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Learn the art of protesting from Gandhi, Luther King

Both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King pursued the path of a peaceful, non-violent resistance and were effective in fighting injustice against much powerful opponents. They show the way in these polarising times.

Every night I do a guided meditation by listening to my guru’s voice: “Breathe in… hold… breathe out slowly… let go of stress.” But I cannot meditate anymore these days, as I hear George Floyd’s voice: “I can’t breathe.” I see a community which has been oppressed for long. I see faces of black youth who are looked down upon as criminals by the “racist” police or “racist” Americans. I see a failed education system and I see a failed criminal justice reform system. I cannot focus on “breathe in” and “breathe out” anymore.

Since the last few days, like every person, I am furious too. Seeing injustice in action on our streets and attempts to reckon with the violent and vile racism is on display. Every sensible person can feel the trauma and the pain that “people of colour” experience in the form of system racism and injustice in this country, like the horrifying killing of George Floyd in broad daylight by a police officer.

As an Indo-American, I strongly stand with Black Americans and join hands in fighting injustice and racism. We are committed in supporting the Black community, raising their voices and following examples of the Black movement leaders to eradicate systems of White supremacy and bringing equality for all races — Brown, Black, White, others — so that all Americans can breathe freely. Our activism and advocacy must be rooted in the fight for racial justice. Black lives matter all the time. Not just when someone is killed. Not just when it’s convenient. Not just when it’s a trend. We need to be vehemently anti-racist 24×7 and confront injustice every time we witness it.

Thousands of people in cities across the country attended protests over the past week after George Floyd’s murder. For people like him, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Atatania Jefferson, etc, who have been victims of senseless, preventable police violence, we demand change, protection, safety and justice for Black lives.

Today, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s message is very relevant to people who are involved in looting, violence and destruction. Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” Protesting against murder is right and necessary. It’s an utterly human response. At the same time, burning down small businesses, looting stores and needless destruction of communities are acts which no one should be supporting or carrying out in name of protests. As Vice-President Joe Biden said, “The act of protesting should never be allowed to overshadow the reason we protest. It should not drive people away from the just cause that protest is meant to advance.”

America needs a healing President. America needs Biden as its President. Biden is another stunning contrast to our Commander-in-Chief, who has threatened that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Biden wrote: “I know that there are people all across this country who are suffering tonight. Suffering the loss of a loved one to intolerable circumstances, like the Floyd family, or to the virus that is still gripping our nation. Suffering economic hardships, whether due to Covid-19 or entrenched inequalities in our system. And I know that a grief that dark and deep may at times feel too heavy to bear.”

“I know. And, I also know that the only way to bear it is to turn all that anguish to purpose. So tonight, I ask all of America to join me — not in denying our pain or covering it over — but using it to compel our nation across this turbulent threshold into the next phase of progress, inclusion, and opportunity for our great democracy.”

Today, protestors in the US and around the world can learn the art of protesting from Gandhi and Martin Luther King’s strategies. Both pursued a very peaceful resistance and were effective in fighting injustice. It is worth remembering what King wrote, in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”

The author is a community leader, tech entrepreneur and a member of the National Finance Committee for Biden for President 2020.

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