I DO NOT CONDONE VIOLENCE. But I empathize with the victims of injustice gasping for air – the air of equal treatment, of due process, of human dignity.
The outrage we now see across the country is a spontaneous outburst of pent-up frustration, distrust, and anger against a system that has allowed and enabled injustice and oppression against the ignored sectors of our society – the people of color, immigrants, women, LGBT, the working class, the struggling poor.
The violence we now see was an eruption waiting to happen. The crater can no longer contain the pressure and the fissures are beginning to give up.
True, there is no honor and no pride in destroying and burning down a city. But these protesters are not looking for pride and honor. They are demanding change and justice. The physical destruction we see is symbolic of the demand to subvert and destroy that systemic prejudice and injustice that they and their brothers and sisters, their parents and ancestors endured through the years. The flames we see mirror the wrath and fury they have kept for generations; the blaze is symbolic of the burning yearning for a radical and immediate change. They are subverting the old, exhausting system of fearful oppression and demanding for a new order of equal treatment and acceptance.
The riots are an ugly and unfortunate development – but perhaps now a necessary element of the process to bring about systemic change. It is more than an eye-opener; it is a shock that now needs to be delivered to awaken apathy and conscience that has been unresponsive for years . . . for generations. Empty promises have only given them false hopes, and false hopes have only brought them greater frustrations.
This outrage has become the ultimate struggle to get free from the suffocating culture of abuse and prejudice. It has become the final shrug to catch a breath after repeated pleas for recognition, respect, and equal treatment.
What we see is more than a demonstration. It is a national conscience movement spontaneously getting born. It is a “cause war” against racism, prejudice, and abusive authority lodged by a largely young population eager to define (or redefine) their future. And we MUST listen.
Threats of police arrests and military subjugation will not end this outrage; they will only succeed in building up more pressure of anger and revenge. More police and military will only remind them of the very tool of their oppression. They are band-aids that offer false panacea to a chronic social disease. They hide the cut but they don’t heal the wound.
Government needs to address the root of the problem and institute meaningful systemic changes in our laws and policies – not threaten or silence the voice of dissent. And it is upon us all to recognize the worth and dignity of each one regardless of our differences.
The arrest of those involved in George Floyd’s death – while a step in the right direction – will not be enough to send the protesters home. They want to see a conviction. But even a conviction is not enough justice. That is simply accountability. True justice is having systemic racism torn down. It is seeing the culture of double-standard demolished. It is knowing that they can walk on the streets safely . . . and breathe freely! It is making sure that their human dignity is recognized and respected. That is when justice is attained. That is when peace is restored.