I was sitting in my room at my desk, working on my religion homework when my phone went off and I saw the notification. A riot was taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I was upset and confused when I read blurbs describing the events taking place. This wasn’t just another riot to me. This was a riot close to home.
Tuesday, Sept. 20, police shot and killed Keith Scott, a 43-year-old black man, in a parking lot in Charlotte. Riots, protests and another shooting happened only hours after the initial shooting.
As a resident of North Carolina, I have several friends who attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, close to where the initial shooting took place.
I thought about my friends in the surrounding areas, wondering how they were feeling, seeing them mark “safe” on Facebook. I thought about how much more anxious or nervous I might be feeling if I were home, closer to the situation.
I scrolled through my Facebook feed, reading about the tragedies and seeing pictures and video come in. Then I saw something I never thought I would: I had friends who were protesting.
Kristine Slade, a sophomore at UNCC and one of my friends, said she protested for her beliefs while on her knees in front of a police barricade that night.
“To the officers who know the differences between right and wrong, thank you,” Slade said in a video on her Facebook page. “We know that it’s not all of you. You do have respect for us. We just ask that you stand with us in this time of need.”
Slade went on to say she was scared, and she asked the officers to respect them, as the community respects the officers.
“We know that times are hard, but together we can get through this,” Slade said.
I don’t claim to know everything about the reasons and underlying messages of protests and riots; however, when I saw Slade protesting her beliefs, it brought me hope.
Hope that one day this will end. Hope that someone, through all the hate and anger, will find peace and love. Hope that someone might understand.
Protestors aren’t always about the force, anger or brutality. While I’ve seen many videos and reports about the damage and hate accompanying the riots, the ones that stand out to me are the ones about love, peace and unity.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is a classic example of a peaceful protestor. His peaceful protests during the Civil Rights era are famous even to this day because he was able to make a change.
There have been a growing number of riots and protests in the past few years. I can only imagine how many more will happen in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
I followed Slade’s journey as she protested in downtown Charlotte throughout the week. She prayed with and for a platoon of officers who were enforcing the midnight curfew set in place after two nights of riots.
The love she shows is contagious.
When these riots take place, I hope we don’t think, “Oh, another one.” Instead, I hope we think about how we can make a change for the better.
Let us make an effort to understand. Let us ask questions about things we don’t understand.
But most of all, let us make an effort to love.