I was a nervous wreck, but determined. I wanted to do this, but I also secretly hoped that a notification would pop up on my phone saying the event was cancelled due to low turnout. I felt super guilty over that, but had to remind myself that that was how I felt about every social gathering I was invited to.
My therapist had informed me that morning that protests were taking place only a few streets away. I had confessed to her that part of me wanted to join in the rallies, but I was intimidated at the thought of traveling far from home — especially since I’d be going alone. So hearing that there was something within walking distance bolstered my resolve.
I found the Facebook Event page for the gathering. Only two people were marked as Going — myself and the organizer. There were supposed to be thunderstorms that afternoon and I hoped it would be cancelled because of that. The selfish wishes of an extreme introvert who, up until this week, never thought she would go out and protest for anything.
But I listened to shitty things Trump had said on my walk there, and that reminded me as to why I wanted to go. So I kept moving forward despite all my social anxiety tendencies SCREAMING for an excuse to head home.
Honestly, my hesitance wasn’t related to the cause itself. I knew there wouldn’t be much, if any, police presence there at all. The protest itself had happened five days in a row already and was labeled as ‘family friendly’, indicating that people had brought their small children with them.
No, I was more afraid of being one person in a group of 4 people, and that I would be looked at funny if I didn’t stay the scheduled three full hours.
I knew it was an irrational worry and that my anxiety was just getting the better of me, and that anyone and everyone would be happy just to have someone show up with their support. On top of that, no matter the size of the crowd, it was important to show up. It was better to show up for a little bit than to never show up at all. So I kept walking on. The protest had started at 5:30 PM and I got there around 5:50 PM. Again, with the intent to ensure that that I wouldn’t be one of the first people to arrive because I wanted to join in, but not actually talk to anyone.
As I neared the intersection where the event was taking place, I felt a wave of relief wash over me as I saw small crowds had accumulated — primarily white people, too, which made me laugh — on all four street corners of the intersection. Each corner had their own person with a megaphone and they would take turns leading chants in between bouts of waving signs and cheering at cars who honked in agreement as they went by.
It comforted me to know that nobody was paying attention to me as I wandered up and took a place (with a reasonable amount of distance and a mask on, of course) among the crowd. I joined right in with the chanting and kind of wished I had brought a sign. Once the social anxiety had been defeated, I was focused on the crowd and the energy around me.
Everyone was so fiercely present. I only paused a few times to take pictures/video of the crowd because I wanted to document the number of people who supported the cause. It made me so happy to see people (again, primarily Caucasian!) gathering in support of the cause. It made me happy to see children as young and six holding up signs that they had clearly made themselves. It made me happy to hear the cars honking excitedly as they drove past, with people raising fists out the window as they drove by.
A few of those drivers were black themselves, and when I caught a glimpse of the HUGE smile on their faces, my heart felt whole. One man even hung out of the passenger side window of a semi-truck, shouting “THIS IS FREAKING AWESOME!” and cheering with all of us. I wanted to cry because I was so glad we had made their day.
Those of us that gathered there were validating the fact that we cared about them. That we saw them as people whose lives held worth, held significance and meaning. I want to bottle that up and hand it to every black person who has ever felt otherwise; in this day and age, I feel like they need it more than ever.
I don’t know if I will attend another rally, but I am satisfied with the fact that I know one I can go to if I muster up the courage to leave my house again for a certain amount of time. All the while, I have done my best to donate to BLM related causes and spread both factual information and positivity during this time. I can only hope that the change we need occurs as a result of the world’s efforts. Until then — no justice, no peace.
But on that note, I want to speak my mind about the movement that is happening right now — if only from my perspective.
When I first heard of the looting going on, it was through a video of a Target being ransacked in George Floyd’s name. My initial reaction was that of worry and maybe even disappointment. I thought: I don’t think it’s right to cause destruction in his memory. Why hurt the community when it was the cops that killed him?
But later that night I was thinking about it again, and I came to realize something: that the looting (at least initially) was an act of desperation and frustration. That peaceful protests often went ignored or dismissed. In fact, news coverage barely even focused on George Floyd’s injustice UNTIL the riots and looting started happening. So mission accomplished, right? Now they were seen and heard. They had been all but invisible before.
Of course there will always be opportunists who just want a free TV, or want to run around in their Joker cosplay and pretend they’re the center of it all. It’s stupid and pathetic and those individuals are in desperate need of therapy.
But I understand why people looted, at least at the start. I understand why they set cars on fire and fought and screamed because nobody cared until then. And it shouldn’t be that way, but it’s the truth. Racism is a system that has been implemented since America was born. It needs to be dismantled completely, and change is never comfortable. We are all uncomfortable at this time and even if it doesn’t feel great it’s a good sign because it precedes a revolution that is desperately needed.
I think back to how many times school children have marched, walked out, begged and pleaded their government officials to save their lives by implementing stricter gun control laws. It didn’t change anything.
If I had a child to send to school today, I would have to accept the fact that they might not come home due to a psychopath with an assault rifle he bought online.
Marching and peaceful protest doesn’t work in America alone. You have to fight however you can and you can’t turn a blind eye to what’s happening and hope for the best. That is how the system has gone on for so long. For too long.
If All Lives Matter, then Black Lives should be included in that “All” and they are not. They’re just not. Not right now, not in the majority of the country. This isn’t a pick-and-choose situation. If I say I want to donate to children starving in North Korea, that doesn’t mean I immediately want every other nation’s children to go hungry. That logic is garbage and only those who cannot see past their privilege will use it.
I do my very best to be aware of my own privilege. I have always been a cis-het able-bodied female who passes for white and although my anxiety-induced paranoia makes me believe I’m going to be hurt/killed by any shadow that moves, that isn’t the reality of things. I can get away with a lot and I have because I’m not black. Again, that isn’t right but it is the truth.
I hope that the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement pay off. I don’t expect radical change overnight, but I hope that through this applied pressure and the act of voting will assist in making the People’s wants heard.
And I hope Trump is thrown in prison to rot for all of the bad karma he’s accumulated in his life time.