“There has never been a large scale social change in this country brought about by peaceful protest or demonstration”

I have been vehemently against the violence and destruction of property we have all witnessed over the last few months, even when people much smarter and more educated than I have told me this is necessary for change to happen. I am still skeptical but the more dissent and disassociation I witness first hand, both in social media and in personal interaction on a day to day basis, the more I see what they’ve been trying to tell me. I don’t like it, I don’t endorse it and I don’t want to believe it but the evidence is incontrovertible. Please please prove me wrong.

“There has never been a large scale social change in this country brought about by peaceful protest or demonstration”. I’m not nearly well versed nor eloquent enough to make this argument but I’m listening and I’m studying and I’m trying my very best to find examples of change where law abiding citizens practiced their right to assemble without breaking any laws or windows or barriers and I can’t. I just … I can’t. I want to – desperately – but I can’t. I want these people who are smarter than me to be wrong and I want to prove to them that change can happen peacefully and without violence but I haven’t been able to find a single comparable incident in the history of the United States where this is true.

I understand that it’s a frightening concept and that we are all feeling less secure. I know that this is something that many of us have never had to experience in our lifetimes. I’m scared for myself, my family and my friends on all sides of this issue. I have never in my life considered another human being inferior to me because of their race or complexion. If you were to ask anyone in my family or my friends growing up they would verify this has always been true. I’ve been an outspoken advocate of civil rights even before I completely understood what that meant.

I can tell you stories of times where I myself was questioned simply because I had a black person in the car with me. No I’m not assuming – the officers would actually TELL me that was the reason. “You need to get better friends” was stated to me once when I was dropping a friend off at his house off Lucas & Hunt. “You don’t belong with these people” another time. “Don’t let me catch you down here with this guy again” I was told by a black police officer when I was driving one of my black employees home after he worked a double shift for me at the restaurant I managed. When the lights came on behind me Lonnie (RIP) put his hand firmly around my upper arm in the car and said to me “Mary don’t fight back just agree with whatever he says.” As the officer approached the car I could feel the fear emanating from Lonnie but I was young and naive and I didn’t really understand why he was so afraid. These things happened and they’re still happening every.single.day. I recall once my friend saying after returning from a night out with friends before President Obama was elected the first time “Man I wish you’d been out with us last night” and when I asked why she said “Because you would have put these people in their places.”

I know to many of you I’m still wearing those “rose colored glasses” and I’m seen as a bleeding heart liberal and I’m okay with that because … well … I am. I want desperately to believe that we can create a world where everyone is treated the same. I just want it to happen without anyone getting hurt.

Please … I beg you … prove me wrong. Show me examples of events in the history of the United States where change for the good was implemented with only peaceful demonstration or discussion. Help me find those rose colored glasses again because I miss them.

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3 Responses to “There has never been a large scale social change in this country brought about by peaceful protest or demonstration”

  1. Karen says:

    I have on the same “rose colored glasses” Mary. I’m just an old white Nana. I tried to raise my children not to see color. Was that wrong? By the voice of many it was because that’s just too simple and implied racism doesn’t exist. That was not my intent but what would a white mama know about the pain of growing up black? I wish someone would tell me what I can do to bring change. My whole life I have felt the guilt of being white. I have felt ashamed of the way people of color have been treated. I try to understand the anger but like you I want to believe there is a peaceful solution. I don’t want to hear that I can’t possibly understand because that’s a given. I want someone to say here’s what you can do to help because apparently “not seeing color” is not the right answer.

  2. It’s a good question, Mary. I’m not sure that I can dispute your assertion.

    But is it the violence that effects change for the better? Or is it the violence that puts the protesters down – and shows the true face of evil until no decent person can look away anymore and pretend it’s anything BUT the face of evil – that effects change?

    I want to be like Gandhi or the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis. I fear that I am only a bundle of wishful thinking wrapped around a mama tiger who would come out ready to bloody her claws at the first threat to her cubs. Dear God, world, don’t test me. I am not a saint.

    No, not seeing color isn’t the right answer, Karen. That’s as impossible as not seeing gender. What’s needed all around is empathy. Not tolerance – that implies there’s something that’s not good enough and needs to be “tolerated.” An appreciation for, an embracing of, diversity – that’s what’s needed. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and we need to work together like locks and keys. But we can’t, not when we refuse to acknowledge that we’re not whole without each other.

    As white women, we arguably have it better than people of color. But let’s not forget it was 50 YEARS after black MEN got the vote before ANY women did. We can’t reduce the quest for equality into “my plight’s worse than your plight” – because although it’s arguably true and may help to prioritize the areas that need work, the work’s not done until all men and women are equally valued. We are NOT the same; we deserve to be equally valued.

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