I’m a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. As a white woman, however, I try to be as respectful as possible in allowing the black community to voice their concerns without having to worry about white-splaining. I believe in supporting BLM as an ally and helping them to reach a greater audience.
That said, after the murder of Philandro Castile, I knew I couldn’t be silent anymore. For my conscience, I needed to do something. I couldn’t just sit and support quietly anymore. I got my act together and made plans to get myself to the BLM march in Cincinnati. I’ve never been to a large protest before, let alone for such a publicized cause. Needless to say, I was a little out of my comfort zone.
Before actually attending the march, I was really nervous. I told my mother I was thinking of going and she had filled my head with worries. She told me I would stand out with my white skin, that I would be a target. Coming hot off the heels of the shooting of 5 police officers in Dallas, I can’t say I blame her. My mother is a worrier but I knew her fears were (mostly) unfounded. Black Lives Matter protesters are not usually violent. Even knowing the facts, I was still nervous. But I gathered up my courage; this movement was too important to let my fear get in the way of standing up for what is right.
Walking to the police station where the protest was set to kick off, I made my friend talk with me on the phone until I got there. I knew I have very little to be worried about logically, but again, I was just so out of my comfort zone. It was a hot day, but that didn’t stop people from all over the city to flock to the Ezzard St. police station in downtown Cincinnati. I easily merged with the crowd, following the flow of traffic until I made it to the green space where the pre-march rally was to take place.
I immediately started looking for my friends. As soon as I started paying attention to the people around me, I was a little surprised at how diverse the group was. I was far from the only white person in the crowd. There were people from every race, religion, gender identity, and walk of life. It was incredibly diverse; there was even a group for a Filipino church who came to the march together after the service, proudly sporting #Asians4BlackLives gear.
The rally was where everything began to take off. The speakers were so eloquent; there was no hatred here, only frustration and anger. There was no violence, only the determination to end it. Everything from rape culture to police brutality was touched on, with presenters tackling the topics through speeches, slam poetry, and music. The rally was perforated with cries of “no justice, no peace” and “we have nothing to lose but our chains” along with other chants. Never have I experienced something so powerful. The emotions behind the crowd were just incredible.
It was during the march that it really hit me. Here we were, a huge group of men, women, and children, from every race, creed, and background imaginable, marching the streets of downtown Cincinnati. People stopped in their cars to honk in support of the march. Families cheered out of their apartment windows, kids waving and smiling. Chants continued as we marched, including the now famous, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
At one point a car was surrounded in the crowd. I marched right past the driver’s side, only to see the driver in tears, overcome with the emotion of the crowd engulfing him. As we passed, he opened his sun roof and raised his fist to the sky, a motion taken on by Black Lives Matter, the Black Panthers, and Anarchists alike as a symbol of resistance and support.
By the time we made it to the pavilion, the post-march rally had already started. There was an church-like call and response for the men who had been shot:;
“Alton Sterling” – “Say his name”
“Phliando Castile” – “Say his name”
“Sam DeBose” – “Say his name”
Again, speakers touched on other major issues, from the local men (Sam DeBose and Tim Thomas) shot and killed by police officers, to the mass gentrification of inner city neighborhoods. The rally concluded on an upbeat note, with the crowd breaking out into an a cappella rendition of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”. There were calls to get home safe and continue the fight.
Leaving the rally, there was a huge cardboard sign adorned with the words “real eyes realize real lies” that grabbed my attention.
How much of what the media has shown us has qualified as “real lies?” The anger of the community is real, but I witnessed no violence. The frustration is valid, but I saw no lashing out. The protest was nothing but peaceful and accepting of all those who wanted to stand up to racial injustice. Instead of feeling as if any of the anger was targeted at me, or other people of my race, I was welcomed into the fold. I never thought I could have felt so at home in a (potentially) dangerous situation, surrounded by people who were so different from me. I guess it just goes to show that we really aren’t that different at all.
My experience at the Black Lives Matter protest changed me. I think about the issues more, I feel more connected to the cause and I’m very willing to talk to anyone about it. Even as a supporter of BLM beforehand, attending gave me a very different perspective, and also gave me a channel for some of the frustration I was feeling, for not being able to really do anything to fix racial injustice. I highly recommend others looking to get involved to try something similar. It was amazing, educational, and finally allowed me to feel like I was actually contributing to positive change.
I went to a Black Lives Matter protest, because I’m a white women sick of racially based police brutality. It was great. 10/10 would recommend.
Published via Unwritten, August 10th, 2016.