02 December 2014

to honour hearing

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” King, a great champion of nonviolence, wasn’t advocating rioting, but rather honoring hearing. 

Even long-suffering people will not suffer forever. Patience expires. The heart can be broken only so many times before peace is broken. And the absence of peace doesn’t predicate the presence of violence. It does, however, demand the troubling of the comfortable. When the voice goes unheard, sometimes it must be raised. Sometimes when calls for justice go unmet, feet must meet pavement. Sometimes when you are unseen, you can no longer remain seated. Sometimes you must stand and make a stand. 

No one of good character and conscience condones rioting or looting or any destruction of property. Those enterprises aren’t only criminal, they’re fruitless and counterproductive...

But people absolutely have a right to their feelings — including anger and frustration. Only the energies must be channeled into productive efforts aimed at delivering the changes desired. That is the hard work. That is where stamina is required. That is where the long game is played. 

As the old Negro spiritual proclaims: “Walk together children/Don’t you get weary/Oh, talk together children/Don’t you get weary.”
these words could describe violence and conflict almost anywhere in the world. they sound vaguely like all the statements and analyses and press releases that i work on at an asian human rights ngo. in fact, they are part of a piece about the reaction to the shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in missouri, usa. it was not the specifics of the case that struck me however, but these general words. 

to listen and to speak: both are important, and both must occur equally. and so we go on, working hard, playing the long game..

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