Is there a Standard for Protesting?

Chet Manikantan
4 min readMay 31, 2020

It has been a difficult few days and the Black community is in deep pain.

I understand and support the need for peaceful and non-violent protests demanding justice and equality. Personally, I do not support rioting and looting. Having said that, it is important to understand the distinction between “our own anger” and our “frustration” towards those that are expressing “their anger” differently. None of us are arbiters and get to decide a “right” or a “wrong” way to protest. Protesting is a right and its purpose is disruption.

When someone says the protesting and rioting needs to stop, what they are really doing is “raising the standards for the people that are protesting, but lowering the standards for the law enforcement officers that instigated the violence in the first place” and expecting different outcomes. Different standards result in different outcomes.

The key here is that we need to demand the same standard for everyone — either “higher or lower”. If law enforcement officers lower their standards by inciting violence, they lose legitimacy to demand a higher standard from the citizens they serve to protect.

When the standards are unequal, it results in “anarchy”, which is a direct result of lack of “leadership” and a failing nation-state and that’s what we are all witnessing at the moment.

The revolving door of “law, order and justice” — are co-equal. People that oppose protesting want “order”, not “justice”, but if you managed to do both, then you uphold the “law”.

Whereas

  • Order without justice is abusing law.
  • Justice without order is denying law and
  • Law enforcement without order or justice is misusing law

Regardless, all of them perpetuate “oppression and tyranny”.

The people that are quick to react and voice their distaste against “average citizens that are protesting”, must really look at this situation, very closely and carefully. If we fail to observe and listen, what people don’t realize is “they invariably become part of the problem” and perpetuate the insidious nature of racism in the US. Like someone said, either an individual is “racist” or they are “anti-racist”. There is nothing called, “I am not a racist”. Figuring this out, requires a lot of listening to Black folks and keeping an open mind about everything, including the protests, the anger, the distrust, institutional failure and the resulting pain and suffering.

I think everyone in America need to take a step back, introspect and decide if they are willing to listen to the Black Americans and what it is that they can do to support and affect change. Be it writing, protesting, rioting, voting, donating, dismissing or denying or silently supporting through prayers and hopes.

I am not an expert, but, all I am trying to do is “listen” to the voices and I am trying to learn more and more about the problems that result in this seemingly never ending cycle of pain and suffering. This continues to happen to minorities such as untouchables (Dalits) and Muslims in India, it happens to Black Americans in the US.

Supremacy and the resulting discrimination throughout history have been the root cause of all atrocities.

In this case, some police officers are asserting their supremacy by violently attacking peaceful protestors and innocent bystanders in the name of law & order.

People will fight at the same standard they are subjected to. If the police raise their standards such as those cops that joined the protestors or took a knee with them, they generate vastly better outcomes compared to those cops that shove bystanders and drive their interceptors into crowds. Unsurprisingly, people will treat those vehicles as weapons targeted at them and destroy them.

Finding an acceptable standard is fairly simple — education and self-awareness.

Educating ourselves by reading books, listening to Black voices and others around us about the history of flagrant, ignorant and insidious versions of racism and making an ongoing effort to remove subconscious bias, prejudice in our opinions and thoughts, call-out supremacist views, comments made by friends and family members and fight systemic racism, understand the insidious nature of racist mindset that silently creeps into our surroundings and unwittingly influences our worldview. Regularly and periodically “service” ourselves, by purging negative thoughts and racist people from our workplace and friend circle. Become an Anti-racist. Let us become aware of ourselves and protect our self-awareness consistently, everyday, every minute for the rest of our lives. It’s going to take a lot of self-discipline, it’s going to be hard, but, it will make us and the world around us a lot better than when we found it.

The moment we raise our personal standards against bias, prejudice, racism and discrimination, we raise the standards for the people we elect, people whom they in-turn hire into the police force and the training standards they will create and practice. This will probably take years, but, the only way to raise the standards for protesting is to raise the bar for ourselves by electing and hiring those that respect the constitutionally mandated right to protest and dissent for Black Americans.

Bottomline, one of the most effective democratic tools to end systemic racism in addition to protesting would be to encourage voting inspired by the protests; not just the presidential elections, but state and local elections, every single one of them. “Protest” safely and “vote” assertively.

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Chet Manikantan

Co-founder and Submarine Captain (CEO) of StonkLeague