It’s said that history has a way of repeating itself. That’s partly true. Sometimes it’s for the better and other times it’s for the worse. Often it is because the issue at hand decades ago was not fully put to rest, much like a ghost trapped between this world and the next until it finds peace.
The protests in cities all over the U.S. following the events in Ferguson, Missouri, resurrect the glorious and haunting memories of the civil rights protests from half a century ago.
The mass urban protests, uprisings and outbursts within the last 10 years haven’t been seen since the long hot summers of the 1960s. They are occurring once more, but they are being led by a much different generation that should turn to history to see that violent protests aren’t the answer.
Baton Rouge Organizing, a group founded after the Night of Rememberance for Michael Brown on campus, is planning a march from Carver Branch Library to the state capitol on Sunday to protest the decision not to indict the white New York police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being placed in a chokehold.
Let’s hope for it to be peaceful.
The movements of the past were fueled by anger, just as the present ones are. Modern protests are complex, fragile and seemingly more violent than the sit-ins and bus boycotts of the ’60s. While they incorporate highly educated protesters, these protests also include angry and desperate people who feel that violent rebellion is the only way to reach reform. Some current protestors are using their aggression to destroy instead of build — perhaps the most detrimental dynamic to modern protests.
Peaceful protests are more effective than violent ones in reaching goals in this era.
Anthropology senior Ashlee Smith, 21, identifies as biracial.
“Nonviolent protests can be effective,” Smith said. “Research shows that nonviolent protests present fewer obstacles to involvement, commitment and spreading of the message.”
Smith also said with nonviolent protests, there would be higher levels of participation, which can contribute to a greater chance of change and increase the opportunity that the message gets across to society.
This generation is exposed to constant news and reporting. However, because of the competitiveness to break a story first, false or tainted information can be spread and result in quick and irrational responses as witnessed in the early days of the events in Ferguson.
To be such an intelligent and technologically advanced generation, the ability of so many to believe and share the accounts and testimonies of people on social networks is remarkably sad.
It’s best to take undeveloped news stories and information found online with a grain of salt to avoid stirring an unsavory pot for no reason.
There also are those who take to the cause immediately. For instance, Al Sharpton has been a civil rights activist since the early days and is even a go-to advisor for our president, he also is an instigator and a mascot for a very serious cause.
Can you trust a man who makes his living off being a spokesman for inequality to really want justice? If racial equality were met, he’d be out of the job.
In a CNN interview regarding Ferguson, retired NBA player and current sports analyst Charles Barkley said, “Every time something happens in the black community, we have the same cast of sad characters. We don’t have to have Al Sharpton go there.”
Barkley said the community needs strong black men to stand up and handle the situation.
He’s right. The issues surrounding the current protests should be met aggressively, but not violently. The internal fire of passion and resilience should be associated with these protests and not literal fire, which destroys and demolishes.
Because history often is cyclical and reoccurring in some aspects, this is as close to a second chance that we as a society get to correct past failures and mistakes. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered.
Protestors should make sure that their reasons and methods of protest are well-planned and the absolute best way of reaching a solution safely and not a hasty reaction that could lead to violence.
Justin Stafford is a 21-year-old mass communication senior from Walker, Louisiana. You can reach him on Twitter @ j_w_stafford.