Fight hate with love
Martin Luther King Jr once said: "Through violence you may murder the hater, but you can't murder hate." This statement could not be more true, especially today in a world full of unrest triggered by discrimination and intolerance towards diversity of any kind.
This week marks one month since the death of African American George Floyd, a man suspected of forgery, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis on May 25. Despite his desperate plea -- "Please, I can't breathe" -- which has now become a global anti-brutality catchphrase, a white police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck while arresting him. At that time, Floyd was already handcuffed and pinned to the ground by the officer.
Within 24 hours of Floyd's death, demonstrators took to the streets in a half-dozen cities in the United States, with many chanting the names of black people subjected to police brutality. Not long after, the number of cities where demonstrations were taking place doubled, if not tripled.
However, in the end, the protests turned violent. Protesters clashed with police and expressed their fury by looting stores and setting fires. Now that one month has passed since Floyd's death, people across the world are still asking for justice through protests -- some peaceful, some not.
The world is full of diversity in various dimensions -- race, gender, religion, political beliefs. People think and feel differently about certain issues and interact with others accordingly. However, violence should not be fought with violence. It achieves nothing at all.
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first comment on the George Floyd issue, criticising anti-racism protests in the United States for sparking crowd violence. Putin said through a Russian television channel: "If this fight for natural rights, legal rights, turns into mayhem and rioting, I see nothing good for the country."
This echoes Martin Luther King Jr's idea: "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
Everyone should have the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as the right to life regardless of race or religion. The same applies to people of different genders who should have the same rights to education, healthcare, employment, and other welfare benefits.
Discrimination against people who are different should not be tolerated and neither should violence against discrimination. There are many peaceful ways to seek justice and respond to outrageous behaviour without adding fuel to a fire that is already burning humanity. This is especially true amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected millions of people. The world does not need any more casualties.
To promote peace, artists around the world have sent messages against racism through their artwork. For example, mysterious British street artist Banksy published a work online earlier this month depicting the US flag being set alight by a candle that forms part of a memorial to an anonymous, black, silhouetted figure. He also wrote in a short statement: "People of colour are being failed by the system. The white system."
In Paris, street artist Dugudus created a mural, depicting US President Donald Trump as a police officer pressing his knee onto Floyd's neck while holding a Bible.
In Pakistan, Karachi-based truck-painting artist Haider Ali painted Floyd on the wall of his house and he is also planning to paint on trucks again to spread the message of the death of the African American. Meanwhile, Syrian artist Aziz Asmar also sent a message of solidarity through his mural in the town of Binnish in Syria's northwestern Idlib.
Meanwhile, performing artists around the world have joined hands and made calls for an end of discrimination and racism. One of their biggest movements, #BlackoutTuesday began as an attempt by two music insiders in America to pause their busy schedules earlier this month. However, it soon became a social media phenomenon as other celebrities joined in on this digital arena to show their support against racial injustice.
The film industry also joined the bandwagon. The most recent example is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which after years of criticism over the lack of diversity among Oscars nominations and winners, finally agreed to introduce new eligibility rules to boost diversity among nominees. On a different note, the 1939 classic Gone With The Wind was pulled earlier this month from HBO Max streaming service as it "depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society", according to the company.
Non-violence movements against injustice do not necessarily signify weakness. Expressing disapproval against discrimination does not require more killing in order to make a better world.
As Martin Luther King Jr once said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
Arusa Pisuthipan is the editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
Deputy editor of the Life section
Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.