50 years. Same battle.
Updated: May 31
I write historical fiction. This means that I enjoy jumping into another time in our world that I was not able to be part of but can only read about. Currently, I am writing a story set in 1969. Researching the tumultuous decade, it strikes me that there was a revolution of mostly young people pushing the status quo. Slamming the patriarchy, the war machine, and polite society. They did this through protests. Some peaceful, some violent.
This decade saw the Selma to Montgomery march, the assassination of a president, desegregation, the assassination of multiple civil rights activists, a highly controversial war, the Stonewall riots, the bombing of a black church, women's right's protests and into 1970, the Kent State shootings.
What we have going into the 70's is a country massively divided. Those that feel oppressed were angry, scared, and desperately wanting the future to be different than what they knew.
Here we are. 2020. Are things different? Yes and no. Still have protests, still have looting and violence and anger and inequality. What I think I find different is that we think things are different. I have friends that tell me racism doesn't exist anymore. Black men have rights, women have rights, minorities have rights. So what's the problem?
The problem is that those groups have rights on paper. If you live in a world that was built by people that look like you, think like you, and created laws to protect people like you, you might not be aware that there are millions of people who were forgotten as the rules were written. And when they try to use words and music and art and peaceful protests to bring awareness to those items, they are making the ruling class uncomfortable. That is what it is meant to do. Force change. Push awareness and make the rules look more like the people they are meant to protect.
George Floyd died helpless under the knee of a white man with power. He was not the first and he certainly won't be the last. If I got caught using a counterfeit bill, would the police throw me to the ground, cuff me, and then kneel on my neck until I die? I can almost guarantee you they would not. I don't fear the police because I don't see them doing these things to people that look like me. I don't see civilians shooting white boys with hoodies on or shooting white men jogging because they look like someone described in a robbery.
The volatile protests happening right now are because Dr. Martin Luther King spent his life preaching peace, love, and equality, and 52 years after his murder, the black community is still scared. They see their families and friends being murdered without consequences. Acquittals and no charges and exceptions for every terrible action. I believe that most in law enforcement are good, kind people. That means nothing if the good ones don't stand up and face the bad ones to prove to the rest of our country that this will no longer be tolerated.
It is easy to post a quote from Dr. King on your social media. It probably won't anger anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. But kneeling during the National Anthem might. If we listened then, if we try to hear their cries for us to really see them and their pain, then maybe we can start to heal. I do not believe we can do that without first acknowledging that this country is divided along racial lines just as much as it was in the 1960's. We have a long tortured history of racism that we must acknowledge is part of our story.
People don't riot because one bad cop did something horrible. People riot because they are fed up. Fed up of being powerless and ignored. Fed up of being misrepresented when they try to peacefully protest. What else can one do? If it was your son or husband or brother... well, that's the thing though, isn't it? He doesn't look like anyone in my family, so I can chalk it up to an unfortunate incident and post a broken heart emoji on Instagram and move on. What if we do more?
When I started this blog, I made a promise to myself not to get political. I was going to write nothing but noncontroversial things. Writer things. But here's where I'm at. Writers observe the world and write stories from their eyes. Well, this is what my eyes see. If it makes you uncomfortable, then that is a good start in my opinion.
"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." -Abraham Lincoln
I don't begin to have any answers. I only know we have to do more. I don't want any more families to live through injustices we could have prevented. Members of our country are hurting. Let's start to listen.