(UnitedVoice.com) – America has a longstanding history of both peaceful and violent protests. Unfortunately, many of the more recent ones in the news have turned violent due to a handful of bad actors. These riots and looting sprees cause millions, or even billions, of dollars in damage and stolen goods. It ultimately overshadows the tragedy that forced people into the streets to protest, to begin with.
Understandably, and rightfully so, African Americans are deeply upset about the history of police brutality and their voices must be heard. They are a big part of the solution to the problem. Unfortunately, when protests turn violent, the rioting drowns out the sincere voices and hurts both the movement and local communities.
The 1960s and 1970s Foreshadow Modern Challenges
In the 1960s, Americans took part in non-violent protests in opposition to segregation that turned violent. Minority neighborhoods like Watts in Los Angeles were destroyed during the height of the civil rights movement. Not only were buildings and small businesses decimated, but the riots suppressed business investment and economic activity in the affected communities for years afterward. It also affected the value of black-owned homes and hurt people financially for decades.
In 1967 alone, there were 159 riots in American cities. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.” After King’s death, his wife Coretta Scott King said, “Nothing could hurt him more than that man could attempt no way to solve problems except through violence.”
A 2005 Vanderbilt University study looked at the economic effect riots of the ‘60s and ‘70s had long-term on minority communities. The study did not consider why the riots happened, just on the economic outcomes. It determined that, based on the median value of homes, black-owned property in the area of the riots was significantly depressed by 10% or more, and didn’t start to rebound until the 1980s.
Modern Riots Achieve the Same Results
In 2018, African Americans protested over the police killing of Freddie Gray. Riots and looting again hijacked the message, leaving destroyed property and businesses. Some believe the consequences of the riots forced police to stop patrolling African American communities. As a result, homicides surged, gangs seized on the opportunity, and people became more impoverished than before the riots.
The financial burden minority communities face after rioting ends is enormous, and will have long-lasting consequences. If people are thinking of rioting in the future, reasonable leaders should be asking if the rioters really care about their communities and causes. If so, protesting largely, loudly, and peacefully is the way to empower real change; not the destruction of communities that take decades to recover.
By Don Purdum, Freelance Contributor
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