Small Town Protests and Racism

On Monday evening, about 150 people turned up as a sign of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. It was an effort organized by some students in the middle school, and you can read a more full report in the local online paper here. I think it was an admirable effort, though I did not attend personally. However, what I’d like to focus on is the fallout from that demonstration.

For one thing, two white men (one holding a Trump sign, one holding an American flag) took it upon themselves to show up to the rally against racism to . . . show that they are racist. You would think surely no one would be that brainless and callous, but you’d be wrong. As the crowd chanted “Black Lives Matter,” they called back “F*** black lives.” I’ve seen the video. Read the accounts. This happened, no matter how much some on Facebook wanted to call it into question. And in the Facebook fallout from the depiction of their actions, some commented saying they were in the crowd, heavily armed, waiting for someone to confront the Trumpites.

I’m speechless. Just read that paragraph above one more time and process it.

Then in the comments section of the article I linked to above, you have the typical sampling of people showing up to proudly crow about how “All lives matter” or talk about how much “black on black” violence there is. It’s incredibly discouraging to see these events and these comments, people so confident and set in their opinion that racism doesn’t exist, exists only elsewhere, or that they themselves aren’t part of the problem, because it’s far away, and why should they worry about it?

I would like to think much of this is just done and said out of ignorance, but in the end, how much better is that? The fact that people felt entitled enough to show up to rally against people rallying against racism is the biggest argument I can’t think of in favor of small towns having rallies against racism.

Why didn’t I attend personally? I was torn on this one. On the one hand, I wanted to go and show my support. On the other, I was worried about what might happen at the rally, and I wanted to keep my kids out of it. So in the end I stayed home. I guess that means I stayed home out of cowardice. Would it have been more helpful for me to go in person? I’m still not sure. If more people aren’t willing to speak up and speak out, I’m not sure how this problem gets solved. I will say I’m glad in hindsight that I kept my kids out of this one, but I’m still conflicted about the balance between public protest and personal safety. (I have the privilege of being able to choose to go protest or not. People of color don’t have the privilege of going out in public or not. Subjecting themselves to racism or not . . .)

As I said in a previous post, to make lasting change, we need to do more than protest and rally now. We need to make changes in November. Vote out racists and vote in people who will actually serve to help. In the meantime, it’s important to recognize these problems aren’t isolated to big cities or someplace far away. They’re all around us. We can make a difference on a local level by calling out racism or intolerance when we see it. Speaking up when people make a comment or a joke they shouldn’t.

Do what you can, as you can. Every little bit helps. Sometimes I think people feel like if they don’t do something huge, then they might as well not do anything. If we could get more people to make small changes every day, that would go a long way to making changes on a big level. We need a sea change, not an isolated storm, though isolated storms can help people see the need for a sea change.

Here’s hoping the tide keeps coming in. For now, I’d settle for getting to the point where people don’t feel comfortable standing on the steps of the post office and spewing hate. (Not that they were all that comfortable. They wore hoodies and masks so you couldn’t see their faces.)


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