On this site, I try to be as apolitical as possible, but even though this post might have worked fine on my other site, I felt like it might have a home here as well. This site is, after all, about finding your place in the world, getting comfortable in your own skin, and meeting the challenges of every day life as you push yourself to experience more.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me to a protest/celebration of life for a Colorado victim of police brutality, Elijah McClain. He was an introverted kid walking by himself on the way home from the store, and was killed by police because he “fit the description” of someone who was “being suspicious.” His killers got a slap on the wrist. Of course people are angry. Anger can be a divisive emotion, or it can be a unifying one.
In the USA, we have seen our share of division, from the Loyalists and Patriots of the Revolutionary War to the Civil War just sixteen Presidents in, and even now, when it is Liberal vs. Conservative/Masks vs. No Masks/and so on.
For a group of college-aged activists, however, Elijah McClain’s death was a unifying event at a time when it’s easier to control people when they are put at odds. The Black and Brown Alliance in Greeley, CO has gathered together members of the community to hold peaceful protests, spread information, and hold rallies such as this to plant seeds in the community which question what we are seeing and being told. I won’t list the names of the people involved for a few reasons. First of all, their organization is not my story to tell. Second, as a person who has been a student of how the world works for quite a long time now, I want their identities to be protected. A more formal interview, rather than impartial observations of just one of their events would warrant something more in depth, that could really give creedence and justice to their cause.
For now, I am a tourist of their cause, and as the Pulp song “Common People” has taught us, “everybody hates a tourist.”
The event took place in Monfort Park on hot Friday afternoon in July. Considering the triple digit weather, the turnout was decent. I counted between 50 to 70 people in attendence. Everyone was masked and doing their best underneath the park sunshelters to maintain social distancing. Before the event started, people gathered to look at inspiring artwork that had been done by active members of the Black and Brown Alliance. A DJ played some great tracks and though everyone was more or less incognito because of the masks, it was a vibe of compassion, unity, and respect. In spite of what the news tells us, it wasn’t a riot. These days it seems like any protest or rally is portrayed as being a powderkeg of violence, and I will be honest, I didn’t know what to expect just because of what is shown in the news.
When the speakers took their turns at the mic to discuss the needless death of Elijah McClain, they brought in anectdotes as well as facts and figures supporting why there needs to be a sea-change of how race relations and tolerance are done in this country. I will admit that a few times, while watching the speakers, I had a few cringe-worthy moments when other white people, the middle-class tourists (not unlike myself) would throw a “Preach it!” or “YASSS!” into the discussion. In my own head, I could only think “This isn’t about you. This is a time to LISTEN.”
The purpose of this website is to challenge us to push our boundaries and “Get out more.” In my travels, I live by the motto of “Do something every day that scares you.” Because of the media, I really didn’t know what to expect, which I’m ashamed to say, doesn’t give credit to my friends who put this whole thing together. They are people of the utmost class, who include allies as well as those the cause directly affects. This is not the narrative the Press is running with.
The narrative has even included putting a wedge between different minorities. The Black and Latino communities haven’t always gotten along. There’s a reason for this. It is prescribed oppression. Divide and conquer. Keep the marginalized downtrodden and it makes controlling them easier.
I learned many things while being an observer, a tourist to life, and I hope I was able to take these lessons to heart, rather that being saturated by the rhetoric of the press. Media is more concerned with sensationalism than it is advocacy, much less accountability. They care less about reporting the news than they do promoting the brand names of their sponsors. This is why the news fits so many stories between commercial breaks, rather than exploring the entirety of a story. There are only the 5 W’s when it suits their agenda.
I got out to a protest, in this case, and though I didn’t get any answers, at least I gained the capability to ask better questions. There are good people in the world doing good work. In spite of what you believe right now, there is so much more to the story than you are being allowed to see. Speaking as someone perceived as a white male, (that’s a whole other post) I can assure you that more conversations need to take place. I think what most of us want is the same thing: we want a chance at happiness. We want liberty, equality, fellowship, and when pushed far enough, it’s not going to be a polite request for any of it. There comes a time when good people rise up and take what is already theirs.
So, push yourself. Do something every day that scares you. In this case, I might have been worried that some of my bubbles might have been popped. I was right. It’s not a bad thing to lose some disillusionment. For something like this, to those who feel like a tourist, it isn’t a very big jump to being involved once you open your eyes. When I heard the story of what happened to this kid, I thought that could have easily been me…however there was one exception. He was a black kid walking home at night, and he never made it home because of this. His killers even mocked him later (and got another slap on the wrist). As a “white” person, I probably would have just been harassed a little by the police and then sent home.
People, this is a difference. One of many. I’m an introverted dork who likes to walk alone at night, and I’m still alive. Think about that.