Beyond Voting and Protesting

30 Aug
teacher mm

Moral Monday 2015

The events of these past 14 days not only re-contextualize George Floyd’s murder for us all, they highlight why voting and protesting are not enough. George Floyd was not simply restrained and accidentally killed by one bad cop acting off adrenaline. He was murdered by a system that has shifted power from spontaneously forming angry white mobs to uniformed police. State sanctioned violence against people of color has been here under various names since America was founded. However, when America watched that policeman with his hand in his pocket patiently hold his knee on George Floyd’s neck while he called for help, the reality of police brutality was undeniable. When police then tear gassed and beat protesters, we saw the brutal rule of a militarized police force. For White people who have been grappling with racism — the moment was galvanizing.

Then the DNC Convention used the protests to show their concern, their support, and plans for reform. It was inspiring, but many antiracist progressives watched with suspicion knowing that big donors pull the strings, knowing we will only get what we really want — equality in education, justice, employment, housing, medicine and every single sector — when corporations stop pulling the strings and power is restored to the people. Can that happen by voting? Doubtful. Most young people are very discouraged about voting because they believe what they have heard: the Electoral College rigs the election, and because of gerrymandering, down ballot races are rigged as well.

Then the RNC used the protests to foment a deep and abiding fear in White America — a fear that spontaneously forming mobs will come to their homes and threaten or kill them. The irony of featuring Mark and Patricia McCloskey was not lost on those who know the line of history from lynching mobs to militarized police. The idea that anti-racism is anti-White and that if Whites share or surrender any systemic power, they will be subjected to what Black America has experienced strikes a motivating chord — the convention raised Trumps approval ratings and polls show support for the protestors waning.

So, how do we restore power to the people? Do we really have to stay in the streets? To some extent, the answer to that is yes. But in addition to protesting, there must be a solid movement to building an inclusive culture — not one that separates the “deplorables” from the “enlightened,” but one that redefines “whiteness” in the entirety of its history while simultaneously bringing forth an embracement of multiculturalism.

As White Americans, the ones who hold the majority of power and resources, we have to do the hard work to break our silence about racism and its ill-effects on us all, calling every single white person we know into a culture of civility, belonging, and compassion. Yes, compassion for the people who have militarized the police and oppressed People of Color. Compassion for people who have discriminated, gentrified, and vilified. Compassion for people who have said and done racist things. Compassion for them because WE ARE THEM. We are not so separate from those conservatives who are backing Trump. We are the white people who who benefited from the structures and the systems that have led us here. Yes, us well-intended liberals.

And it is up to us to gather up our people — even and especially the ones with whom we disagree – with compassion and intention and and build an inclusive America where spaces are multicultural and celebrated as such. Where work places and government institutions are anti-racist and work for everyone. Anti-racism belongs to neither political party. Anti-racism is not a political platform . Antiracism is simply a commitment to equality — a social movement of inclusion that lies at the heart of America’s promise.

This vision of a better America is not out of our reach; however, it will never be actualized or even approached if progressives don’t start thinking strategically about power. The oligarchs have been thinking about it and planning for it for decades, as Nancy McLean shared in her book, Democracy in Chains, and the theocrats have been orchestrating for decades as Jeff Sharlett shared in his books, C Street and The Family. These two powerful forces joined in Trump and Pence.

It is going to take more than voting and protesting to save us.

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