While I have always defended people’s right to protest and march, it is something I thought I would never do. The sound of people chanting the same thing in large crowds irritates me in a way that I have no idea how to explain. It’s a silly, but real, annoyance. I have always believed, as MLK Jr said, “A riot is the voice of the unheard;” and I also believed that all of the injustice due to prejudices would soon be corrected. When the protests hit Charlotte though, not too far from where my husband and I once lived, I realized my confidence that all of this would be fixed was misplaced. The more people who are silent allies rather than, simply, allies the closer and closer injustices and prejudices in this world are going to get.
I believed myself to be an ally to all people: all colors, genders, sexual identities, religions. I knew who I was. I made sure that I always discussed my beliefs and thoughts and feelings to people who were close to me. I paid attention to what was going on in the world and I defended the people who stood up to the majority and stood up for what was morally right. But what actions have I done? I hate loud, repetitive noises and am an introvert at heart so I never felt inclined to get out there and make my voice heard. I was a silent ally because I didn’t want to ruffle feathers with people who disagreed with me, even though our disagreements came from judging people by their individual action vs. grouping them all into whatever convenient stereotype works for their narrative. I was a silent ally because I didn’t put myself too far from my comfort zone.
And then the election happened. And all I could think about were the people who got up to protest and fight for the rights they not only deserve but are truly entitled to. Like not being profiled based on looks, not getting paid less based on gender, not getting told you’re not good enough for a position because you’re part of the LGBTQ community, and not having to worry about being killed when pulled over in your car. But now our next president is someone who promotes stop & frisk, someone who wants to make Muslims register their names, and has plans to staff his cabinet with people who want to cut funding to planned parenthood, oppose raising the minimum wage, dismantle public education, and support tactics of voter suppression. It would make me oblivious to not think that the silent ally persona had some sort of role in his win. There are many laws that are deeply rooted in racism and sexism and xenophobia. Our cultures are deeply rooted in all three of those as well and it was displayed in people’s defense of Donald Trump’s actions. If you don’t agree, think back to Donald Trump at every debate and then replace his body with that of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Acknowledging that I have work to do is the first step. I still believe myself to be an ally and I’m shedding off that “silent” part. Somehow I also still believe the injustices of this world will be corrected (in overdue time). But now I recognize that it cannot happen by just acknowledgment alone, you have to show that you stand together. You have to join with the ones who have already started action, people of color and people from marginalized groups, and follow their lead. You need to be okay with that. You have to show that even if your life is not directly affected, you know your life alone is not what makes this world go ’round. Even though I read and research and listen to educate myself, I understand that becoming an ally is always a work in progress and you never stop learning.
So the day I officially had a spot on the bus traveling from North Carolina to Washington D.C for the Women’s March on Washington was when I finally started to feel some relief. I was able to put something into action.
Why are you marching? What good does that do? You can’t change who is president.
I know I can’t change the outcome of the election, my presence in the march is not about that. But it is to show that I stand with those that his administration has targeted. I stand to let it be known that we’re not going anywhere. That we will not be intimidated. We will not turn our heads, close our eyes, and hope for the best. We will rise up. So when I’m asked why I want to march, I’m not hesitant to answer because I don’t know. My hesitation comes from trying to choose from all the obvious reasons there are to march and break it down for you. But I’ll try.
I will march for the woman who carried her mattress around campus to make a statement about the leniency her attacker received.
I will march for the intelligent and beautiful woman who was assaulted behind a dumpster and also had pictures of her breasts sent out while unconscious and then later learned her attacker would only serve 3 months in prison. I will walk to thank her for writing such a powerful impact statement. And not only did she shine a light on the bias the judicial system places on the well-being of the white rapist over the survivor, but it also gave an in-depth look to something many don’t even think about: the process of the “rape kit.”
I will march for mothers of young men like Trayvon Martin that endure a legitimate fear of their child being shot and killed on their way to or from the corner store based merely on their looks.
I will march for Philando Castile and all the other men and women who fear for their life when pulled over for a traffic violation. I will walk with the little girl who witnessed it all in my heart.
I will march for the women who get their hijab ripped off their heads and told to leave the country we share.
I will march for my two sons. I will let them know that we are not a family who sits idly by while others are being bullied and humiliated. I will show them that you do not sit on your hands when people are being targeted based on their skin color, religion, or gender. I will march so that I don’t have to tell my sons that while I was against the discrimination toward our neighbors, I did nothing to take a stand. And I will march to show them that they are being raised to respect others and never think they have control or power over anyone’s body but their own.
I will march for myself. I will walk to be the woman the little girl in me has always looked up to. I will walk to feel the solidarity of thousands of people who know that we are better, we can do better, and we will be better. And if we have to do it kicking and screaming, marching on a winter day, or even after wiping spit from our faces, we will continue to do it.
I will march toward my step of becoming an ally. I will not return silent. I will march for you. I will march for me. Join us.
To learn more about the Women’s March on Washington, click here
pictured above: me when I was a little one