A friend sent this article to me and asked what I thought about it. This was hard for me, but I want to share my take.
This is a report of #blacklivesmatter protestors refusing to let people, in these cases an older white man and a white man biking with his 3 kids, pass on the sidewalk.
Situations like this are tricky. I think, perhaps, my impression of this is very different than another white person’s would be solely because I have been shown so much from friends and relations who are minorities. I can think back, though, to what I would have seen in this 20 year ago and what I’m sure much of my family would think of this.
This seems like it may be a situation where white people see “reverse racism” or people just being rude and “uppity” to others who are just trying to go about their day. And with that view I can see why there is such a backlash against #blacklivesmatter.
My own first thought was that the protesters are making their cause look bad and that it’s stuff like this that will set the cause back.
And then…I checked my privilege.
I am particularly lucky in that a very good high school friend of mine teaches ethnic and gender studies. She is half Vietnamese, had been in and out of the foster system, had an abusive father, and is queer. I have learned A LOT from her about the other side of things.
I decided to read through this article again and this time I thought that the “elderly” man (he wasn’t really that old) was just being a jerk, to be honest. I don’t care if a group of teens with signs that say “Pokemon Matters” are blocking a sidewalk, I would have just walked around. No big deal. (Full disclosure, however, my husband and I just discussed that we might have a different opinion if someone had been in a wheelchair. As disability awareness advocates we see that there are a lot of mobility issues that would need to be considered here.)
Next, I started to think that it was terrible to make the guy on the bike WITH KIDS go around.
Again, I checked myself.
Why was that worse? He could easily take his bike another direction. He could use this as a teaching moment to show his kids that freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest is incredibly important and is the foundations of this country.
So, when it really comes down to it I think the protestors HAD to be asshole to be effective By letting people through they would be allowing this underlying stream of racism in our society to continue. African Americans have had to step aside for white people for hundreds of years. They have been told where they can eat, drink, walk, stand, and sleep. They have been denied the same basic rights that white citizens take for granted: who (or if) they can marry, whether they can get an education, whether they can vote, and whether they will be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This has happened since they were dragged off of slave ships in chains and it is still happening. Some of these protestors likely wanted to let the people by because they are no doubt kind and decent people, but they also are aware that being kind hasn’t done anything for them yet and it is time to be heard. Now is the time have to stand their ground and fight until the rest of society can see why they are there in the first place.