Monday, May 04, 2015

So what are we doing?

Last week a friend responded to events in Baltimore (and in Ferguson and in Tulsa and in South Carolina and in Cleveland and on Staten Island and in the 100s of other less well known locations in which Black lives have visibly not mattered at all):

I am so discouraged. We should not be continuing to fight these fights after almost half a century.

She's right of course (though I might extend the period involved for a couple of hundred years). And like most people likely to read here, she isn't the kind to actually give up.

In fact, burning buildings in Baltimore served as enough of a heads-up to the powers-that-be in that city to get some charges entered against the cops who had a role in Freddie Gray's death. So that's something.

But most of us aren't going out to riot. Been there, done that, but that's for very young people who move rapidly and believe themselves immortal (if not simply worthless). For the rest of us, there have to be other answers.

The Miami Herald's columnist Leonard Pitts is projecting a series of columns on what ordinary folks can do. Here's part of one, quoting his friend the Rev. Tony Lee's advice to a middle aged white woman:

I have a framework for people like her and for others,” said Lee. “It’s educate, advocate and participate.

"Educate means to get educated on the issue. A lot of times, what will happen can end up having a lot of blind spots because you haven’t educated yourself on the issues... As she’s becoming more informed, start talking to the people in her life. She should never minimize what it means to talk to people who are around her, people that she daily deals with...."

Having educated herself, he said, she should advocate, i.e., start “to deal with and talk about these issues and how she feels about them to people who are in decision-making authority in her region, whether it’s her local lawmakers or even her national representatives.

“Just get connected,” he said. “All organizations can use volunteers, [even if] it’s just to come in and say, ‘I’d love to work the phones for you all for a couple of hours a week.’ But find a space to participate. The other piece of participation is to be able to give. Many of the organizations in her region and nationally, need resources to be able to do the work...Never think that any gift is too small.”

Pitts concludes:

It is, admittedly, not an agenda as immediately and viscerally gratifying as street protest. But it highlights a salient truth about American social transformation.

On the street is where the change is demanded. At the table is where it is made.

That last is hard for anyone who has felt the adrenaline rush of releasing the rage and pain on the streets. And change almost never comes without people willing to take it to the streets.

But it also requires others -- lawyers, citizen advocates, financial contributors -- who build the infrastructure to keep the heat on the system when the protesters are resting at home. So what are we doing?


Hattie said...

Yes, I am sick of it all. However, I think a place to start from is to look at the treatment of women. Most women are still a submerged population of drudges, worldwide. As long as half the species can be more or less disregarded, there can be no progress toward justice. So maybe the fight begins with fighting for ourselves and our sisters.

janinsanfran said...

No doubt whatever we have done and continue to do to ensure that women are respected human actors helps. I look at the three young, queer women who popularized the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and have been central to the organizing of militant, national police accountability movement. They wouldn't have been able to get the time of day 40 years ago. Some male pastor with a loud voice would have held center stage. Now they are creating the texture of the resistance. Something happening ...

Full disclosure -- one is someone I've had the privilege to work with.

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