You Know What Has Always Made America Great? Protests for Social Justice
For a country literally founded on protests for social justice, we sure have a problem with protests for social justice. Sorry, let me clarify, we have a problem with protests for social justice for non-white-men. Don’t think America is built on institutional racism? Go read everything here and then come back when you’re done. I’ll wait.
Nobody seems to miss the point more than Mr. Make America Great Again, not that we should be surprised. But even for him, President Trump tear gassing peaceful protestors so that he could then threaten them with more violence (and take a picture with a Bible), then thank himself for the “Domination” is pretty low.
So, before you tell another black person or other minority that they should “peacefully protest,” or protest in a way that makes you comfortable, or to “respect property rights” (nevermind a lot of the damage is because of non-protestors) — take a moment to realize what has always made America truly great: protests for social justice.
“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” — Frederick Douglass
Before we go any further, please take a moment and read this timeline of events that helps contextualize the current “Fed Up”-rising. Go ahead, here’s the link again, I can wait. No, really, read it. It’s pretty important.
Great. Our entire history is marked by protests against oppression and tyranny in all sorts of forms. You say, “But violence never works!” Okay, go read this. I’ll wait. You say, “But what good will it do?” Now read this. Again, I’ve got all day, I’m quarantining. And you say, “Looting is the worst possible thing that can happen.” Finally, go read this. There’s a lot more, go read more. Educate yourself, don’t ask or expect your black and brown friends to do it for you.
Our country has a history of protests for social justice because our country’s history is filled with oppression, tyranny, and social injustice in some egregiously extreme ways (which is whitespeak for slavery and genocide). The lofty language of our founding documents has too often been at odds with the reality of life for many Americans.
Note to white people: Ask yourself, “If I’m opposing the protests happening right now, if I was alive during another time period would I have opposed those other protests too?”
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of social justice protests — there are so so so so so many more — that have actually made America great:
- The Boston Tea Party was a protest against oppression.
- The Revolutionary War was a war against oppression.
- The numerous slave rebellions led by Gabriel Prosser, Charles Deslondes, and Nat Turner, and the hundreds upon hundreds of slave revolts we never read about in history class were protests against oppression.
- The War of 1812 was another war against oppression.
- Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and many many more 19th century abolitionists whose entire lives were a protest against oppression.
- Harper’s Ferry was a protest against oppression.
- The Underground Railroad was a protest against oppression.
- The fucking Civil War was our third war against oppression.
- Seneca Falls and the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the fight for Equal Rights were all a series of protests against oppression.
- Lucy Parson’s everyday life was a protest against oppression.
- The Oxnard Strike of 1903 bringing together Mexican and Japanese workers in the Japanese Mexican Labor Association, the first multi-racial labor union, was a protest against oppression.
- The Race Riots of 1919 were protests against oppression.
- The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement against oppression.
- Why do you think we have a 40-hour work week and safe working conditions? Because of fucking labor protests against oppression since 1768. I mean, factory workers had to protest to get the fucking doors unlocked. Remember when kids worked in factories?
- The GM-Sit-Down Strike in 1936 was a protest against oppression.
- World War II was another damn war against oppression.
- Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks were protesting against oppression.
- The Montgomery Bus Boycott was protesting against oppression.
- The Environmental Movement consists of countless protests over decades fighting oppression.
- Eisenhower federalizing the Arkansas National Guard to protect the nine black students attending Little Rock Central High School was a protest against oppression.
- Lunch Counter Sit-Ins, The March on Washington, Freedom Riders, Selma to Montgomery, and so many many many many many many many more were a protest against oppression. And don’t start with your non-violence, because many of these protests erupted in violence (thanks to white people and the police) and these protests existed in the first place because of the continuing existence of excessive violence against black people — Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, and the Birmingham Church Bombing to name but a few. Oh, and they murdered Dr. King.
- The Watts Rebellion was a protest against oppression.
- Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta’s United Farm Workers movement was fighting against oppression.
- Malcolm X protested against oppression.
- Muhammad Ali protested against oppression.
- The Occupation of Alcatraz was a protest against oppression.
- Larry Itliong and UFW’s Delano Grape Strike was a protest against oppression.
- The Fight for Equal Pay is an ongoing protest against oppression.
- Protests to end The Vietnam War were protests against oppression.
- Luis Valdez’s El Teatro Campesino was an artistic movement against oppression.
- Stonewall was a protest against oppression.
- The Women’s Strike for Equality was a protest against oppression.
- Reclaiming the Sacred Black Hills was a protest against oppression.
- The Solidarity Day March was a protest against oppression.
- The 1987 March on Washington — The Great March — and the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation and more were protests against oppression.
- The Lost Angeles Riots were a protest against oppression.
- The Million Man March was a protest against oppression.
- A Day Without Immigrants was a protest against oppression.
- Marriage Equality protests were protests against oppression.
- The Keystone XL Pipeline protests and the Standing Rock Protests were protests against oppression.
- Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling is a protest against oppression.
- The Women’s March was a protest against oppression.
- The #MeToo Movement is a protest against oppression.
- The National School Walkout and The March for Our Lives are a protests against oppression.
- Pretty much every Constitutional Amendment, including the Bill of Rights, was a result of either a protest for social justice (or a war for social justice), or as a means to enact social justice…maybe not Prohibition.
- Storming the state capital because you want to go to Applebee’s and not wear a mask in the midst of a global pandemic, is in fact, NOT a protest against oppression.
There are about 10,000 more examples.
Some of our greatest presidents — Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower (yes, I purposefully picked all Republicans)— believed in the power of the federal government to create social justice and equality. Other presidents, let’s call them Lonald R. Drumpf, have said that “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protestors.” And let’s be clear, we’ve needed all these protests because we rarely live up to the promises of our founding documents. These protests are pushing us toward “a more perfect union.”
Maybe you don’t agree with all the protests above, and there are certainly a lot not included. But most people think that social progress is good, that equality is good, that everyone having equal rights and equal protections under the law is good. Those things didn’t just happen and they won’t just happen. None of them were inevitable — they all had to be fought for.
So instead of harkening back to some racist bullshit, let’s Make America Great Again by celebrating and fighting for social justice. Continuing right now.