Thanks to the actions of former Youngstown high school students, it’s Nonviolence Week in Ohio. Youngstown kicked off its celebration with a parade on Sunday, and several other events have followed.
Some people may not see the need for Nonviolence Week. After all, there weren’t any protestors at the parade professing their support of violence.
And yet, we are continually presented with violent images when we tune in to nightly newscasts — mass shootings, extrajudicial killings of a black man by police, atrocities in Syria and Iraq, even the run-of-the-mill violence that plagues inner-city communities.
There have been repeated marches and protests over the last few years, most recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the aim of eliminating unnecessary violence.
But too often violence is viewed as removed, as something that affects other people. It’s important for people to consider their own actions that may indirectly contribute to this violence — actions that create the conditions for it to occur.
Many of the marchers in Sunday’s parade wore shirts emblazoned with the phrase “nonviolence or nonexistence” pulled from a quote by Martin Luther King Jr.
Another quote by King seems particularly important here: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
Injustice surrounds us.
The students attending Youngstown City Schools are not receiving the same quality education as their suburban counterparts in Poland and Canfield.
The war on drugs and mass incarceration have disproportionately affected black communities with devastating results.
Women earn less than men and are far more likely to be victims of sexual assault.
Transgender individuals are not afforded the same protections against discrimination that other minority groups receive.
Peaceful Muslims receive blame for extreme acts carried out by people who claim to share their religion.
It’s not a coincidence that the communities and demographics that bear these injustices are often victims of violence.
To quote Youngstown State University student Shienne Williams, who spoke at Sunday’s rally, “Where injustice exists, so does violence.”
In pursuit of nonviolence, refusing to engage in violent acts is not enough. Conscientious citizens also have to actively fight to eradicate injustice. Otherwise, violence will continue to flourish.
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