America can’t breathe. Years of racial injustices, laws designed to oppress, and financial practices meant to keep black people disadvantaged have finally caught up with the nation. The generation, whose role models include Harry Potter and Katness, are rising up and speaking out.
There is no magic wand we can wave, and the current state of our world is much more than a game, but we were taught to resist. And to persist. We know our rights, and protesting is among them. We are not afraid. There is a lot of talk about what is happening at these protests, and I hope that I can help separate reality from propaganda.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”― Desmond Tutu
The truth as I have seen it
I have been following many live feeds of Black Lives Matter protests. Every single one I have seen was peaceful on the part of the protestors. My sixteen-year-old daughter went to one in Billings, Montana without me, because I was at work. She wore a mask, and as it was a smaller protest, she was able to stay pretty far away from others. She peacefully chanted things like:
- I can’t breathe
- No justice, no peace, no racist police
- Say his name; George Floyd
During her time there, most people honked in support or raised a fist in solidarity. Until the one middle-aged (to a slightly older man) in the pickup truck laid on his horn and proceeded to call my child a “fucking idiot.”
I am glad I wasn’t there because I might have been the one to start some violence. Drive on by if you want to be a fool, but do not anger the mamas. Just like George Floyd ignited the power of motherhood within all of us, you will only make us madder. Troll somewhere else, pal.
I recently saw a picture of a 51-year-old man (who has since been arrested) screaming into the masked face of a 14-year-old black girl. She stood there and held her ground. I cried. I cried for the babies that have to deal with the ignorance of some human beings.
She will go far in this world, while the man who screamed profanity at the crowd chanting the word “peaceful” has been charged with disorderly conduct. Despite shoving officers and continuing to badger people while being led away, he gets to have his day in court. That is more than we can say for George and countless others.
My friend watched nearly 7 hours of the live feed that the local Black Lives Matter group in West Virginia had of their protest, and it was entirely peaceful. I have seen days worth of live coverage from the protests in NY. None of the people protesting (that I have seen) were violent even when they encountered nasty, angry people.
Let’s talk about the nasty, angry people
I have heard so many people question, “Why are they destroying their own houses and businesses?” Some say it is because we have reached a boiling point, and people do not care anymore. They will make their point; however, they need to, much as early Americans did with the Boston Tea Party. That seems plausible, and I wouldn’t blame people for being this angry.
But let’s take a moment and think about what happens the very minute there is any “looting” and violence attributed to the protesters. The president starts saying things like, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
People say something like, “Well, I agreed that the death of George Floyd was wrong, but so is the looting. They shouldn’t be doing that.” And the masses lose their anger because now things are not civil. Who benefits from this kind of blame game?
Not the people involved in the protesting, and they know that. It is the voices who wish to be the only ones heard; That of the man who wants to maintain the status quo. That person who doesn’t understand why it is not “All lives matter” feels vindicated because these protestors are violent. Ask yourself where the pallets of bricks have come from? Who is buying them and delivering them?
My friend in West Virginia witnessed the spread of information about a late-night riot, supposedly from the local Black Lives Matter group, but it turned out to be from a fake account! The real group caught it and used all social media outlets to communicate that it was a setup. A setup?!?! Like this isn’t a volatile enough situation without having to contend with organized trolls!
Let’s talk about change
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Leo Tolstoy
The Black Lives Matter protest my daughter went to last week, was organized by a group of teenagers. It was small, but powerful because the majority of the people there were young (16-21 ish)—adults with standing in the community organized today’s rally. This event had a press conference, social media promotion, an agenda that included speakers, and a police presence.
There were approximately 1300 people the Billings rally, including a few counterprotesters (which I do not understand, but that is also their right). Even here in a mostly red state, where the majority of people were armed, there was no violence. It is important to note that when Treyvon Martin was murdered, the same couple organized a protest in his honor and five—yes, you read that right—five people showed up.
Our world is hurting right now, but I believe that it is also capable of becoming a better place. The change that is needed will come from within each of us. The world will be a much more pleasant place if we can live our lives with empathy and compassion for others, a willingness to listen, and a desire to create change. Have you been to a Black Lives Matter protest in your area? Share in the comment section below, where you are from, and what you witnessed.
“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”― Martin Luther King, Jr.