Recently I came across one of the several articles written about the riots that began in London and something jumped out at me. What jumped out at me was a documented conversation between a reporter and a rioter. The reporter asked the rioter if rioting was the best way to get the voices of the disenfranchised heard, and the rioter pointed out that if the riots weren't taking place at that moment in time, neither he nor the reporter would be having that conversation. Sadly, the reporter agreed with him.
I get his point, but two wrongs will always yield a worse wrong. In this situation it will only make matters worse for those who already experience being disenfranchised. While it is true that attention will be gained through violent protests, it's not the type of attention that will bring about any positive change. The good news is that there is a non violent method that people who experience being marginalized and disenfranchised can effectively use to get their voices heard and to bring about positive and meaningful change in their world. Also, this method has been successfully applied by Mohandis Ghandi and Martin Lurther King, and their respective followers.
Before I describe what this method is, I will first have to describe why certain people have a tendency to lash out in anger, especially as a collective, when doing so hurts their cause. The reason is as follows; human beings are social animals. Regardless of what beliefs about the origins of humans beings you may subscribe to, it is undeniable that human beings are social animals. As a result of this, we are innately predisposed to fit into a social group regardless of how hostile the circumstances maybe. This is like a double edged sword, because on one hand our innate desires to fit into any social group increases the likelihood of our ability to survive and thrive. On the other hand, there is the likelihood that once you buy into a culture's belief system, that you might also buy into some beliefs and values that are detrimental to your well being.
In 1973, Nils Bejerot coined the term stockholm syndrome to this interesting phenomenon, after hostages from a Swedish bank robbery fiercely defended their captors. This is despite the fact they had just been rescued from five days of captivity. The general consensus is that the hostages took to their captors because their captors did not hurt them. I think that they took to their captors because they found themselves as unwilling citizens in a new community with their captors in charge. It was probably their innate drive to be in agreement with their captors that none of them got injured, (at least in the short run).
Of course this phenomenon does not always work in our favor; if you find yourself living in a community where there seems to be an underlying consensus that you are not worthy of being a fellow citizen to one degree or another, the last thing you want to do is agree with this belief. So you if you belong to a certain group that is usually on the receiving end of discrimination, be it for race or more popularly due to your socioeconomic background, giving into the role of any popular, false and negative stereotypes usually attributed to the group by that culture, is a guaranteed way of not making any gains. Of course, it's no wonder that when members of any disenfranchised group find themselves making no progress despite buying into all the cultural beliefs, they resort to aggression, either towards themselves, other groups or both. In the story of the hostages in the 1973 bank robbery, if the hostage situation had gone on for much more than five days, the hostage takers would slowly have begun to breach the verbal and non verbal agreement of not harming the hostages. (Heck, their rights to freedom had already been violated to begin with.)
So how do people avoid buying into negative cultural beliefs, particularly those that are detrimental for their well being? It's simple, regardless of the degree of inconvenience you might experience, don't play into the role of any negative beliefs designed to disenfranchise you. The best way to go about adhering to this paradigm of thinking is to embrace pragmatism. Actively seek to get the needs of yourself, family and community members met in the most humane of ways. So if you don't want to be disrespected, don't disrespect anyone else, if you don't want to be victimized don't victimized anyone else, and don't break this rule even if you have found yourself on the receiving end of poor and inhumane treatment from others.
Ultimately empathy for others begins with empathy for self, which is far more potent than simply being obedient for the sake of fitting in.