‘This is what people do when they have not been heard’: A local professor weighs in on the cause of riots

WATCH: What causes riots?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said these words more than 50 years ago.

“A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”

This week, we’ve heard that same language across Minneapolis as protesters burned police precincts and looted businesses in response to George Floyd’s death.

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Dr. Charles McKinney studies the relationship between riots and African Americans at Rhodes College.

“This is what people do when they have not been heard when they have been disempowered,” said McKinney.

McKinney said riots can bring moments of clarity, highlighting years of systemic issues that may be plaguing a community.

“Everybody in the country right now is talking about police brutality right and again this is what happens when those conversations aren’t elevated, aren’t taken seriously by people in power by people who could actually police brutality,” McKinney said.

“What is it that America has failed to hear,” King asked.

McKinney said it’s now time to see how elected officials will respond to address the underlining issues that bubbled over during these riots

“What does it look like to increase and heighten accountability? What does it look like to start thinking critically and seriously about you know making police brutality, a central issue in the election of district attorneys and mayors,” McKinney said.

McKinney said it’ll take some major policy reform to address these systemic issues.