protests are not a measure of your solidarity

content notice: written descriptions of violence.

we are in a wildly different political moment than we were when covid began. i, personally, am here for it. the upsides: police departments are getting defunded and (some of) that money is getting redirected to solving the root causes of problems police often get called to intervene on.


other upsides include the actual shifting of hearts and minds towards care, empathy, and (dare i say) love for black people in america and globally.

some downsides: emotional backlash. people literally being hanged, cops walking off their jobs for the wrong reasons. insufficient transition time for community-led care-oriented infrastructure to be built so that things are materially better for black people (and therefore all people). these downsides are worth it, to be sure! but they will be hard and things might get a little worse before they way better. such is change.

wow! i have drifted from my original intent with this post… getting back on track here:

the number of protests you go to is not a measure of your solidarity. nor is it a proxy for how effective you are at achieving the goals of the movement that you are showing up to support.

there have been a LOT of in-person actions since the end of may and the media highlighting of all of the black people who have been killed by the police. george floyd was the match to the kindling, for sure, but the murders have been happening and continue to happen.

i am so excited to see hundreds of thousands people show up in solidarity and support of black life.

AND i am watching some people begin to wear protest attendance like badges of honor.

“did you go to x protest? i did! it was pretty cool, right?”

“hey, i haven’t seen you at any marches… are you with us?”

showing your solidarity by putting your body in physical spaces is powerful, i would argue even necessary, to keep the arc of history bending towards justice.

but protest are just the tip of an iceberg of action in alignment with defending black life and creating black thrival (you know, like the opposite of survival).

if you are attending multiple protests a week and not also talking to your neighbors and family, i would like you to pause and consider why.

if you don’t know how the people who live across the street, next to you on both sides, behind you, and in your apartment building, etc. feel about this latest round of black liberation uprisings, please find out. be curious. ask about their thoughts and how they came to form them. be clear about your stances but don’t beat your neighbors over the head with them. knowing your block and moving them towards solidarity is just as important as showing up en masse in the streets.

the protests are hot right now and they will hopefully be for a good while longer. but when they stop, our work is not done. repeated convos with your neighbors matter. if you go back to your normal life after the public protest energy dwindles (which it must because we can’t live our lives in the street), i hope this writing helps you question and eventually deepen your motives.

defending black life is much bigger than protests. after the protests die down, some of most valuable work exists right in your backyard and in your family.

both/and, friends, both/and!

ps - i wrote a few weeks ago about using your gifts for the movement. if you’ve acted in all the ways you can think, here are a few thoughts about how to keep going in ways that won’t burn you out.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — howard thurman

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