Something is just not right with me. In fact, I’m downright rude. I have a tendency to crash protests even though no one invited me. It happened when I donned a burka back in 2003 disguising myself as an Iraqi woman in order to infiltrate a campus protest against the War in Iraq. It happened again in 2009 when I joined a protest against myself at UMASS-Amherst. It happened yet again last Saturday night when I went to Ferguson and protested against the man while holding a sign saying “Hands up, Don’t Shoot!” I learned a lot that night. So today I’m writing a column to share it with my readers.
I only spoke with a few protestors in Ferguson. And I only asked them a few questions. But the responses were still revealing. In fact, they revealed two undeniable truths that some readers could have gleaned from extensive media coverage of the protests:
1. Ferguson protestors are bored and in need of a cause. I struck up a conversation with a middle-aged black woman who brought a longhaired Chihuahua to the protest. Her dog seemed to like me. That’s how we struck up a conversation. At one point in that conversation she told me I was making history by participating in the protests. She had been protesting for eight consecutive days. She added that we needed to go back to the protest era of the 1960s. I silently thought it would be nice to go back to a time when people didn’t terrorize their own neighbors in the name of civil rights.
Another protestor who we will call Ron (because that’s his name) said that we needed to bring attention to all the hidden injustices taking place in black neighborhoods. He added, “This kind of thing happens every day.” When I pressed him on whether unarmed black men were being shot every day, he gave me some clarification. He noted that black men were often pulled over for no reason. In fact, it had once happened to him. Ron was probably in his mid-thirties and had been living in that neighborhood his whole life.
When you talk to these protestors, you get the sense that they are sincerely angry and in need of some way of redressing their grievances. It’s just that they have difficulty articulating exactly what those grievances are.
2. Any black civil rights cause must focus on what whites have done to blacks in the past, not on what blacks are doing to other blacks right now.