Have you ever sat next to a teenager while s/he was playing online games? Perhaps you play online games yourself. If so, you have likely noticed it is not uncommon to hear racist slurs in certain gaming contexts. If you are on social media, you’ve probably noticed some of the racist memes about immigrants that are being shared in reaction to terrorism and refugees. If you have visited the Black Lives Matter Facebook page recently, then you’ve seen the racist trolling that is going on in response to their community posts. While many of these people who exhibit these behaviors online might not do these things in person, these are all pretty clear signals that — “We have not arrived.” Pretending that we have is harmful and dishonest.
“Social disruption is the close cousin to cultural transformation.”
Something that I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, and this really concerns me, is people setting up a false dichotomy between social disruption and peace and harmony. Social disruption is the close cousin to cultural transformation. To transform injustice into peace and reconciliation, it takes courage to upset the status quo to identify new pathways, tap into innovations, and open up to different perspectives. Here are some other reasons this dichotomy is misguided:
Only the privileged can experience peace without first confronting injustice
Especially in the wake of what has happened in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York City, it is troubling to hear people who self-identify as “progressive,” suggest that the movements confronting these injustices are what are sowing the seeds of violence. These demonstrations are in reaction to violence. The injustices they are protesting are real and have already created an atmosphere that is antithetical to peace and safety in the lives of many of these protestors and their children. The organizations and groups that are demonstrating and working for social justice are not against peace. On the contrary, many of them are relentlessly and resiliently struggling against the obstacles to peace in their lives and in their communities.
Disruption is necessary for transformation
When I hear the suggestion that these demonstrations are somehow to blame for a rising absence of peace in our society, it unpleasantly reminds me of what it is like to be called “an angry black man,” for simply standing up for yourself or your child. Only the privileged can experience peace without first confronting injustice. To make progress, people who experience privilege must acknowledge that bias and more overt forms of racism are still prevalent in our society. They also must be willing to take up the cause and confront this unfairness. Transformation requires a certain level of tolerance for disruption.
Also published on Medium.