Are Ferguson protests solving racial problems?


Austin Hille and Emily Mun


When there are protests within a nation, they’re usually a sign of unrest and a want for change.

And by protests, I don’t mean stormy nights filled with townspeople carrying torches, pitchforks and other sharp gardening tools.

Look back at the history of any repressed or minority group for a minute.

If there was no protest and no sort of movement to question the status quo, where would these people be?

Not to be all, O America the Beautiful. America is one of the prime examples of protests of all kinds eventually turning into something good.

We hated the British government, we protested, we started a war, and more than 200 years later, we’ve become one of the greatest nations in the world.

Had we not done something, we’d probably all be complaining about the estranged British rule while drinking our tea and eating scones at high noon. Pip pip, cheerio and such.

Let’s scoot away from that brief history lesson and come back to the present.

There are protests happening worldwide because of the police brutality and racism against blacks among other injustices.

The shootings of 18-year-old Michael Brown, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt, and more recently, 43-year-old Eric Garner – all African American – have caused these protests.

The decisions to not indict the officers at fault also have caused the black community to rise up and take a stand.

But most of the public is focusing not on how the protesters are trying to bring justice where our government failed to deliver it. But the violence a small group of looters perpetuates.

One article on the San Francisco Chronicle webiste, confused crowds of peaceful protesters with looters, whose only agenda was to cause some sort of mayhem.

Another article published on NPR’s blog focused only on the fact that the Berkeley protests just last week turned violent.

This may not seem like a big deal at first glance, but stories like this really frustrate me.

If we spend our time focusing on this small group, we’re not helping the protesters spread their message and are sending the wrong message about the protests.

Now let me step back for a minute and clarify something.

We can’t assume that all protests are bad. Nor can we assume all protests are going to be good.

There’s always good in the bad and vice versa. People are always going to voice their opinions, no matter how unpopular it is.

Nothing will ever be considered the perfect protest. But that’s not the point. A protest allows a group of people to voice their opinion and fight for what they believe is right.

So don’t try and cite Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example of a good protest because his protests didn’t turn violent.

We’re forgetting that despite his peaceful protests, the local government in Selma acted the same way as the governments in Missouri.

Now before people come yelling about how the Ferguson protests shouldn’t be based around race and how America has progressed from the 1960s, take a look at other famous protests, such as the ones organized by the Westboro Baptists church of pro-life activists.

To an extent, all of these protests have some sort of unpopular opinion in them. All three of these protests also have peaceful protesters within them.

But why is it that pro-life or Westboro Baptist Church protests aren’t being as fought against as the protests for Brown and Garner?

Do a side-by-side comparison of pictures from all three of these protests and look at how the police are handling these situations very differently.

Look at those images and try to tell me that there isn’t a racial bias happening just because the majority of the protesters were white in one case and black in the other.

Brown, Rice, Hunt, and Garner aren’t the only ones who were victims of unjust shootings. There are so many more cases connected to police brutality against blacks.

But these voices are drowned out because this is something that “just happens.”

Protesters against the rulings in  Brown and Garner’s cases are fighting for justice for the blacks who lost their lives at the hands of the police.

All these protests are trying to elevate the voices of these victims.

They’re protesting because of the corruption against blacks within our own government.

If we want to help make a change, we need to listen to what these protesters are saying.

The main thing these protesters want is progress, and progress isn’t going to happen just because we have President Barack Obama in the White House, or even 50 black presidents down the line.

Progress is where we stand together with the oppressed and help their voices be heard.

Progress is where we start learning that our system now isn’t going to make any changes unless we become loud and visible.

Any type of change, no matter how small, is started from protests.



When there are a group of oppressed people, even the smallest incident that they perceive to be unjust can set them off like a bomb.

In this reaction, many tend toward violence and other strong reactions that harm the community and public opinion toward that oppressed group, ultimately hindering them instead of fixing the situation.

I do not intend to take credit for this wisdom, rather, this is what Martin Luther King, Jr. essentially told news reporters in regards to rioting and violence during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

By no means is the death of Mike Brown, or the death of anybody regardless of the situation, a “small incident.” But it has caused the same reaction that King described many decades ago.

It’s time for the protests and incessant violence to end. We must take a step back and realize this is not an effective way to address any unjust incident and approach this controversial situation with a more reasonable solution.

It is important to establish right off the bat that this is not a question about whether  Brown should have been shot. Neither does the  issue revolve around whether or not Darren Wilson should have gone to jail for shooting him.

It is silly to pretend that people can draw conclusions about what should have happened on Aug. 9 unless they were actually there. To make a decision about the justice of the situation given the muffled facts and biased testimony available to the public would be unwise to say the least.

Whether one side is wrong does not change the fact that the protesters have reacted in an incorrect and harmful way.

What happened cannot be changed.

While some might make the argument that the protests are to prevent future incidents similar to this, they are actually doing the exact opposite.

All people need to do is Google how many protesters have been arrested in the past couple weeks to see the results are in the hundreds. Anywhere from two to 75 people are arrested at each individual protest.

This hit close to home when they tormented Union Square in San Francisco on the evening of Nov. 28 by smashing businesses windows and throwing bricks as wells as other objects at officers.

According to, at least one officer was seriously injured and several protesters were arrested.

As brutal as this sounds, the San Francisco protests were actually quite tame compared to others around the nation.

As reported by, two men were recently taken into custody on gun charges and are now being further investigated on suspicions of trying to obtain explosives to detonate during protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

These incidents are just two of many all around the nation and the world.

When people behave this way it hurts their cause as opposed to bringing “awareness” to the situation.

Any bias that people might have about African Americans is only reinforced by these protests, and profiling is more than likely a result of these incidents rather than the solution.

Like it or not, people naturally have stereotypes about certain races. It’s not something that can be fixed seeing as how it has been deeply ingrained in our culture.

Instead of trying to disprove these stereotypes, these protests are only supporting what so many already incorrectly perceive about African Americans.

Allow me to give a bit of a disclaimer to an issue that most readers have probably already thought about.

Above this column is my mugshot. Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that I am white.

I will admit that I have no idea what it feels like to be a part of an oppressed culture, seeing as how I have been privileged almost all of my life, just as most people in San Ramon probably have been.

Despite this, I fully understand that these protests are a result of people being genuinely hurt.

As mentioned earlier, the death of anybody is not something to be taken lightly, and I can see how the shooting of Brown could elicit more radical reactions than the death of others. Long story short, people are protesting for a reason.

But even the most honorable causes lose their credibility when handled incorrectly.

They say that one bad apple ruins the whole bunch, but in the case of the Ferguson unfortunately there are quite a few bad apples.

Perhaps a more effective way of promoting their cause would be peaceful marches and boycotts, just as Martin Luther King Jr. did back in the 10960s. Such an icon should be an example for these people, but many have decided to go against everything for which he stood.

It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, yellow, green, purple, or orange (Snooki), it is not difficult to see that these protests have gone in the wrong direction entirely.

It’s time that we learn from the leaders who pulled this nation out of its discriminatory past and look toward more effective ways of fighting for what we believe in, ones that stem from love and respect.