How do we go about changing something?
As I watch in dismay the happenings across America and now the rest of the world, I am confronted with many thoughts and emotions. Watching the footage of a police officer restraining a man with a knee to the neck and hearing that man’s cries for help was appalling. But I must admit watching hundreds, if not thousands, of people go about destroying legitimate businesses and looting in the name of protest also left me feeling uneasy. It led me to ponder the question of ‘How do we go about initiating change when faced with a perceived injustice or a flawed process?’
I believe it to be important that we make a stand or challenge the status quo when we believe something is wrong or not good, especially if we feel strongly about the issue that confronts us. However, we should also be sure that we have a considered response and find a constructive way of voicing our message. We shouldn’t allow our actions to detract from the issue we are trying to highlight. Our behaviour should not add to the issue or make it worse. I also feel strongly that our actions should not have ramifications for innocent people.
Standing up for what you believe to be right is a wonderful thing to do, however, it can be difficult. Standing up for the truth, is important, particularly when there is apparent apathy or worse still, everyone else seems to hold opposing views. So, I will always encourage my kids and my students to stand up for their beliefs and dare to raise their collective voices.
Social pressures, insecurities, and fear can keep us from speaking up as injustices occur. Being aware of the consequences of speaking out, knowing what people may/will think, say or do makes making a stand difficult. Let’s be honest, it’s easier to sit back and let things slide especially if what’s happening is not impacting on our daily lives. If every one was to take this stance or approach I’d hate to see what would become of this world. There is a famous saying attributed to Edmund Burke; “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Sticking up for what you believe in helps us become better people. It builds your self- respect, because you are following through with your values. Going against what you believe in just because it’s more convenient is less than admirable. Standing your ground also gains respect from others, even if they view things differently than you.
When you stand up for something you will stand out, many people will notice and sometimes they will label you just because they do not agree with you, or because they have realized you are right but they won’t accept that fact.
In a time when so many individuals are dishonest, do things to better themselves at the expense of others, expose their personal lives for a chance to be famous and do what feels good in the moment without thinking about the consequences, integrity is a characteristic that is especially unique and rare. Doing the right thing or standing up for your beliefs may not be easy, but when you do it, you know that you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and feel good about yourself. You’ll know that you did the right thing and that you are a person of integrity.
Certain conditions or practices continue to exist in our society. Racism and brutality at the hands of people paid to make us safer are such things, and must be condemned, however we must be as vigorous in the condemnation of wrongs carried out in the name of justice, like the current riots.
My concern about the riots across America is that I believe strongly that the protesters that are violent or criminal are detracting from the real issue of incidents of violence against black African Americans and the oppression that they feel. This is supported by sectors of social media, where we are seeing actions such as the arson and looting being called out for what they are, “disgusting” and “reprehensible.” Some are saying that the “violence and destruction is absolutely unacceptable.” The thing these people don’t realize is that their actions have turned the focus of the Media to be more about what these fringe groups are doing, and the real issue is merely receiving lip service, which is understandable. So, whilst some of the protesters are demonstrating peacefully, others are derailing their cause by their actions.
Historians and sociologists have defended such actions in the past, reflexively condemning these sorts of actions as reckless or self-defeating and actions that minimize the extent of people’s rage. Floyd’s death has become part of an all too familiar pattern of confrontations between police and African Americans who lose their lives over minor offenses. Their argument is that for all the denouncements, the riots are merely the actions of those who have exhausted every other way to be heard. Whilst not wishing to enter into this argument I would ask, “Are their actions promoting or hindering their cause?” as therein lies the answer to whether their actions will be seen as helping the cause.
So, how does one make a stand against injustice, as our calling encourages us to make a stand for truth and against injustice. To do so productively I think following the suggestions below would be my advice:
- Understand what you are making a stand against
- Refrain from allowing your emotions to overcome you
- Protest peacefully
- Find all the facts
- Know your target audience
- Be clear on what you wish to communicate
- Be clear on what you wish to achieve
- Pick your battles
- Be conscious that if you are going to inconvenience innocent people be clear as to why you are doing so.
If we are to be true to our College values and ultimately be good Christians and honest citizens then we have an obligation to stand up against injustice and make a stand for truth and justice, but when we do, it must be for the right reasons and in the right way.