As images of civil unrest, chaotic protests, angry crowds, burning cars and looted stores fill our screens, this advice of the Proverbs comes to mind. Proverbs knows that within the human spirit and experience there is anger and frustration, easily tapped for destructive and violent purposes. I echo Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who spoke as a mother of four children in her leadership role stating, “This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Dr. King. This is chaos. If you care about this city, please go home.”
What started out at a protest against racial injustice and police brutality experienced by the African-American community has been drowned out by several days of property destruction and looting in many American cities. Former Congressman and Ambassador Andrew Young called this a distraction and wrote an essay in response pleading “We must come together, work together and pray together to restore the vibrant society we have created here in metro Atlanta. As times get harder (because of the Coronavirus pandemic’s toll on life and economy) we run the risk of turning on each other, and we simply can’t do that. We must find ways to live together as brothers and sisters. If not, we will perish together as fools. Protests can’t save us. But working together in partnership can.”
Representative John Lewis said much the same. The civil rights icon shared, “Rioting, looting and burning are not the way. We need our anger, despair and rage over the denial of justice to be constructive, not destructive. We must continue to teach the way of peace, the way of love and the discipline of non-violence. History has proved time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality we all deserve.”
It is the wisdom of fathers Andrew and John, and the teaching of the mother Keisha, and so many other mature community leaders like them, that speak helpfully and hopefully from their years of experience, study and struggle to the young and disposed, the angry and incensed who are out in our streets. All desire greater justice, fairness, freedom, change and equality. And while violence, chaos, destruction and theft may entice, “this is not the way for you to go” our wise and seasoned parents and grandparents say. More than ever, we pray that our leaders, communities, our police and protesters, indeed, all of us, may heed their wise, good and timeless counsel. Let us not turn on each other or from each other, but work as partners for the good of all.