The McLaughlin Minute: We must look at the underlying causes to civil unrest

Curran McLaughlin
Regional Editor

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the tragic loss of Ahmaud Arbery.

I would be a coward and a hypocrite if I didn’t speak up again.

I will start out by saying that I am not condoning the violence that is taking place throughout our country.

I want to use this platform to attempt to illustrate the feelings fueling this civil disobedience.

Because there is much more below the surface of the recent riots, protests and injustices.

Of course, I am not a black man and I will never understand what it’s like to be a black person in America.

But, I don’t believe that it’s all that difficult to see the problems faced by minority demographics if you simply look.

And, I know that some people might read this and dismiss the words I put to paper; content to pass this off as promoting racial division or somehow promoting a biased political ideology.

I simply do not care.

I was never going to change the minds of people who refuse to listen.

I don’t understand how this can be seen as politics.

People no different from myself, continue to be discriminated against.

Simply for having more melanin than I do.

A hole has burned into my being with emotion.

There’s a lot that can or should be addressed in this column, so this article may be disjointed or incomplete of the entire picture.

Anyways, enough about me this week.

To start off, the violent protests were not the only protests going on.

There have been numerous protests in the past week in Minneapolis and all over the country and worldwide that have demonstrated peacefully.

Even while fires had been started in one part of the city, there were groups away from the chaos who expressed their right to peacefully assemble with little issue.

It is unfair to lump all protesters into the same category.

Also, just because police administered tear gas, mace or other “non-lethal” means on a crowd does not mean that the majority of that crowd wasn’t being peaceful.

Often it only takes one rock or bottle thrown to cause a reaction from riot response.

I believe some people like to use the phrase “a few bad apples” when referring to police injustice, well it’s the same principle.

Now, many people I’ve seen reacting to the riots – conveniently most of them had nothing to say about George Floyd’s killing until the riots – seem to think that this is solely the reason for the unrest.

George Floyd’s death, as well as Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, are just the breaking point.

Let’s focus on George Floyd to highlight some of the underlying issues.

The video that surfaced of Floyd’s murder shows a police officer kneeling on his neck for around eight minutes.

Floyd and onlookers pleaded for mercy while three other policeman stood there.

Floyd’s crime was apparently using a counterfeit bill and was punished with a brutal execution. In contrast, it took several days before Derek Chauvin was charged with anything.

The other three officers have not been charged.

Now most everybody agrees that the above is a series of wrongs, but this isn’t an isolated case for African Americans.

There is a history of police brutality against black Americans.

Often critics will say that the victim should have followed the police instructions.

Danquirs Napoleon Franklin was told by a Charlotte-Macklenburg officers was told to drop his gun that was holstered in North Carolina last year.

Franklin, telling them that it was secured in his holster, hesitantly tried to follow the orders and then was shot to death.

“You told me to,” were his final words.

12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun, was shot dead almost immediately by Cleveland police when they pulled up to the scene.

Rice didn’t even have the toy gun in his hands when the police arrived.

Often, if a victim had prior criminal history, it’s brought up.

As if that is to justify being murdered.

Having criminal history or even committing a crime is not justification for death.

The police should not serve to be judge, jury and executioner.

Floyd’s killer, Chauvin is an example of that police brutality.

Chauvin had 18 prior complaints filed against him and has been involved in shooting incidents in the past.

The system allowed Chauvin to continue to police despite this and George Floyd had to pay the penalty for it.

For the record, when I say system, I am referring mainly to the policing of big populations. Our communities are fortunate to have the opportunity to know and build a relationship with our police and sheriff departments.

And though this shouldn’t excuse any wrongdoing if it were to occur, I believe having that investment from both sides helps to ensure our officers honor their oath to protect and serve. As a reporter, I’ve had that opportunity to speak with our local law enforcement, primarily Britt and Kanawha, and I have confidence in them.

The problems come from the system, not the collective individuals.

Racial biases are shown in incarceration rates as well.

Approximately, 40 percent of prison population consists of African Americans, while black people make up only 13 percent of the US population.

There are a lot of factors that play into crime, including social and economic hardships.

But, you can’t convince me that human beings are much more likely to be criminals just because they’re of darker skin tone.

Black Americans have had to fight for the right to be treated as human beings for many years and it continues.

Every step of the way, black protests have been met with criticism.

There seems to be no “right way” to protest.

I’ve seen and heard the term “respectful protest” being used.

Peaceful black protests have been going on for decades now and the situation has not substantially improved past the civil rights movement.

Protests are meant to challenge the status quo and thus challenging authority.

Challenging authority is always going to be perceived as disrespectful.

Jesus Christ caused civil unrest, he even disrupted the public when he cleansed the temple that was being used as a market place.

The Founding Fathers fought against the tyrannical laws of the British and that eventually turned to a rebellion.

Martin Luther King, Jr., the epitome of peaceful black protest, was arrested 29 times in his life. MLK was criticized by his contemporaries for inciting riots.

You can’t win when you’re fighting the system.

And so here we are today, the Twin Cities half burned to the ground and over a week of protests.

The senseless violence is partially the release of anger, frustration and grief.

Again, I do not condone.

But, I’d like to point out that none of this would have happened if Derek Chauvin would have lifted his knee off of George Floyd’s neck or even if Minneapolis did the right thing and arrested the four officers right away instead of just firing them.

Nobody likes riots, but they happen for a reason.

It goes much farther than the killing of George Floyd, Amhaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

I implore you to think about the "why" behind the "what."

To look further into the reasons that lead to a destruction of a community.

Because, this article doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is wrong with the system.

We could change the factors that lead to this by listening to people who are in need.

Learn from society's mistakes.

The best way to prevent a riot or even a peaceful protest is to address these problems before it builds up to a boiling point.

Or we can keep looking away from the problems of our fellow humans, write this off after we rebuild and then scratch our heads again the next time a city explodes over another completely preventable death.

History's got to repeat itself somehow, doesn't it?



The Leader

The Leader (Garner Office)
365 State Street, Garner, IA 50438
Phone: 1-641-923-2684
Fax: 1-641-923-2685
The Leader (Britt Office)
49 Center Street W.
P.O. Box 321
Britt, IA 50423
Phone: 1-641-843-3241

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.