What is the right way to protest?

Photo by Vinny Mwano

Photo by Vinny Mwano

The arguments about how to protest cannot be understood without first examining the different factors that contribute to them. To begin with, moral judgment influences the arguments. It is important to dissect how personal morals and values shape everyday life. Look beyond the emotional impact of the situation.  Other factors, not usually in the forefront, come into play when people discuss effective protesting methods. I personally don't take a side in this argument. I do not support violent or disruptive protesting that causes harm. But I also do not feel it is my responsibility to decide the right or wrong way for someone else to protest. Especially, if it is personal and meaningful to them.

Photo by Vinny Mwano

Photo by Vinny Mwano

I host a community discussion on Race and Inclusivity focused on a “We Are All Human" theme. The goal of the community is to help people learn and interact with others. We have to find common ground that decreases our conflicts and strengthens our unity.

Photo by Vinny Mwano at We Are All Human event at SNHU Sandbox

Photo by Vinny Mwano at We Are All Human event at SNHU Sandbox

Protesting is always a hot topic. In the last community forum, we had a passionate disagreement regarding the right way to protest. I argued that only the person who is protesting can legitimately weigh in on the issue. The protester is deeply invested in the outcome of the conflict because he or she has both the most to lose and the most to gain. Protest itself is an acknowledgment of having less power than the people, company or institution the person is protesting against. And it’s often the people with the most to lose or gain who will go to any extreme to attract attention and amplify their advocacy.

Photo by Vinny Mwano at a protest in Boston

Photo by Vinny Mwano at a protest in Boston

On the receiving end, people distinguish the different types of protesting methods they tolerate. What I often hear from the receiving side reflects personal morals and values. But that doesn’t entitle them to tell protesters the right or wrong way to protest. Even in the context of effective protesting, that determination lies with the protester. Protesters set their goals. The outcome and impact measure the effectiveness. The methods the protester uses depends on how far they are willing to go. The actions taken by the protester takes to advocate and amplify their cause is a risk. The methods used are where the conflict lies most of the time. Outsiders, who disagree with the cause or the method of protesting, tend to assess the conflict according to their own personal morals and values.

Photo by Vinny Mwano taken at a protest rally in Boston.

Photo by Vinny Mwano taken at a protest rally in Boston.

Webster defines the word protest as a complaint or objection against an idea, an act, or way of doing things. An event in which people gather to show disapproval of something.

I often hear people invoke Morals and Values as a way to compare Right and Wrong. This would be valid if we all shared and lived by the same morals and values. And if they were translated into our everyday actions. The reality is we do not. Everyone has his or her own morals and values that they strive to live by. This makes it hard to establish a universal truth to right and wrong in the context of how we behave and act within our moral/values. I am not saying everything is relative. Each case is different. Those who believe in some sort of absolute truth still fall short in using such truth as a guide for their everyday actions.

Google’s definition of Moral is “holding or manifesting high principles for proper conduct.”

Google’s definition of Value is “a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life.”

Right and Wrong is very subjective in how it plays out through actions. I am arguing we should consider Right and Wrong in terms of our everyday actions, not our intentions. If you separate yourselves from your actions and identify more with your mindsets and intentions, then you are truly not living your core values. Is the best version of yourself influenced by how you act out your core values?

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We all struggle to be the best version of ourselves. The best version of yourself is influenced by many things: religion, social system, family, environment, and education. The best version of yourself changes constantly. While we aspire to be the best version of ourselves, we face challenges every day to be that person. Most of us are generous to ourselves regarding the failure of our actions to consistently align with our Core Values and Morals.

The disconnect between how you view yourself based on values changes when reflected on others. Some place themselves on a pedestal when comparing personal values to others. But it is our actions alone that reflect your values—not how you measure them in a vacuum or in comparison to others. If you agree that values influence what you consider Right and Wrong, then it is important to evaluate how this plays out in your actions. If you also agree that Right and Wrong is subjective, then that understanding should be a major factor in your expectations and how you treat others. Especially regarding issues about which you don't agree. Empathy and tolerance should not be limited to your own positions or to those you align with. It should extend to those you disagree with and have a moral conflict with.

Photo by Vinny Mwano taken at We Are All Human event

Photo by Vinny Mwano taken at We Are All Human event

We naturally judge and become defensive when someone challenges our values. It is normal, but we forget we compromise our morals and values frequently. We let our morals and values down every day, by the hour and minute. We are very quick to persecute those who challenge us. We become condescending and defensive. We overlook the reason for the conflict and take offense at others’ beliefs.

Differences in morals and values create conflict. Is it possible we can find a solution by connecting our own personal battles and compromises with how we handle others?

We spend most of our time protecting our feelings and never create the space to better understand the protesters’ intentions. It becomes a them vs. us battle. We use anything we can to sabotage those protesting. We put up walls and never let the other side in, even when we know deep inside we acknowledge certain ideas. We dismiss the reasons for the protest and spend all of our time condemning their methods. We are disappointed the protesters did not consult with us. And their actions offend us.

Instead of disagreeing with the protesters’ methods or what they are advocating, invest time to fully understand the reasons why and how it connects back to their intentions. I leave you with some questions to consider:

Is it possible for you to look beyond your feelings of being offended and try to find tolerance and respect for those you oppose?

Put yourself in their shoes. If you were advocating for something that was important to you, and your last course of action was to expose yourself and protest, how would you want others to receive your cry and treat you?

How do you reach collaboration and negotiation as a common goal to overcome your differences and find tolerance?