If you are a white woman who votes, a member of a union, or a citizen of this country you benefit from protests that were disruptive, and during which people were brutalized...for the rights and protections and freedoms that you enjoy.
The vast majority of white people did not support the actions of the civil rights movement, nor did they think of Dr. King favorably. Only now is he memorialized as a hero.
Here's what I want everyone to know about protest:
1. Protest is Part of Our National Identity – and Always Has Been
Protest has been a part of our national fabric and national identity from the very beginning. Specific acts of protest, from the Boston Tea Party on, lead to the very creation of our nation. Protests have continued to be a part of every single social change and advancement across our national history, including civil rights. Our founding fathers protected the act of protest by including these two important rights in our constitution: the right to “peaceably assemble” and the right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
2. Protests are Intentionally Disruptive – and Always Have Been
Disruption is often the explicit purpose of protest. They can disrupt narratives, process, the economy, or even traffic. Their disruption is rooted in the principle of non-violence. The disruption serves to not only garner attention but also to represent accountability when it’s perceived to be missing from the system. It’s a method to share the burden of the injustices being protested when no other consequences are available.
3. Direct Action is One Form of Non-Violent Protest
Other forms of non-violent protest include economic boycotts, organizing collective buying power, awareness and advocacy campaigns, storytelling through art and dialogue, particularly those that lift up stories that are not often heard. Sometimes an act of protest can be sitting where you’re not supposed to, or kneeling when you’re expected to stand.
4. There Are Usually MANY Leaders
Protests are usually part of movements that include many leaders and many, many different people. Often movement leaders are memorialized differently later, usually in a way that supports a “hero” narrative. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X worked together. They also had different approaches. They were not rivals. Martin Luther King was surrounded by other leaders, like John Lewis, Ella Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer whose participation was essential but who are often left out of the full narrative. Our familiarity with “hero” narratives sometimes causes us to miss the leaders in our midst because they have not been memorialized yet.
5. How Movements are Memorialized Often Doesn’t Match What Really Happened
Our understanding of history also shifts as time progresses and citizens’ perspectives change. Martin Luther King Jr. was not popular in his lifetime. Many of us know that he was assassinated, under constant death threat and that his home was bombed. We often attribute that hatred and dislike only to the white supremacists at the time and forget, or don’t learn, that the majority of the country didn’t hold a favorable view of Martin Luther King Jr. A 1966 Gallup poll showed that only 36% of people had a positive view of him. Yet, in 1999 he was second in a list of Americans that other Americans admired most.
6. Social Change Movements Take a Very Long Time
The seeds for Brown vs. Board of Education were planted decades beforehand. There were 8 years between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. The complex nature of social issues and the this long-term view can make it difficult to recognize crystallized moments of “success” even if there is movement and shifting happening in many places.
7. Protest Movements are Intentional, Purposeful, and Organized
Sometimes stories about protests push forward a narrative that they are spontaneous or develop organically. While there are certainly moments that are unplanned, protest movements tend to be intentional, purposeful and very organized…even if you can’t see it. Sometimes the organization, plans and decision making is intentionally not made transparent in an effort to protect those in leadership roles. Sustained protest campaigns take a lot of pre-planning and are often a part of larger change strategies.
If you are getting stuck in conversations about so-called "black on black crime" you're getting off topic.
If you are getting stuck in conversations about what rights alleged drug-dealers have, you're getting off topic and may be misinformed about what is actually known about Mr. Smith.
Knowing what you know, it's important to consider where you stand...and what protections you will want available to you when you want to petition your government for grievances.
I'd rather your heart hurt when you see the images of Rev. Karla Frye and her grandson. I'd rather you believe the reports and stories and pictures that demonstrate the depth of racial injustice here in St. Louis. I'd rather you want to join us in the fight for a more equitable city and for our own humanity...but at the very, very least you should be very worried about the threats being posed to your own rights as citizens under our constitution.