On April 27, Freddie Gray was buried. Hours later, riots broke out in Baltimore.
There is much debate about whether the riots in Baltimore — or any city — are justified or even necessary for change to occur. Some people believe there’s no other way to bring about change, claiming that rioting is the only way to truly get voices heard. Others believe that peaceful protests are the only way. There are countless people who fall on either side of this debate and both sides have valid arguments and “evidence” of their way succeeding.
The problem, though, is that both options often fail — for opposing reasons. Rioting, more often than not, results in the rioters being condemned, demeaned and brushed off as “thugs.” They may have a great message, but their delivery of that message almost guarantees that it won’t be heard. In contrast, the peaceful protesters speak their message so it can be heard, however it ends there — with only words.
Regardless of whether you’re talking about police brutality, marital problems or office bullying, responding in the extremes -– either blowing up or peacefully protesting —severely limits effectiveness and options. Seldom are these the only two options — they just seem to be the only two options we tend to go to.
It’s time to stop thinking in the extremes. It’s time to get out of the box and discover a new way of thinking and acting. It’s time to find the middle.
We have to find the middle. When we only consider two options, we severely limit our likelihood of effecting real change. There’s no arguing that police brutality and racism is a core issue in our culture that absolutely needs to be addressed. Too many lives have been lost and families devastated by a failed system. Police brutality does not justify rioting, setting fires to buildings, looting businesses and destroying communities — even for the purpose of being heard. Too often we justify one person’s rage by another person’s actions. That’s incredibly dangerous. If we keep condoning one group’s aggression by citing another group’s or individual’s behavior, then we will be forever locked into an unending loop of violence. This type of thinking leads to domestic violence, child abuse and countless other problems our world struggles with daily. Instead, we must stop responding in the extremes to extreme situations. If anything, extreme times require level heads, not reactive rage or silent protests. Until we can stop excusing ALL outrageous behaviors, we are destined to harm countless human lives.
Finding the middle is about combining peaceful protests with powerful actions. One of the most powerful change agents in history was one woman who peacefully refused to give up her seat on a bus. On that day, Rosa Parks didn’t throw rocks at the police, throw a tantrum on the bus or rage at the injustice of discrimination. She stood her ground and backed her beliefs up with her actions — powerfully, confidently and respectfully. In marriages and in life, people have this idea that if they’re yelling about something, that shows they’re refusing to “take it.” The truth is, throwing tantrums about issues doesn’t mean you’re not taking them. You’re still taking them — you’re just taking them angrily. We have convinced ourselves that the only way to be heard is to GET BIG AND MAKE THEM HEAR YOU. Finding the middle is about getting strong, not big. It’s about power-from-within, NOT power over others.
If you truly want to change something and stop taking poor treatment — either on a global scale or in your own home — you have to take strategic ACTION. Rioting, yelling and raging are outbursts, not actions. This is true in your home, in your office or in our world. The Baltimore riots are no more not “taking it” than is a wife yelling at her cheating husband. Not taking it requires thoughtful actions and consistent follow up. Combining peaceful protests with class action suits across the country, people of all colors uniting to capture stories and videos of every profiling case they see/hear about/experience and starting a project of change are examples of taking strategic action. Getting many heads together will produce numerous other actions that people can take — actions that won’t physically harm people or their communities. Slowing down and considering all the options available and then choosing the best and following through with them is effective action.
Just because rioting has sparked change in the past, does not mean it is the only road or best road to change in the present or the future. When we all learn to step into the hardest of times with a Grounded Powerful Strength (GPS) and create change with our reasoning, resolve, determination, respect AND powerful tactical actions, rather than impulsive violent actions, that will be a good day — on every scale. Find the middle — it is the new road to powerful change.
Challenge: In the most difficult of times — expand your thinking and steer clear of responding in the extremes. Find the middle and take wise action. Always remember that true power comes from within one’s self, NOT power over others.