The Root Cause of Riots

In the wake of violent riots in Baltimore, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts placed the blame on high school students who “thought it was cute to throw cinder blocks at police.”   He ordered parents to “Take control of your kids.”  Yet it’s fairly obvious to anyone paying attention that this is unlikely to happen.  Parents will not get control of their “kids”, whether they are adults or still minors.  Though he probably didn’t realize it, Commissioner Batts’ statement got to the heart of the problem of cyclic mob violence in our nation.  The trouble is, the only solution is a complete social revolution…and I don’t mean a violent one.

The cycle for violence and mob rule goes something like this: something happens–someone is killed or hurt, there are racial implications because of the individuals involved; regardless of whether the action was justified or not, emotions immediately implode in the affected community (often stoked by opportunists and rabble rousers); because the values of justice over vengeance, and civility and delayed gratification were never taught in the home, these emotions immediately result in rioting (anger) and looting (entitlement); the police come in and try to quell the situation, and fail; the National Guard gets involved, and order is temporarily restored but the deep-seated hatred of the “oppressors” is never resolved; time passes, and another incident with racial implications occurs; rinse, repeat.

No one ever tackles the true underlying issues of this deep-seated hatred and belief in “oppression” as the cause for the community’s ills. Those who are trying to tackle the issue are doing it in such a way that will only make it worse.  They justify these deep-seated emotions, and delay true progress in the community.  They claim that some are “privileged” and they blame the disproportionate level of crime and lack of wealth in some communities on the “oppressors.”  Some blame the rioting on “police brutality” or “police militarization.”  And still others claim that the rioters are only a small percentage of the whole, and that most protesters are peaceful.

As a libertarian, I 100% agree that police militarization is a real problem, and that it will destroy the freedoms in our nation.  For instance, the facts show that black Americans are incarcerated for some crimes at a disproportionate rate.  This indicates that injustice has occurred.  People like Soros, who would love to see martial law in our nation, and people like Sharpton, who love to stoke anger about these issues in order to cash in, point out to the “oppressed” that they must seek vengeance over their “oppressors.”  When the “oppressed” buy into it and riot, all they do is further the cause of police militarization and police brutality.

But these issues are the symptoms, not the root cause.  Riots have at their root cause the lack of trust in or belief in justice, and the belief in vengeance in the stead of justice.  And this issue is the underlying reason for any impoverished community’s lack of progress, regardless of skin color or background.

I believe the family’s disintegration is the primary reason for impoverished communities’ economic and social stagnancy.  The US Census Bureau said in 2011 that children who grow up without a father are four times as likely to be poor as children who grow up with both parents.  A Princeton University study in 2004 pointed out that these children are twice as likely to enter a life of crime.  The National Institute of Justice, in 1998, published a study that found 63% of youth suicides, 85% of children with behavioral disorders , and 71% of high school dropouts all come from fatherless homes.  Indeed, a 2013 McGill University study in Canada found that growing up fatherless can have a permanent, detrimental effect on brain development, and lead to increased aggression, likelihood to have mental illness, and poor intellectual abilities.

Toxic stress is a real psychological phenomenon that has potentially permanent detrimental effects, and it affects impoverished communities more than others.  In 2008, 72% of black babies were born to unwed mothers.  According to US Census data from 2004, 59% of all black children will grow to maturity without ever living with a father, so unmarried cohabitating doesn’t account for this statistic.  What does all of this mean?  It means that decisions determine destiny.

With only one parent in the household, with poverty rates high, and with psychological and intellectual deficits as a result of the parents’ poor decisions, it is no wonder some have trouble getting “control of their kids.”  And if this is a multi-generational problem, then the parents dealing with these issues today are probably suffering from the same poor decisions that their parents made.  Like abuse or addiction, it runs in a cycle, and requires an individual revolution to fix it.  In order to fix it at a societal level, it would require millions of individual revolutions.  People in 12-step programs will say that the first step is admitting that you have a problem, but the community can’t do that if it constantly blames others for these problems.  And those who tried to help these communities with their charity are now mourning their burned-out senior centers.

Meanwhile, the cycle continues.  Under these conditions of cyclic poverty, it is virtually impossible for parents to instill values of family, love, and decency in their children, let alone the ideas of justice versus vengeance, or charity over entitlement.   Toxic stress is at an all-time high.  So it is no wonder there is a push for “democracy” (ie, mob rule).  When a community is unwilling to obey the law, the law ceases to be effective at all, and perpetual chaos results.


Like everything else, obedience is always a decision.  No one can force it on another individual, despite how much the government would love to come in and try.  But until the principles of faith, hope, and charity are instilled by loving families in a community, one cannot hope for the prevalence of the higher principles of independence, self-determination, and realizing one’s full potential.  They simply won’t exist.  As L. Tom Perry, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has warned multiple times, if we allow Satan to diminish the role of fathers in the home, our society will reap the incredibly destructive consequences.

If you resolve this issue of family structure, you will slowly resolve all of the other problems.  Rabble rousers and opportunists will have no ability to sway the minds and direct the actions of the masses, because the values taught in the home will mean that most individuals cannot be duped.  Most would cease to believe that their problems are the result of outside forces because they would have been taught responsibility and introspection in the home.  When police brutality or government overreach does occur, it will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  If an underlying problem is found in a police force, the republican form of government (ie, rule by law) will take over, and those responsible will lose their positions as the public elects those who are capable of serving them.  Riots will only occur as a result of intoxicated young people with poor judgment celebrating a win or lamenting a loss of a sports game.  In other words, they will be one-off events with no underlying hatred or ticking time bomb attached.  Crime, which invites police brutality, will decrease, as more children are taught moral values and will strive to make something of their lives.  People will always make bad decisions–that is human nature.  But meaning and purpose in life will do more to quell crime than any other intervention.  If the issue of family structure was resolved in impoverished communities, we as a society would witness a social revolution.

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