About 1,500 people demonstrate in Minneapolis to show support for protesters in Baltimore.
Racial tension is something that has always been present. That being said, what is being done to make changes? With the riots, looting and destruction that occurred in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, many politicians and city leaders have called for dialogue, but many feel no one is willing to start the conversation.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he spoke of intelligent methods and proper channels to get the attention of those who can make change. He spoke of a future of peace, tolerance and non-violence.
“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots,” King said. “It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
Teenagers and young adults are asking more questions, organizing events such as fundraisers or protests to stand for a cause they feel passionately about. Some high school graduates are taking the initiative to run for office to make a difference in their own communities. Future generations are beginning to pay more attention to what is happening in the world around them.
“The events that went on in Ferguson and what’s going on in Baltimore are completely wrong,” Marquette senior Joshua Quinn said. “Being a young African-American male and knowing how things go, there is no need to act in such a way. They aren’t protesting to make a change or difference; it’s just another way to add ignorance. Any real protest could start in school or in sports or in the government trying to make a change — not destroying communities and fighting people. MLK wouldn’t support this. He stood for peace and to fight with peace. Adding ignorance will only spark the fire more for cops to kill young men of every race, not just blacks. I would want to see more entrepreneurs for businesses, schools and sports. We need to add more intelligent people who can show and set examples for our youth. We need more examples and leaders, not ignorance, because we won’t make any steps forward, just steps back.”
It has been 61 years since the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s been 47 years since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. East Alton resident Bobby Spurlock believes King would be at a loss for words if he were present to witness the current racial events.
“None of this is what he fought for,” Spurlock said. “I wish he was still here so that we could see how he would react to these actions and how he’d see Al Sharpton’s speeches. I’m absolutely sickened by what’s going on — they are trashing and burning down businesses of people who have worked to build them their whole lives. They are taking away people’s livelihoods and their source of income; how can they provide for their families? What did any of those business owners ever do to deserve their whole life’s work to be burned to the ground? I just don’t understand how a human can do this to someone. Today’s society is scary.”
Can future generations make the change?
East Alton-Wood River High School student Tenisha Phillips says King’s approach may have the same effect today. The Montgomery bus boycott took place for 381 days and was significant because it is widely regarded as the earliest mass protest on behalf of civil rights in the United States, setting the stage for additional large-scale actions outside the court system to bring about fair treatment for African-Americans.
“I believe that one way protesters can be heard is to boycott,” Phillips said. “We haven’t really had racial issues at school (EA-WR). I’d say people don’t care around here; we all treat each other the same. But looking at what’s going on, people in Ferguson or Baltimore could try boycotting restaurants and buses like they did when Dr. King was alive. People listened.”
Spurlock spoke of his concern for the civil unrest in our country.
“Who knows if we can change the world for the better,” Spurlock said. “All you ever see anymore on the news is a new shooting every night and more crime. I don’t remember the last time I watched the news and there wasn’t another major crime that was committed. I worry not for myself, but for my children who are going to be dealing with all of this in the future. All I can do is to raise them and teach them right from wrong and know that by doing so they will make the right choices in life.”
Bethalto resident and mother of a disabled son, Brenda Gremli, says change begins in each and every home, no matter what a person’s abilities or skin color is.
“I taught my children that they are the same as all other races, but they are not the same as these people that are causing this chaos,” Gremli said. “My family is not the same as these heathens that think it is OK to loot, riot, burn down buildings, destroy cars and property and intimidate! I did not teach them that this is acceptable.”
As the people of Baltimore begin to pick up the pieces as peace in the city is still a hopeful thought, many community members are pleading with protesters, looters, gangs and opportunists to please stop.