For the past few months the country has cried out with feelings of indignation, distrust, confusion, and for some, even anger, in reference to the killing of unarmed black men and people of color in this country. Since the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, those feelings have certainly been exacerbated. The current controversies, unnerving as they may be, are certainly not a vestige of the past. Instead, they represent a larger picture of how the intersections of race, class, privilege, and power can be abused. Recent events suggest that injustice has surely not been demolished; it is merely a product of elusive transformation. In light of this, protesters have sprouted movements. Walking, trotting, and lifting their voices, many still have the audacity to keep pushing. Like all organizations, the justice system included, “good” things have the capability to be corrupted.
As I watched many of my peers join in marching up the street and around the corner before retiring, I felt like something had gone awry. I thought to myself, “They’re marching, but where are they going?” I didn’t really have the answer but I found myself wondering why my emotions didn’t move me in the way that others did. In my heart I wanted to join, but something was missing. This trend continued, I noticed. The rise of marketed “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” T-shirts, Instagram posts of quotes, and pictures with hashtags made the movement seem more like a marketing measure than a true revolution. This is not to say that people shouldn’t march, clad themselves with anti-oppressive products, or post on social media. That is not my point. There isn’t a precise formula for justice. All these things are great, for they give voice to the crusade. Without publicity, a movement can be silenced quietly. There is a necessity in the voice. Voices, however, lose potency if not coupled with actions, organization, and service. Let’s move past speech alone and couple it with its rightful partner.
Admittedly, I feel the same way about die-ins. I still don’t completely understand the concept of gathering in public places and enacting the deaths of many disenfranchised people as a measure of change. You’re lying prostrate; meanwhile, people are still dying literally day by day. If inspected carefully it’s easy to construe die-ins as a metaphor of passivity. Occupying the ground amongst many other people in a place that holds stores with unjust practices and policies (look up companies that benefit from the prison industrial complex) only to get up and invest your money in places that respect your dollar more than your skin color seems inauspicious at best. What did we ever gain by lying down and pretending to be dead?
Be willing to protest for more than a minute, a day, a week, or month.
These sentiments are not merely my own, but can be seen by gazing into the past. Movements like the Montgomery Bus Boycott did not have impact because of voice alone but rather a 13 month span of collective and organized economic protest. This was not just any protest, but a withholding of pocketbooks for collective change. Be mindful of what you invest yourself in. This includes (but is not limited to) your time, money, energy, and effort. I’m fine with “hands up” don’t shoot but let’s not become a generation where “hands up” is equivalent to “hands off.” We cannot be “hands up, don’t shoot” and also be “hands up, don’t vote”, “hands up, don’t volunteer”, “hands up, don’t petition”, “hands up, don’t educate”, and “hands up, don’t act”, all at the same time. We have to pick a side. I admire the ability of our generation to have amazing zeal, but let’s kindle our emotions towards active change and keep the flames going.
You don’t have to change the world, but you do have an obligation to align your posture with your beliefs. Your mind cannot go forward if your legs are walking in the opposite direction. Let’s move towards acts that service others, our communities, and our goals. Service doesn’t mean you have to be a radical, though it’s perfectly acceptable to radically love and serve others. Service can mean anything from serving local shelter every month, spending time engaging the elderly at a retirement home, writing a letter to Congress, defending someone in court as a lawyer, impacting educational equality, tutoring the kids next door, or the kids who live under your roof. Whatever you do, I encourage you to focus on the sincere not on the sensational. Let’s put forth reasonable effort—which sometimes means sacrifice and hard work—towards the actions which ensure the longevity of equality. Service is more than a march; you have to be walking towards the right thing.
Check out http://bcec.osu.edu/get-involved/ to see how you can get involved with service in the Columbus community today.