Now Is the Time to Protest
As we view scenes of the violent protests in Baltimore, we are reminded that the United States, and world, has many unsolved problems. Is protest the solution?
Baltimore is the new Ferguson.
It all started when Freddie Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, a week after being arrested for fleeing police and being caught with a switchblade. Amateur videos and eyewitnesses seem to indicate that Mr. Gray was injured by police as he was being apprehended.
One video shows him being dragged into a police van while bystanders yell that his leg is broken. Mr. Gray apparently suffered a severe spinal cord injury—either before or after he was placed in the back of a police van. He reportedly asked for medical help throughout the ride, but was ignored until he was found unconscious at the police station.
Freddie Gray’s death has led to violent protests in Baltimore—including looting; burning businesses, buildings and police cars; and throwing rocks at police. The protesters claim that police brutality (directed primarily at minorities) has been happening for years—and Gray’s death has aroused years of anger and distrust seething below the surface of the black population of Baltimore.
But, of course, it’s not just Baltimore.
This same basic story has been repeated in different areas throughout the last year. The most prominent examples have been Eric Garner (Staten Island, New York), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri), Tamir Rice (Cleveland, Ohio) and Walter Scott (North Charleston, South Carolina).
The problem in the streets of Baltimore today is the effect of many wrongs committed down through history. We cannot disconnect the present from the past.Yes, there is a problem
It is easy to sit back and watch the images of burning buildings, looting and violence and conclude that the problem is all with the protestors. (In fact, that is one of the inherent weaknesses of violent protest—it often distracts attention from the real issue.) The problem is not that simple.
Do authorities sometimes (or often) administer justice unevenly to whites and blacks? Yes. Are young black males often targeted and treated rougher because of their skin color? Yes. But it’s not just blacks. Hispanic males often experience the same thing. Last year a friend of mine (who is Hispanic and in his early 20s) was walking in our neighborhood at night. He was doing nothing wrong and was “armed” with only a basketball. For that walk, he was stopped by a police officer, questioned and asked to lay facedown on the sidewalk while being handcuffed. It seems the officer’s only reason for being suspicious was that he was a young Hispanic male out at night. Of course, as my friend said, “If a cop says stop, it doesn’t matter if you did something or not, you stop.”
My friend also told me that he had faced many similar situations growing up in Los Angeles, California.
You see, whether we have experienced it or not, injustices still exist in today’s society. It’s easy to look at the issue as a middle-class Caucasian and blithely claim racial injustice was ended by the Civil Rights movement. But that is just as foolish as believing anti-Semitism was eradicated from earth when Nazi Germany fell.
Yes, those protesting in Baltimore (and other places) have a legitimate issue to protest. But is there more to this issue?
The real issue
It is very easy to oversimplify problems. For instance, we can look at the issue in Baltimore (and Ferguson before it) and simply label it as the problem of police brutality. While that’s an issue, we have to look at the bigger picture. Is there a reason police inequitably target minorities? Some might counter with the claim that a higher percentage of crime in the United States is committed by minorities—so suspicion and uneven treatment is justified.
But we can’t stop there. Do minorities commit a higher percentage of crime because they are somehow inherently inclined to crime? No.
Let’s go back further. We all know that the progenitors of many African-Americans were slaves brought to America to work on plantations. After the 13th Amendment ended slavery, millions of blacks received a “sham” freedom within a society that had little use for them. Generations lived and died in abject poverty—living in a society that discriminated against them and made it nearly impossible to achieve anything.
The Jim Crow era produced many disgusting stories and images of overt racism and violent lynchings. The Civil Rights movements of the 20th century resulted in much progress toward equality and ending Jim Crow—but the fact is, many African-Americans are still born into poverty and are less likely to get a good education and become successful. Yes, it has gotten better for many—but not for all.
The problem in the streets of Baltimore today is the effect of many wrongs committed down through history. We cannot disconnect the present from the past. The sins of yesterday have begotten the sins of today. The issue at the core of the problem is spiritual—the problem is sin (the breaking of God’s law).
The real problem of violent protest
The deep problems that have boiled to the surface in recent months are real.
Unfortunately, those issues get completely obscured when they’re protested through violence. Those who violently protest seldom seem to consider that their form of protesting injustice creates more injustice. Destroying property doesn’t hurt the system they are protesting—it hurts other innocent people. Now injustice is inflicted on them. Would these people not also be warranted to protest this injustice? If so, how should they protest? Should they riot to protest against those who unjustly destroyed their property? If so, where does it stop?
This all demonstrates the time-tested truth that sin begets sin. Protesting wrongdoing by doing more wrong never solves any problem. It just creates new problems and more suffering.
But there is a better way to protest.
Protest is needed—but how?
Profiling, police brutality and injustice are symptoms of an entire system that needs to be protested. But looting, destruction of property and violence are also symptoms of an entire system that needs to be protested.
The Bible reveals that this entire world—including its nations, governments, social groups and individuals—is influenced by Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9). Satan wants nothing more than to influence people to reject God’s law (which is driven by the principle of love) and embrace a way of life that leads to suffering, sin and injustice (based on the principle of selfishness).
His entire purpose is “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” human beings (John 10:10). He doesn’t kill people directly—he gets humans to do to it for him. Anytime violence erupts around the world, you can be certain his influence is behind it (Ephesians 2:2).
Yes, that is the root cause of racism, injustice, abuse, looting, violence and (on a much larger scale) genocide, terrorism and war. This entire system that has produced the troubled world we live in today needs to be resisted and protested!
Jesus Christ is returning to overthrow this entire system. He will replace it with an entirely new system, the Kingdom of God (Revelation 19:16). The Kingdom of God under Jesus’ rule will be established “with judgment and justice” (Isaiah 9:7). At that time, Christ will teach all nations and ethnicities to live and work together in peace (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 19:24). Racial and ethnic hatred will be a forgotten artifact of the past.
You can protest the present system by refusing to be sucked into its destructive ways. You can protest Satan by fighting his influence over your mind. You can protest injustice by practicing justice in your life. You can protest violence by living the principles of peace.
Don’t be apathetic toward the world and its injustices. Resist it. Fight it. It all begins by changing yourself.
Now is the time to protest.
To read insights on past protests, read: