Ears to Hear

or "Riot is the language of the unheard"
A police officer kneels on the neck of an innocent man until the man dies

Two weeks ago my brother was murdered. Since then, there has been a lot of news and conversation about another man who was murdered, George Floyd. Though I have many other things on my mind and going on in my life right now, that is a conversation I must join.

I was 8 years old when the L.A. riots began. I sat in the den of our home and watched the riots unfold in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating and the acquittal of his attackers. I listened to my family converse about how Rodney King's brutal beating "wasn't about race" and how the riots were unjustified. And today, 28 years later, I watch as history repeats itself - and not for the first time! And I listened to my family repeat the exact same conversation.

George Santayana is often paraphrased as saying "‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." (usually attributed to Winston Churchill). As we watch in real time (or participate) as history repeats itself yet again, I keep asking "What is the lesson we keep failing to learn?" And my friends and family keep answering with sarcasm, ignorance, or just plain old racism. It turns out none of them is even aware of the history that has led up to these riots. And nobody is talking about the reason for the riots.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said that "Riot is the language of the unheard".

Black people have been kneeling and praying, and shouting in protest, but their shouts fall on deaf ears. When mothers bury their sons who were shot for wearing a hoodie (Trayvon Martin), when children bury their fathers who were shot for taking a jog (Ahmaud Arbery), when girlfriends bury their boyfriends who were shot by police for reaching for their wallet during a traffic stop (Philando Castile), when families bury their 7 year old daughters who were shot by police raiding the wrong house (Aiyana Jones), when the murderers who killed these people walk free until there's a headline or a video and a public outcry, black people have shouted. But have you listened?

They would have no reason to riot if you had. And now that they finally have your attention, you have a choice. You can listen to their message, add your voice to theirs, and make these riots unnecessary. Or you can continue to ignore them and watch this all happen again in a year or two.

"These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity."
- The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, three weeks before he was murdered.
Emphasis added



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