“A riot is the language of the unheard,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commented in 1967 when speaking at Stanford University.

In 2020, this quote gained prominence as some people quoted it to explain away the looting and rioting that marred racial justice protests last summer.

Less than a year later, riots are suddenly unacceptable to the very same people.

There is a double standard in how the mainstream media have treated the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob attempted to storm the U.S. Capitol.

The violent actions of unhinged individuals were despicable and they should be prosecuted.

Similarly, those who burned down cars, looted private establishments, defaced public buildings and monuments, and caused mayhem in cities across America during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests should be vigorously prosecuted.

Unfortunately, Americans are now coming to expect rioting as part of the constitutionally-protected mass protests. It should not be so.

Dr. King condemned riots calling them “socially destructive” and “self-defeating,” urging his brothers and sisters not to pursue or co-sign on to violence as a means to their desired ends.

We believe in peaceful, nonviolent protest regardless of the cause.

Even in the same speech, Dr. King condemned riots calling them “socially destructive” and “self-defeating,” urging his brothers and sisters not to pursue or co-sign on to violence as a means to their desired ends.

Instead, we are now debating whether some riots are justified on moral grounds and not others. Since last week, leaders on the left and in the mainstream media have bent backward trying to convince us that the BLM protests of last summer and last week’s assault on the U.S. Capitol were neither the same nor morally equivalent.

CNN’s Don Lemon argued that the riots “are not comparable” while his colleague Chris Cuomo added that we should know “it’s not apples to apples.”

The New York Post’s editorial board rightly challenged that the Left is attempting to rewrite the story of last summer’s riots.

This is a foolish debate that distracts from the point that Dr. King was making. Many Americans feel unheard and aggrieved, but the question then and today is “what is it that America has failed to hear?”

The situation for Blacks has improved from when King penned those words by many measures. Blacks are living longer and child mortality rates have fallen.

Blacks are better educated today as high school diplomas are nearly universal among younger blacks today compared with just over half in 1968. Poverty rates for blacks fell to their lowest levels and incomes skyrocketed to their highest levels in 2019.

Blacks can be found in every level of government, business, and civil society.

Yet, by other measures, Blacks are either stagnant or faring worse than during Dr. King’s time. Pregnancy mortality rates for black mothers are three to five times higher than for women of other races. The number of children born to unmarried mothers skyrocketed from about one out of three to three out of four. The black homeownership rate is lower today than in 1968.

Incarceration rates for Black men have almost quadrupled from 1960 to 2010.

These are real issues that some people believed they were marching for last year.

Unfortunately, the political and civil leaders capitalized on the frustration of blacks for electoral success, over immediate reforms. For example, when given the chance to work with conservatives to advance federal bipartisan policing reform, they rejected the attempt as not going far enough.

Yet, since the effort last summer, we have had no legislative efforts.

Supporters of President Trump also felt unheard.

Whether that was at the ballot box or for decades as politicians pursued policies that decimated the middle class and demeaned those who lacked advanced degrees.

A lack of opportunities and access to economic mobility left many communities in generational poverty. Outsourced manufacturing left empty factories and unemployed workers.

The shops and businesses that served those job centers also disappeared, leaving ghost towns. Poverty, drug abuse, and low educational attainment still plague areas of our country captured so well by J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.”

The cultural onslaught of radical ideas forcing people to change how they speak, think, raise their families, view life, and conduct their lives and reinforced by the media left many Americans feeling disenchanted and alone. In President Trump, they saw a champion for the Forgotten Man.

These groups may be different but they both belong to the majority of Americans who said in a 2017 poll that they felt Washington did not hear them.

These groups may be different but they both belong to the majority of Americans who said in a 2017 poll that they felt Washington did not hear them.

Voters also felt that lawmakers do not value their opinion and see them as having little worth. This breeds contempt for government and resentment over how others are seemingly treated.

Citizens have the right to rally, protest, or march. It doesn’t matter the reason.

Politicians and the media will try to exploit these grievances to reinforce the divisions in our nation. Instead of denying our fellow citizens the right to air their grievances, we must listen and figure out what needs to change then begin the hard work of reform.