On Monday, June 1, 2020, I was not physically present for what the Washington Post called “48 surreal, violent, biblical minutes in Washington.”
I was otherwise engaged on Monday, June 1, 2020.
However, in light of the darkness of the times, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what Ibram X. Kendi has to say about demonstrations and power. Earlier this year, I wrote on this blog about his life-changing book How to Be an Antiracist. (Here are my three blog posts on the book.)
It’s not easy to be an antiracist, he explains. It’s hard personal work, first of all—and this goes for all people, of all races and colors. Second of all, the most important thing isn’t changing people’s minds; the most important thing is changing policy. Here’s what Kendi has to say about demonstrations in How to Be an Antiracist:
“Demonstrations annoy power in the way children crying about something they will never get annoy parents. Unless power cannot economically or politically or professionally afford bad press . . . power typically ignores demonstrations. The most effective demonstrations . . . help people find the antiracist power within. . . . The most effective demonstrations . . . provide methods for people to give their antiracist power, to give their human and financial resources, channeling attendees and their funds into organizations and protests and power-seizing campaigns.”
What exactly does he mean by this? He’s saying that demonstrations have value—but demonstrations alone are not enough. He’s saying that demonstrations are only as effective as the actions that come out of them as a result. He’s saying that real change won’t occur unless people put their networking resources and their money and their voting power into the people and places that are working for actual policy changes.
This means that, no matter whether or not you have been demonstrating over the past week, action is required of you beyond demonstrating, or watching demonstrations on TV or the Internet. If you want the demonstrations to have an actual effect, and not just end up as a minor blip in history before things go back to the status quo, you must do more.
So how was I otherwise engaged on Monday, June 1, 2020?
I was researching the candidates who were up for election in my local jurisdiction, my state, and my country.
I was marking my absentee ballot.
And I was walking straight into the melee of the Rose Garden—oops, I mean, of my driveway, and placing my ballot in my mailbox.
And then I raised, on my mailbox, that little red protest flag.