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Who and What Is Controlling Our Message?

Updated on June 4, 2020

When a racist act happens the first days that follow are peaceful protests with a pinpoint focus on a national message that racist behavior and a clear disrespect for human life is and never will be tolerated yet somehow ruthless people successfully starts shifting the focus from a peaceful meaningful protest to destructive riots which then takes over the messaging. We should never permit looters, rioters, and haters to cause us to lose focus on racist acts and our distrust for those people who have a persistence to demonstrate racism while hiding behind laws, shields, or wrongfully taught behaviors. Sadly, riots are masking and replacing peaceful protests of unlawful killings of black people with riots and criminal acts within our communities turning into a narrative of separated independent actions with no clear national voice.

The message that comes out of the riots focuses on the negative actions and misleading statements meant to cause divide. As Black Americans, there is nothing wrong with peaceful outrage while still holding ourselves to a higher standard of doing right and using our voice in projecting a firm message that racist behavior will not stand. Instead, when the riots start, it becomes an unfavorable image which leads to a message that is projected a number of different ways all which focuses on the wrong story of disorganization and our protest is lost along with the outrage for the racist action.

We should always task ourselves to have a positive attitude no matter the situation, how we communicate after a tragic incident is of the utmost importance. Seeing the message projected to others that the only way we can get attention is to loot and riot our own neighborhoods is a great way to make things worse and does nothing for continuing productive and changing dialogue. When destructive rioting starts, it redirects the focus away from anyone who was potentially in a position to usher in change and places him or her in a position of amplifying and discussing the behavior and not the cause. It would be so productive if we could avoid destructive actions completely and concentrate our efforts on making changes where necessary to improve the disrespectful culture Black America faces daily.

When we discuss making deep long lasting changes to the racial divide in America we must all agree that our words and actions must represent a helpfulness to the cause, positivity to our community, and encouraging solutions that does not involve violent and destructive behavior. Regardless of any horrible actions taken upon us, when we protest and talk about our community we want to continuously project energy and anything else that connects America to a solution. We need to communicate our solutions with a united stance so we don’t sound like we have multiple disconnecting communities simply wanting their 15 minutes of self-serving bad press on television and on social media. When people who have no interest in furthering the race relations conversation and start taking over the conversation the media becomes a powerful tool for them and begins to show the bad more often than the good causing damaging effects on our ability to have effective communication on race topics. Unfortunately, the lasting damaging effects highlighted in the media give voice to all those who have power and a dislike for moving us forward as Americans. Highlighting riots more than the peaceful aspects of the protests affects the ways individuals react emotionally, effectively erasing our voice and the important aspect of the basic reason the protest started.

People tend to overlook that media is permanent and once you upload something critical or damaging it’s hard to take it back and at that point, you are adding negativity to yourself, your community, and to the cause. I am amazed at how many rioters and looters use media as a platform to show off their stupid behavior and once tracked down and arrested get upset and want to cry foul for their own behavior. When you actively partake in riots, you might as well add the disclaimer “I don’t really care about this cause, I’m just here to steal.” We all know viewers are embolden by other viewers causing a vicious cycle of wondering what they might get away with if they do the same stupid action. Of course the best practice to help keep on message and a protest peaceful is first don’t do destructive stuff, second keep everything you say positive and third, stay clear of anything that is undesirable or possibly controversial to helping the cause. Yes, I strongly believe, people will gravitate to productive peaceful protest and those images with a clear message will appear and successfully bring out a longer sustained dialogue on racism and will suggests the cause is thriving and moving forward.

Positive messaging and peaceful protesting about an injustice is a great way to get attention and our voices heard. However, the more ammunition given to the media and those in power to talk about riots the less we can talk about positive actions and solutions to bring about change. Once you throw a rock, smash windshields, or steal, you are no longer a protester. You are a criminal and no longer value added to getting to a nonviolent resolution. Damaging property is a crime and one crime does not justify another crime or help stop the killings. Don’t give a reason to change the narrative. Being well organized and participating in peaceful protests seems obvious yet sometimes we can get frustrated to the point of allowing destruction to happen around us without corrective actions. We must manage others and ourselves because it is never too late or the wrong time to correct bad behavior and do the right thing. Never forget the reason for the protest is to bring attention to the cause and not the destructive action. It is best when we stomp out unnecessary attention and refocus the attention back to a professional image. If the cause is important enough to warrant a protest, and racist acts definitely warrants protests, we should do everything we can to enhance that message through all forms of media and in our actions.

Protests are very effective means to display a dislike towards an action. We must remember when protesting to make a conscious effect to show the world we know how to make our point heard and still leave our communities intact. Make sure when you are protesting the only message you send is one that conveys professionalism. We cannot be blind to things that occur during protests that could lead to bad press. If the protest takes a destructive turn, walk away and allow those who feel the need to become destructive isolated and held accountable when the law arrives. Always present yourself as someone who wants change and be sure your actions and language are always a great representation of you and the cause you are protesting.

© 2020 David Payton


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