Now Is the Time to Protest—but How?
As we view scenes of protests in Minnesota, we are reminded that the United States, and world, has many unsolved problems. What is the solution?
Minneapolis is the new Ferguson.
It all started when George Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 53 seconds.
A cell phone video captured the officer ignoring bystanders who were pleading with him to remove himself from Mr. Floyd’s neck. The video showed Mr. Floyd struggling and asking for relief before going completely unresponsive. He later was declared dead at a nearby hospital.
George Floyd’s death has led to violent protests in Minneapolis—including looting and burning businesses and a police station. This tragic situation has just become the latest flashpoint for this ongoing issue of police brutality targeting minorities.
But, of course, it’s not just Minneapolis.
This same basic story has been repeated in different areas over the years. Some of the most prominent examples have been Freddie Gray (Baltimore, Maryland), Eric Garner (Staten Island, New York), Michael Brown (Ferguson, Missouri), Tamir Rice (Cleveland, Ohio) and Walter Scott (North Charleston, South Carolina).
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. A study reported by the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences found that:
“African American men and women, American Indian/Alaska Native men and women, and Latino men face higher lifetime risk of being killed by police than do their white peers. … Risk is highest for black men, who (at current levels of risk) face about a 1 in 1,000 chance of being killed by police over the life course. The average lifetime odds of being killed by police are about 1 in 2,000 for men and about 1 in 33,000 for women. Risk peaks between the ages of 20 y and 35 y for all groups. For young men of color, police use of force is among the leading causes of death” (“Risk of Being Killed by Police Use of Force in the United States by Age, Race-Ethnicity, and Sex,” Aug. 20, 2019).
Whether we have experienced it or not, injustices still exist in today’s society.A few years ago a friend of mine (who is Hispanic and was 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.”
He 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 years ago by the Civil Rights movement. But that is just as foolish as believing anti-Semitism was eradicated from earth when Nazi Germany fell in 1945.
Yes, those protesting in Minneapolis (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 Minneapolis (and Baltimore, Staten Island 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.
The problem in the streets of Minneapolis today is the effect of many wrongs committed down through history. We cannot disconnect the present from the past. 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 for them 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 Minneapolis 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 protest through violence
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. (It’s been pointed out that some of the businesses burned and looted are owned by minority families.) 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 also 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!
Yes, real justice.
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 racism by making a conscious effort to view and treat all people with the honor and respect due to all human beings made in the image of God. 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.