The 1967 Newark riots were one of 159 race riots that swept cities in the United States during the “Long Hot Summer of 1967”. This riot occurred in Newark, New Jersey, between July 12 and July 17, 1967. Over the four days of rioting, looting, and property destruction, 26 people died, and hundreds were injured. Wikipedia
When the Newark riots occurred, I was eight years old, living in Newark, NJ. The majority of the rioting and looting occurred in downtown Newark with minimal damage to the uptown area where we lived. Even so, the images seared in my memory are larger than life, green army tanks that rolled up and down our streets to maintain safety and enforce the daily curfew of 5 pm, and the devastating effects of torched buildings.
On the day, my father decided to take our family to downtown Newark to look at the charred ashes that represented once-thriving businesses. The Iron gates that represented safety and used to prevent entry through the windows and doors were not impenetrable. With the broken locks intentionally left on the ground, and the gates torn from their tracks, one could easily peer inside the empty stores, only the remnants of shelves and shattered glass remained from the torched buildings. Amidst all of the destruction, one business stood alone untouched, and that was William S. Rich & Son located in the heart of downtown Newark.
Mr. Rich was a philanthropist of Jewish descent, a social activist, and a fair man with an unusually kind heart. The pawnshop that he started to help those in need does not reflect the modern pawnshops of today. Wm S. Rich & Son was the cornerstone of the community and thrived because of short-term loans given to struggling individuals who needed to feed their families or pay their rent. Mr. Rich’s philosophy was that most people had run out of options forcing them to pawn their most valuable items, and he was fully aware that human beings work hard to regain the things we value.
Yes, he was much more than a successful entrepreneur, Mr. Rich cared for and gave back to the individuals that depended on him. And our family can attest to the kindness of this man who impacted the lives of many. After 35 years, our father retired from Wm S. Rich & Son, and we were also the benefactors of his generosity.
As I think about the reasons that my father took our family to view the destruction, I realize that my Dad wanted us to see the atrocious results from the anger and rage that already lives inside each of us. My father refused to accept the looting and burning down of businesses as a method of retaliation. I can still recall his words, “It was wrong to burn down these businesses. Doing wrong can never produce what is right.” It is hard to believe, 53 years later, that across our nation, many are involved in the same self-destructive behaviors using social injustice as leverage to substantiate their wrongdoing.
To the families of those who have lost loved ones due to brutality, and drive-by shootings, human trafficking, and other unconscionable acts of murder, we grieve from the depths of our souls. We are sorry for your loss, and we pray for God to comfort you.
And we pray for the innocent victims living in the cities that are torn apart by racism and the destruction of looting and rioting, who lost their only source of income and can no longer support their neighborhood businesses because they no longer exist. Never underestimate your child’s negative experiences because I can relate to the overwhelming sadness and despair that they feel. The ravages of war leave behind the brutal images and the violence incite fear and insecurities that one will never know unless they have experienced the consequences of the war of humans against humans.
Our emotional responses always lead to unacceptable solutions!
My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires. James 1:20
How well do you rate in the areas of self-control and discipline? Although the environment in which we grew up shaped who we are because we adopted our parent’s or caregiver’s morals and values, we need to evaluate and discard what is not conducive to our spiritual growth.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
To evaluate oneself requires eating a massive slice of humble pie. For those who desire spiritual, mental, and emotional growth, introspection is the first step. If we fail to identify our shortcomings, then we build a roadblock to learning and growing into the best that we can become in our lifetime.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9 NLT
Have you ever witnessed “baby rivalry?” Two babies are sitting on the floor playing with their toys, inevitably one looks over and decides he or she wants the other baby’s toy, and the spat begins. Learned behavior is rarely the basis for a child so young to make a concerted effort to crawl and snatch the toy away from the other baby who is perfectly content.
The concept that human beings naturally possess traits that reflect godly love and virtuous characters is far from the truth. It is not an automatic response to think and act appropriately and with restraint. We struggle every day to choose right over wrong. The trait of self-control takes a lifetime to achieve. We fight the ongoing battle to suppress our immediate reactions to adversity and develop the habit of using logical and sound reasoning in response to every situation.
All of us possess an internal riot: Self-control has an enemy, and that is our emotions. Anger, rage, and hatred are the precursors that propel us into a mode of self-destruction. When we continue to feed these nonproductive emotions, they develop into enemies that attack from within and enable us to commit dangerous and heinous acts. Problems never can and never will be resolved from the use of our emotions.
Remember that it takes the right situation to reveal a person’s real character.
Based on life experience, all of us have an individualized breaking point. Have you ever been falsely accused? It is a terrible feeling to know that you are innocent, but cannot prove that you are not guilty. One of the first steps to identifying your strengths and weaknesses is to reflect on your response to the accusation.
What about injustice? I can recall standing in line at the store, and the four individuals ahead of me paid for their purchases with debit cards, and when it was my turn, I was asked for my driver’s license to verify the name on my card. As I felt the anger well up, I handed her my license and joked about the change in my hair color since the driver’s license picture was taken.
Anger is a normal response when we have suffered from discrimination, biases, and diabolical plots. However, we must stand-down our rage and not let our thoughts evolve into wrongful words and actions. Once the seed of bitterness is within us, it is impossible to stop the growth until anger becomes rage, and feeling disgruntled flourishes into hatred. Whether it is silent or aloud, say a prayer, and remain calm.
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10. We are not in the position to judge others; we fight the internal riot of good versus evil every day of our lives. Over-confidence says, “No, I would never do that,” and with that mindset, we place ourselves into the dangerous area of self-reliance. Satan is always ready to tempt and present the perfect situation to make us fall, often into doing the exact things that we said that we would never do. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15
Our Heavenly Father knows our limitations and our failures, and He is always here to forgive us, to help us, and to comfort us. As Believers, we will face a more significant battle than social injustices, or the glass ceiling, or any of the atrocities from the “isms.” For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
Lest we forget, within three days, 5/31-6/2, the COVID-19 is showing signs of resurgence in the United States with an increase of 40,967 cases and 1,457 deaths. Our heartfelt prayers extend to over 6,000,000 infected individuals and the families of 375,000 individuals who passed away from this vicious disease.
When we place ourselves in God’s hands, He silences the Internal Riot. We do not react. We interact through prayer with the Almighty, who tells us to, “Be still and stay calm,” I am here to rescue you. But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14
Bible Reading: Exodus 14
God, we desperately need your help. With disease, death, and destruction, our world is so out of control. We make the decision today to place our lives within your hands. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.
© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2020, No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes without the written permission of the author.