Protesting doesn’t “DO” anything

The other day a colleague told me that he doesn’t understand why people block the streets and disrupt his commute to protest. According to him, protesting doesn’t “DO” anything.

Immigration Ban Protest at Chicago’s Federal Plaza | source: wikimedia

When I questioned him further he told me “no serious policy change” has come about as a result of protest action. After I cited the civil rights movement of the 1960s, I was told “well that was different.”

Why?

These protests sprung from the centuries-old, systemic oppression of people of color by whites. The entire movement can be attributed to a marginalized minority group with no other course of redress. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” consisted and served only the interests of white Americans. Folks of color, primarily black people, were so disenfranchised and downtrodden by the societal apparatus that they had no other way to express themselves, vent their frustration, or be heard.

In the days before the Internet and social media, taking to the streets was akin to sharing a status or posting to a trending hashtag. Standing up for what you believe in, disrupting a majority group’s privilege, being heard, and being seen is, quite frankly, DOING a lot.

Congressman John Lewis as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is beaten by white police officers on March 7, 1965. | source: US Embassy The Hague

Being in the streets, eating up government resources, reminding the majority that America does not stand for tyranny, and disrupting a status quo that seeks to dehumanize and disenfranchise minority groups calls attention. It calls a lot of attention.

But what about “counter-protesters”? Don’t they call a lot of attention too?

Today: A Trump rally where a black woman is beaten and verbally abused. Is it so different from a crowd of white people beating, fire hosing, and turning dogs upon black people in the streets?

Today: “Counter-protesters” in Berkeley who beat victims senseless while the police look on with indifference, or are complicit themselves. Dallas. Ferguson. Detroit. Cleveland. Baton Rouge.

A 1942 sign in a Detroit suburb. Make America Great Again? | source: wikimedia

So “counter-protesting” is not a real thing. It’s a term coined by modern day oppressors to whitewash acts of intimidation. Extra-judicial killings of minorities are not new to America. The shame of lynching, abuse, and systematic violence as a form of oppression continues.

The extra-judicial killing, lynching, of Laura Nelson in May 1911. | source: wikimedia

Recently race-based violence has superseded justice and imposed death sentences upon Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, and Laquan McDonald. for being of color. And it keeps happening. Again. And again.

So the next time you hear someone speaking from a place blinded by a history of privilege, check them. Check yourself. And acknowledge that protesting is a legitimate way of DOING something. Anything. For some people, it’s the only option they have.