Then someone we knew contacted us. All she wrote to me was, "hey girl you up for a protest," and I was ready to help. Over the next few hours, plans unfolded and over a thousand people were invited to the Facebook event. We needed a swift and organized response, and we needed to do it the next day, before people go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Tasks were discussed and doled out. It sounded like puzzle pieces when the tasks were one word or two in casual bullet points. But it all came together the next day to make a big picture.
The next morning, Clara and I made posters in a small room that houses the multicultural affairs department alongside other folks for the protest. We made more than 30 signs full of quotes, angry messages, inspiring messages, chants for justice, and cause of death of many colored lives we've lost in this country. We worked diligently in mostly silence, putting our thoughts and rage and pain and love and empathy all on paper. The small room filled with the toxic fumes of sharpies and markers.
20 minutes before noon, we walked over to the quad to get ready for the rally. We put on music to accompany our silence in the protest. We organized ourselves into die-ers and sign holders. One by one we drew chalk outlines around our peers, all the while being haunted by actual chalk lines drawn around other people who actually lost their lives to systemic violence. People joined us in choosing signs to hold up, and we began to get into place, whether it's lying inside chalk lines or standing around chalk lines.
The next hour or so happened smoothly, in somber silence that screamed injustice and mourned deaths. People trickled in across the quad, some walking across and carrying on their usual business, others walked a little slower and scanned the situation, some pulled out their phones to take a quick picture or two, still others came to a stop and stared at the protest. I saw people stop at one place and scanned every poster, every person lying down, and stood in silence. I saw people staring at the ground in long moments of silence. I saw folks staring, fixated on one blank point in space, and I saw folks staring, fixated on a poster or another, as if they were staring the words into truth, wondering what those words mean, searing into their brains, pondering the weight of it all. And the words were heavy. I saw people I knew as well as people I have never seen: professors, staff, students, visitors, old, young, white, black, non-black, men and women.
No one spoke. The music chosen for the playlist played and echoed through the air in the quad over and among our protest. They were songs of supplication, of grief, of disbelief, of intense faith, of freedom, of unity. Each song touched my heart and the hearts of many others. They spoke louder than we could, and made our silence that much more meaningful. We all felt the sun beat down on us with its amazing rays that make life possible here on Earth. At first it felt warm, then later it started to burn and sting a little. But with every sensation, I thought about how lucky I am, how alive I feel, because I get to feel so acutely the effect of the sun, while others who passed away can never feel that anymore. I was so encouraged by everyone else. A white man lied down on the ground and on top of him was the poster I helped write.
I'm white... I don't have to fear for my life everyday
Another person held up another sign I wrote, and it felt affirming to know that a chant that touched me was chosen by someone else too.
There's no power like the power of the people 'cause the power of the people don't stop
I held one that someone else made that shared the same chants I wrote,
Know Justice Know Peace #FergusonAnd I can't help but think about how disturbed I am at some of the responses we got for our cause. To sum it up for you, the crux of their argument was just colorblind racism logic after colorblind racism logic, thrown in with some crime statistics and some details of history that they learned through cursory Google searches that they arm themselves with and think is the whole truth.
I go to a prestigious university, yet I know there are plenty of people here who think (and won't admit it except anonymously on Rice Confess) that #BlackLivesMatter is pulling the race card because all lives matter.
Here's my crude attempt at explaining why #BlackLivesMatter is trending and not #AllLivesMatter. We have to remind people, ourselves, and especially the State, that if indeed ALL lives matter, why has law enforcement time and time again since the 1970s and 80s show Black people and other people of color that their lives don't matter as much? Who are we supposed to trust if the people who swore to protect and serve us are working against us? Where do we get redress from when the murderer is protected by the grand jury and the whole situation does not even warrant a trial? The reality is that yes, whites kill whites as well as blacks and blacks also kill blacks, and maybe it is a surprise to you, but people DO talk about them. The problem is that state agents are granted more power than the ordinary white and black person and when they abuse that power, the biases within these agents show through in who they inflict violence on.
Colorblind racism about how all lives matter and how it's not about race or skin color is nonsense because we do see color and unfortunately color still clouds our judgments and life outcomes. You just can't begin to believe it because you either have privilege that prevents you from seeing how hard it is to live as a Black person or you internalize racism and believe that if YOU made it, then everyone else can too as long as they worked hard. But the reality is that the American Dream is not so simple and no, a lot of people who work hard or harder still don't make it. It's hard to make it when you have to fear for your life every time you're in public.
Stop using the "stop making everything about race" excuse and do some real substantive research. For example, I recommend the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Or how about when you feel like because you're white, a lot of hatred seems to be directed at you and your parents also worked hard to put you through college, so what's with all the "reverse racism?" I assure you that reverse racism is not a thing and you fortunately will not have to worry about it because people of color don't have the systematic power to make your life outcomes worse purely based on your skin color. Here is a great introductory piece explaining why reverse racism is not a thing. As a sociology major, I highly recommend you to go talk to some amazing sociology professors if you're at Rice. Talk to Dr. Byrd, who is the Wiess master, he's also a great resource.
Michael Brown's family hoped that all this would lead to positive change, and I share that hope. They are working on getting police to wear body cameras so we can hold their actions accountable. It is a great cause and I support it. Look into that. I hope that we all will get more educated and informed on the reality of people's experiences in light of all that has happened. Read news articles, read a diverse array of news platforms to get an even view, talk to people, ask questions, keep digging. It's easy to sit behind a computer and tell Black people off for mourning the deaths of their members, but it takes so much more to find out the truth, stand in solidarity, and do something about it.