“Overcoming Obstacles to Create Community” is an initiative of the Women’s Voices’ Racial Justice Committee. Each month, we’ll provide timely, concrete ideas and suggestions you can include in your daily lives.
November – Embrace Messiness
This month’s work will require many of us to change our mindset and ways of thinking. Most of us were taught to be polite, civil, and accommodating. But we are learning that this is usually not the way that change is made.
- Read the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” In it, he laments the role of the “white moderate” who is more concerned about “order” than making change.
- Read The Loud Minority: Why Protests Matter in American Democracy, by Daniel Q. Gillion, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He has found that the intensity of protests matters in stimulating voter turnout and affecting the voting record of representatives.
- Read Polite Protest: The Political Economy of Race in Indianapolis, 1920-1970 by Richard Pierce, a historian at the University of Notre Dame. He has found that polite, conventional protests are no more successful than confrontational movements.
- Acknowledge that some of the United States’ most prominent social movements have involved violent confrontation—-from the abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859 to the Stonewall riots for LGBTQ rights in 1969.
- Whether you are comfortable joining a protest movement, a march, or an event that might turn ‘messy,” realize that this is often the way that goals are achieved. “The whole purpose of protest is to interrupt your daily life, to interrupt the previously scheduled programming so you pay attention to something new,” according to Deva Woodly, associate professor of politics at the New School in New York.
- Since successful social movements are almost always “messy,” learn to embrace this reality as the way that changes are often made, and equity and justice are advanced in a democracy.