If there is one thing the events in Charlottesville and Durham revealed last week it is the broad spectrum of opinions and reactions progressives had as events unfolded. Understandably, emotions are running high. None of us can watch the blatant racism and white supremacist rhetoric coming from the highest levels of authority in our country and not be angered by what is happening.
Unfortunately, in these reactive moments, we have failed to stop and realize the resistance is not a single, monolithic group. It’s made up of individuals all across the country that bring different histories and life experiences to these events as they break in real-time. As one of our coalition partners said, “Some of us are dealing with the fresh openings of old wounds. Some of us are learning that we have more work ahead of us than previously thought.” Every single one of us is going to react in different ways because we are all unique human beings, and we can’t fault each other for that.
What we do control in these moments is our willingness to listen. We have an incredible opportunity to open our minds so we can understand the context others bring to the discussion and become more informed and aware.
In one of the many chat groups this week discussing these events, we saw a great perspective from Lisa Hazirjian. She said:
“We’re a nation of laws that oppress black people. My comfortable, white upbringing raised me to believe in following proper channels. My education and life experience have taught me that proper channels are often tools of the oppressor, as is the case with the cumbersome laws now in place to protect markers celebrating white supremacy, laws put there by white supremacists elected office. So I’m good – more than good – with civil disobedience bringing the Durham statue down.
But what I think ultimately matters less than what I see: municipalities across the country hearing the BOOM of that statue falling as a wake-up call to be proactive about bringing down similar statues – witness Baltimore, among others.
Sometimes we need civil disobedience in one place to spark action through ‘proper channels’ in others.”
For those of us brought up to follow the proper channels, direct action protest can make us uncomfortable. Most of us have never had to work outside the proper channels because they worked for us. There are also those, like attorneys, who are not able to be seen turning a blind eye to illegal direct actions. Others, who are oppressed by these channels, don’t have the luxury of being uncomfortable. It is easy to see why they need to make their voices louder and actions bigger so they can draw attention to the issues that would otherwise be swept aside or ignored.
Let’s be honest, it’s time we as a nation address the white supremacist history of the United States. Author Brene Brown hosted a Facebook Live video event this week and talked about how this is the story of the United States. We can ignore it and push it to one side, but the pain it causes will only get worse. If we really want to address it, we need to acknowledge it and have the tough conversations.
Reverend Barber reminded all of us this week our actions do not stand in isolation. They all need to work together because “If you just pull down the statue but you do not pull down the statutes, the laws that support them, we still have issues.” We can move forward together, but it requires us to embrace different perspectives from our fellow progressives and have these difficult conversations amongst ourselves. We are all marching towards the same goal.