When Rioting is Not Black and White…


In the wake of the Baltimore riots, the above video appears. When I first saw the video with the volume off, my stomach turned upside down. The woman in the video has been identified as the boy’s mother. She was watching TV and saw her son in the middle of the riots and went out to find him. And she did!

As someone who spends their time working against violence, it was really troubling to witness this mother repeatedly slap the side of her son’s head. I thought to myself, “no wonder he was in the midst of the violence… look at what has been exemplified in front of him”. I could think this, click off the computer and continue on my way. Being a mother of 3 children who has chosen not to spank my children…. the actions of this mother would not be mine; HOWEVER…. there is a different side… and I find myself, the loud non-vilolence advocate, in a very odd position of wondering “would I do the same thing?”.

Listen to the video. The words of the mother. “You are proud of what you are doing? Take that hood off and show your face”. Her voice is shaking. As a “fellow mom,” I recognize that shaking. It is not just anger over what he is doing… but fear. She is screaming, and lashing out at him and, then, she grabs him by the shoulders as he walks away.

In that moment, she easily could have just saved his life. Certainly, she prevented him from being arrested for looting, participating in the riots and violating the law. What I heard and saw is a mother who is desperate to rescue her child.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people and creates the desire for harmony or conformity within the group and results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members seek to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Rioting is an example of this phenomenon. There are many who are rioting currently in Baltimore who are lashing out against what they perceive is an unjust system while there are others who are joining in groupthink… profiting from the looting and mayhem.

Martin Luther King, Jr. who has been touted as such an amazing powerhouse in the world of non-violence said “A riot is the language of the unheard”. The video of this frightened mother brought his comment to mind. Why did she lash out and “riot against” her son? My conclusion… Because she was unheard and afraid.

Rather than sitting in my home thinking “I would never do that”, I will stop for a moment and be grateful that I am not in the position of that mother, forced to physically pull my child away from a group and behavior that could result in his death. And I will hope and pray for those out there grabbing their children, pulling them out of the groups and hoping that all the voices can be heard… that is how we stop the riot.

Listenting and dialogue. It does come down to those two things. It just does.


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