Powerful Pic From Charlotte Riots Proves Violence Doesn't Define The Protests


A photo of two protestors peacefully sitting on the ground in front of a row of police has emerged as one of the most moving images to come from the troubling events we've seen from Charlotte since police shot and killed Keith Scott.


While much of the narrative surrounding the protests has been negative, this image stands as a powerful reminder that not all of the protestors were violent.


The mainstream media might get more attention from focusing on the more sensational aspects of the protests, but there were many out there who protested peacefully.

Coverage of protests often ignores how the behavior and tactics of police can be extremely provocative during such events.

This is not to say we should completely ignore the more disturbing aspects to the protests on Wednesday, as violence reportedly left 14 people injured and one shot and in critical condition.

But it's important to try and see the bigger picture.

Correspondingly, it's worth addressing the root causes of the chaotic reaction to this police killing.

People are sad, angry and hurting. They are tired of the habitual ostracization and oppression of minorities in America.


Without denying that it's deeply unsettling to watch an American city descend into chaos, it's useful to remember what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on this subject:

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.

Sadly, 50 years after MLK Jr. spoke these words, they are still far too relevant.

The fact of the matter is we live in a country that is still contending with racism, and much of the ongoing discrimination in the US is manifested in America's criminal justice system.

A riot is the language of the unheard.

According to The Counted, which documents police killings in the US, 790 people have been killed by US police so far in 2016. Of all those people, 194 were black.

To put this into perspective, black people make up just 13 percent of the US population, but this year they've been killed by police at more than twice the rate of white people.

This is hardly a new or isolated trend. In 2015, black people were killed at more than twice the rate of white people and young, black men were nine times more likely to be killed than other Americans.


There are clear racial disparities in the US, which are directly tied to the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, among other practices and government policies.

It's possible to acknowledge police have a very difficult and dangerous job while also recognizing America still has a lot of work to do in terms of combatting racism and championing equality. These ideas are not mutually exclusive.

The issues surrounding the shooting of Keith Scott are convoluted. They will not be solved overnight.

But far too many in this country are seemingly unwilling to acknowledge the facts.

It's very telling, for example, that just 50 percent of white people believe black people are treated less fairly than white people by police, compared to 84 percent of black people.

Pew Research Center

But the statistics are there; black people are more likely than white people to be pulled over by police, shot and killed and incarcerated.

Moreover, even though white people are more likely to deal drugs, black people are more likely to get arrested for it.

Meanwhile, while 88 percent of black people believe more changes are needed in the US to achieve racial equality, just 53 percent of white people feel the same way, according to Pew Research Center.

The same Pew study showed four out of 10 white people believe America has made the necessary changes when it comes to equal rights for all races, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

It's hard to believe the US will ever truly address the root causes of the troubling events we've witnessed in Charlotte over the past few days if more Americans don't make an effort to recognize the evident racial disparities that continue to plague this country.

Citations: LA Times, CBS News, Guardian, Pew Research, Washington Post