Welcome to The V Channel’s Virtues Dialog Series, in which we facilitate virtues-based discussions on leading events and breaking news. Are you engaging in virtues-based discussions with the children or young adults in your life? We welcome your submissions.
We invited Mia Lischin, a 16-year-old from Brooklyn, and Hoyt Smith a 60-year-old from San Diego, to discuss the protests in response to George Floyd’s tragic death. Front and center amid the protests has been the slogan: “no justice, no peace.” Justice and Peacefulness are virtues.
Mia and Hoyt Discuss the George Floyd Protests
June 2, 2020
Hoyt: So Mia, what are your thoughts about the slogan, “no justice, no peace”?
Mia: I agree with the slogan but I think that some people are kind of interpreting it in the wrong way and taking it too far. To me, “no peace” means “we’re not going to stop protesting peacefully and we’re not going to stop sharing information.” Other people though are lighting everything on fire, and they’re not doing it for justice. It’s creating a bad look for the people who are trying to fight for the right causes.
Hoyt: It’s awful how George Floyd died after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. He joins a long list of African Americans who have died over the past several years while in the custody of law enforcement. His death has generated outrage. Although one officer has been arrested in Mr. Floyd’s death, three others have not. Is this something you’ve been able to talk about with your family?
Mia: Yeah, just last night I was talking to my dad about (the weekend’s events), how it relates to other things in the past, how different people are handling it and how some people are harming the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t think that they’re necessarily trying to harm the movement, but they may unintentionally be creating more of a divide between people. I’m sure I’ll be talking more about it with my mom as well.
Hoyt: I’m sure, like most people around the country, you’ve discussed the protests with your friends as well?
Mia: Oh yeah, for sure. The main way I’ve been finding out about things is through social media and Instagram. Awareness posts and what people like me can do to help. Different dates for protests, and footage of protests. And I’ve been on social media with friends discussing the different situations. It’s kind of draining right now because this is all people are talking about. Which is good, but it’s a lot to take in all at once. Every five minutes some new angle emerges.
HOYT: Sad to say, but it seems like we’ve been struggling with the same issues all my life. In 1965 there were the Watts Riots, in 1992 there were the Rodney King riots and in 2014 we had riots in Ferguson, Missouri, just to name a few. In each case the circumstances were similar, with police brutality igniting outrage and violence.
Mia: I can empathize with the people who are angry, I just think there are much more productive ways to deal with this.
HOYT: Some say you can’t discount the frustration, outrage and anger. So many people in America and around the world feel they are being deprived of their rights so they are asserting themselves. Assertiveness is a virtue. Being assertive means we tell the truth and have the courage to stand up for justice. What do you think?
Mia: Yes, we all deserve to be respected and have our voices heard. But there are a lot of better ways to have a positive impact and take out your anger than destroying things and creating more violence.
HOYT: I think too many of the protesters are missing the point of “no justice, no peace.” Practicing justice is being fair in all we do. Being just means standing up for our rights and the rights of other people. Justice means that every person’s rights are protected.
Mia: Which is not what’s happening right now obviously, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that our country was built upon institutional racism. A system can’t serve someone who was never protected in the first place. The root of a lot of these problems comes down to the way our country started (with slavery). The only way that we’re going to create true justice is to take a close look at institutional, long term problems and change them.
Hoyt: Justice is complicated and has many layers. it starts with making amends when we have hurt or wronged others. Our country has made gradual progress toward addressing the injustice of slavery: Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation; Civil Rights; voting rights, affirmative action. Today, people of all colors support and advocate the Black Lives Matter movement. Legislation and social movements are necessary, but lasting change ultimately comes from within each person. Justice is seeing with your own eyes and not judging something or someone by what other people tell you. When justice is practiced, everyone has a fair chance to be seen for who they are. If someone is accused of something, they get a chance to tell their side. Our society has become splintered into groups and tribes hanging on to limited cultural identities. ‘Group think’ is defensive and spreads judgment and fear. Instead of prejudging, practicing justice means seeing people as individuals.
Mia: It may sound like a meme, but “We are all part of one family—the human family.”
Hoyt: It’s true, we’ve got to love each other like family. However, as we all know, families often fight. To sustain love, families need to practice virtues like Patience, Flexibility, Mercy and Forgiveness. I know millions of people around the country are angry with the looters and mobs who are perpetuating the violence. We need strong law enforcement, but the motto. “When the looting begins, the shooting begins” grieves me. That’s when innocent bystanders often get hurt or killed. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Mia: Violence is never the answer. How about the slogan, “justice now, peace now!”
Hoyt: Yes! ‘Peace’ begins with the virtue of ‘Peacefulness.’ It’s a way of approaching conflict with others so no one is wronged. Everyone wins when you work to find a peaceful solution, and peace comes when people reject violence, prejudice, and thinking of others as enemies. Are we ready to trade the love of power for the power of love?
Mia: I’m seeing a lot of people assume authority over others. On social media a lot of people are posting “if you don’t go to protests then you’re not a true supporter.” I can understand where these people are coming from but that’s really counterproductive. This is a time when we need to come together as one community and push together toward a common goal. This isn’t whites vs. blacks, this is everyone vs. racists. We all need to come together, because if we break up into fractions it’s going to create more of a divide and make these problems even harder to solve.
Hoyt: You’re talking about the virtue of Unity. It’s about finding common ground within our diversity. By focusing together on our shared virtues we strengthen the things that we strongly believe in as a society. At a more granular level though, how are you practicing justice, peacefulness and unity in your family?
Mia: Now that we’ve all been quarantined at home we’re having to find ways to cope with one another and find ways to balance everything. I’ve had to keep in mind everyone’s emotions and the way that things are going to affect them. It’s really hard sometimes, but I try to empathize people and be able to understand where they’re coming from. If I’m wrong then how can I make it right?
Hoyt: That sounds like Compassion and trying to put one’s self in another’s shoes. Compassion ties in with justice and peacefulness, doesn’t it?
Mia: Compassion feeds peace in every aspect, including this big situation. I’m not black, but I can still have compassion for the African American community. It’s the same when I argue with my brother or if my parents are talking to my brother, I want to be able to see both sides. Age, race and gender are differences, but they can be overcome by appreciating the common conditions we all share.
Hoyt: How do you suggest young people and their parents talk about justice, peacefulness, unity and compassion so that those virtues are better understood and practiced to help prevent and reduce racism, division and violence?
Mia: I think that we can talk about them in ways that we can relate to. I don’t know if a really young kid could relate to the issues at the heart of these protests. Again, I think it’s important to try to see things from different points of views, then question and reflect upon your part in various conflicts. I think that you can look at both sides of this situation. I don’t think in terms of, the cops and the government being on one side, and the people who are protesting being on the other side. I think you have to recognize that people are people and neither side is perfect.
Hoyt: Was there a teachable moment in this weekend’s tragedies? How do we learn and grow and strive to be our best when faced with such adversity?
Mia: If you look at the racism and the anger, there are places where these feelings come from and people have the ability to learn and change. But categorizing people is very dangerous. Saying “all cops are bad” or “all white people are the problem” isn’t going to help. Being able to look at issues from different perspectives and understand where various people are coming from, that’s always going to help. Last night my dad and I were also talking about how a lot of history is whitewashed. It’s dangerous to see or read about something and accept it without understanding the bigger picture. If you do that, then you can become part of the problem too.
Hoyt: What are your concluding thoughts on justice, peacefulness, unity and compassion?
Mia: You have to be mindful of the way that you can affect these situations. As someone who’s not black I don’t want to be making this about me. I want to focus on how I can affect my community and the whole movement for justice. I think accountability plays a big role in all this. A lot of people are not able to let go of the fact that they might not be right. People in general on both sides have to be able to understand that they might not be right, but that’s ok and you can learn from that and improve. Virtues can help us all to learn and improve, and they can definitely help to bring us together.
We thank Mia and Hoyt for being a part of The V Channel’s Virtues Dialog Series.
Are you engaging in virtues-based discussions with the children or young adults in your life? We welcome your submissions.
Virtues definitions from the The Family Virtues Guide.
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