In the wake of mishandling of the Ferguson Grand Jury and their travesty of a decision, people have been staging protests across the country, and predictably, there have been protests and riots here in Oakland. There appear to be two camps regarding these protests and riots: in the first, those who believe that protests and riots are an essential element of social change and in the second, those who don’t want to be inconvenienced (in the form of travel, property damage, or noise) by these actions. In particular, I’ve been seeing a lot of whining about protests causing delays and problems at BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, for those of you not in the know). I’m not even talking about the jagged razor’s edge of a topic that is looting and property damage, here. Just BART.
And I see, repeatedly, the argument that there were plenty of “innocent” and “uninvolved” commuters who had “nothing to do” with the protest and should have been allowed to go about their days.
I just have a few things to say about this.
This is a point that has been made repeatedly by people who believe in the power of civil unrest, but I feel the need to make it again: Since when do quiet, non-disruptive protests get any attention at all? Since when do they make it into the papers, into the public eye, into history? Did the Stonewall riots help to turn shit around for the queer community because the queers were polite and nonviolent? No.
It is not incumbent on the people who are fighting systemic social injustices to make their struggle for justice convenient to you.
Who the fuck is innocent in a society where systemic racism, misogyny, and various phobias regularly destroy lives, families, and communities? Who the fuck is uninvolved? WHO ON THAT BART TRAIN IS NOT AFFECTED BY THIS? Whether it be positively or negatively, who?
Not one person. From the tiniest baby to the most elderly person on that BART train, every single person is affected and every single person who believes that this brief inconvenience is more important than the lives that have been carelessly cut short is complicit.
When a child tugs on your clothes in order to show you her wounds, you don’t chastise her for getting blood on your shirt. Well, an entire group of people, an entire race is showing you that we have been wounded. Repeatedly. Throughout history. And we are gonna get your attention any way we can.
But, you know. Sorry about your BART delay, bro.