The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility. -Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King also said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

Wonder if MLK made a distinction between riot vs protest. Riot is a widely used term to describe a protest involving communities of color. And often these peaceful protests end in riots when government operatives or opposition groups infiltrate to agitate and incite violence that nullify the message or intent of the protest.

With so much government spying, can riots or protests lead to real change?

They haven’t so far, yet, we see more and more protests or riots to increase awareness and more and more opposition to that awareness. Change requires long-term commitment while protests or riots are as MLK said, reactionary emotional catharsis. Plus protests or riots are vulnerable to outside inference that dilute their message.

How else can we attract media attention to increase awareness about important life and death issues?


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

8 thoughts on “Riots

  1. If you want to go with riots or protests, they will cause changes once a critical amount of people participates. Why is that? Because it’s then when the oppressing party starts significantly fearing the opposing party. This fear can lead to a variety of behavior, but if the opposing party has reached (emotionally) the “point of no return”, they will simply remove the oppressing party from power. This is what happened for instance in France (1789) and Russia (1917). Some people call this a revolution. However, judging from what historically really happened, in particular the results coming from it, I rather would call it, “more of the same crap in a different wrapping”.

    1. Hoping if Trump keeps on this path it will push Americans into a revolution. In Russia, didn’t the royal family end up in front of a firing squad?

  2. Good post. I would also like to add to your point that the word “riot” is selectively used. What happened in Ferguson and Baltimore were called riots, but not The Battle of Berkeley or anytime people trash stuff after a big game (see Philly’s reaction to the Super Bowl or Vancouver losing the Stanley Cup finals years ago). Gee, I wonder why? There’s a reason why some people call what happened in Black Wall Street the Tulsa Race Riots. No matter how intense Ferguson, LA, and Baltimore were, the Black people involved NEVER did as much damage as what happened to the citizens of the Greenwood District in 1921. Shoot, that massacre was also the REAL first air strike attack on US soil twenty years before Pearl Harbor happened. The selective language and outrage is baffling.

    1. It’s hard to swallow on a daily basis the injustice and hypocrisy we see and hear in the media.

      The Tulsa massacre is one of the many massacres of black communities at the hands of white mobs. Throughout American history, white men and women plotted with the US government to commit violent crimes against black people. In many instances, black men were charged for crimes committed by white men and women. We were scapegoats for white crimes.

      Again the media shapes our thoughts. And Black people cannot trust white media to tell the truth.

      1. I agree. Such is the downside of waking up to the reality around everyone.

        Of course. I learned about Rosewood and Slocum where similar situations have happened. I recently told a co-worker about Black Wall Street and she was shocked while wishing more people knew about it.

        That’s true and I never realized how much damage it did to my mind and self-worth. I’m still trying to reverse the cerebral affliction.

  3. If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing. – Malcolm X

    It was true then and still true today.

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