A few words about protest, authenticity, and privilege.
I have been an active member of our local resistance for almost six months. I have been to many protests and rallies, many with my children and my cardboard cutout of Congressman Rodney Davis in tow.
One thing that I keep hearing is how protests need to be “calm” and “polite”, and how we need to “go high”. And I, for one, am getting tired of these instructions. Republicans just voted 24 million people off health care and continue to spread misinformation and lies, even though many of them didn’t even read the bill (ahem, Rodney Davis). The president continues with his attacks on marginalized groups, be they religious or racial, the press, and anyone who dares defy him. He also challenges the very fabric of our democracy with his tweets, revenge firings, and twisted admiration of authoritarian rulers. Yes, these are extraordinary times. My mantra since November has been, “THIS IS NOT OKAY”, because none of this is okay, and protests can and should reflect the direness of this situation. While I am not a “burn it all down” kind of woman, I am also not into guided meditation, drum circles, interpretive dance, dramatic readings of poems, or the singing of various patriotic songs.
If you’re angry, you are allowed to be angry. I don’t need someone telling me how to behave at a protest. Many of us have feelings that are pretty raw, with overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness attached to them. Some people feel the angry protest doesn’t play as well on the 10 p.m. news or into the nice-white-people-protest narrative. And to this, I don’t care for a couple of reasons: 1. I’m not interested in press coverage, I’m more interested in personally reaching out and mobilizing those who want to make change. 2. I’m not white nor am I very nice.
Lastly, there seems to be an underlying sentiment that people should feel proud of what they are doing. Sure, it’s great to be civically minded and locally aware of issues that will directly affect your community. But when being outspoken on the internet about being a liberal or a progressive is seen as an act of bravery, my anger rises. That is not bravery in the least, and if you think so, how about checking your white privilege at the door? Self-congratulatory back-patting is not why I am doing this. I show up for meetings and protests and trainings and marches because I understand what is at stake for me, my family, my friends, and my neighbors. As long as there are people who live in poverty, and as long as people are afraid and angry, our work is far from done. Patting yourself on the back for showing up and holding a sign is nothing; how about knocking on doors, phone banking, lobbying your state representative, or attending a city council meeting?
The only way the resistance will not just be a flash in the pan is by going out of your comfort zone. See a problem, and come up with a plan to fix it. Be the change you want to see and lead by example, and don’t just be a sheep or a face in the crowd. And please, don’t tell me to be nice, because I just might tell you to go screw yourself.