I eavesdropped on a conversation yesterday in regards to all the women marching across the country.
“Why are they marching? Is it an anti-Trump protest?”
“They have just as much rights as men.”
“I asked my wife to name one right that is under threat.”
I could only sit and fume and shake my head as my brain scrambled to process people’s thoughts that were so unlike my own. Isn’t it funny that’s exactly what they were doing?
I’m so happy I went to Springfield’s Women’s March. It has given me a new response to opposing views during this extremely divided and heated presidential cycle.
The march was an emotional day. Just driving downtown took more courage than I could muster. I came up with every excuse under the sun on why I shouldn’t go (I do not like crowds, I do not enjoy chanting, or theatrics…shoot, if I find out dancing is involved at a concert, I’ll feign illness and sit in the back of the club). But I went.
As I congregated with over a thousand other Springfield residents, I wanted to get pumped about the march, to be excited and chant back the call to action.
—> Are Human Rights!
This is what Democracy Looks Like!
—-> This is what Democracy Looks Like!
I kept going back between feeling empowered and critiquing everything. The person leading the call-and-responses, and one of the main organizers, was a white guy. The people in attendance? White. Almost all of us. Springfield is an extremely conservative homogenous community, so I shouldn’t have expected otherwise.
I walked with my friend Michelle, mostly in silence. It didn’t seem the time to strike up conversation about her new house, or how school is going. But I couldn’t raise my fist and chant either. So I kept walking, and commenting on how impressed I was at the turnout.
Thank goodness for the rally speakers. Oh my goodness, thank goodness for them. Representatives from an immensely diverse community showed up to talk to us, the (mostly) privileged white people of SWMO. I heard from the head of the St. Louis Planned Parenthood, who THANKFULLY reminded us that here, on that very square, four black men were mobbed and lynched. So while we were there celebrating our coming together, we could not forget who suffered and still do, so that we can join in peaceful congregation.
I wish I wrote down the names of the speakers. I went between streaming tears of joy to sorrow, listening to our State Representative talk about being a leader AND a mother; a survivor of domestic violence who hopped on a bus with her children and moved to Missouri to start a new life; a trans woman rallying us to be good to each other but angry to our elected officials, in that we let them know how we feel; pastors on the front lines in Ferguson; a Muslim Student attending Missouri State; an ecologist and biologist defending those organisms that cannot speak; and on and on.
These speeches had to be seen in real life, amongst the two thousand other people. Not read online, or seen through the gauzy filters of Instagram. They were most impactful because we were all there, in that moment, standing in solidarity, and rooting for a bigger cause than just ourselves.
There were two speeches that struck a deep chord with me, though. One woman who stepped up and said because of her bi-racial light-skinned blackness, white people love her. She’s “safe.” But she didn’t have safe things to say. She wants us all to not use this march as a token. To use to post to social media, and leave at that. She wants us to meet others with different ideologies and skin color and spirituality, and to ask questions.
The other woman had so much energy, her speech still ripples through my blood. She told a story about how a white woman asked what on earth she could do to help, because she felt guilty about being in the color of her skin. The woman said, Don’t be guilty! Be a good white person! Be the best white person! Use that white privilege to speak while others are too wounded to speak. Don’t speak FOR THEM, speak so that they can heal for a bit.
It’s uncomfortable, what she’s asking. A lot of people prefer to live in their community, where it’s easy. It’s safe. I like easy and safe. But, at the risk of sounding like a character from a Margaret Atwood book, we do not live in an easy and safe world. So I will harness that fear and discomfort, and help project a voice that I didn’t think I had the right to use.
Next time I hear someone critique another identity’s point of view, or movement, or call for action, whether it be women’s reproductive rights or gun control, I want them to get out of their comfort zone. They should find out WHY that person is upset, why that person is speaking out. Don’t ask a friend with similar viewpoints as yourself. That’s not going to help. Visit a meeting. Read more than just the headline on a fake news source on Facebook. Ask a co-worker out for lunch for a civilized conversation and deeper meaning. Find out what makes them tick.
We’re obviously not perfect. We’re obviously in trouble. But we’ve been here before. And hopefully, the voices that need the most support have more people on their side than ever before.
That’s what the rally and march symbolized for me. And it was eye opening and empowering, and I’m hoping that you’ll come join me at the next one. Just don’t expect me to chant. I’ll save my voice for other things.
***a big shout out to the organizers of this event.