The videos and images are shocking. People destroying their own neighborhoods, attacking the police, reporters, innocent bystanders in an act of defiance, rebellion, protest and desperation. Why? Are they angry because another young black man has died at the hands of the police? Are they opportunists using a tragedy as an excuse to rob and loot stores? Are they victims of a system that’s broken, keeping certain socio-economic groups in poverty, uneducated, with little or no hope for a better life? Are they lacking morality, a sense of justice and the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong?
The answer is “Yes” but the next question is…”why?”
Last week I was part of a training of local law enforcement. As part of the presentation our group showed the hilarious video above of Lucy and Ethel trying to keep up with the candy coming along the conveyor belt. I told the officers; “You guys are Lucy and Ethel. The chocolate keeps coming faster and faster and you’re doing all you can to keep up. Abuse, neglect, drugs, assault, robbery, murders. You’ve seen it all and it isn’t slowing down or getting better. You’re on the front lines, first responders. Your job isn’t to ask what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Why does the candy keep coming? You take care of the mess.” I then explained that finding out what’s on the other side, why it’s happening, helping slow or stop the candy from coming, is what our community organization does.
In times of social crisis and upheaval the immediate concern is to bring stability, help those who are hurting, and hold those who are responsible for harming others and the community accountable. However, calming the present doesn’t safeguard the future. We must not be afraid of asking tough questions that have no easy answers. “Why are some willing to torch their own communities?” “Why is there so much anger, vitriol, self righteousness and condemnation on both sides?” “Why do kids grow up thinking violence, criminal activity is ok?” “Why do others assume people of certain skin colors, from certain neighborhoods who dress, talk, look a certain way are always lazy and up to no good?” “Why do riots keep happening, law enforcement officials and young people keep getting injured or dying?”
When do we ask; “What’s on the other side?” If you think you know the answer, you haven’t thought long and hard enough about the question.
blessings of peace,