PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

One of the George Floyd murals in Minneapolis. It's described by the Guardian as a "passionate and redemptive mural", which "demands a pause to the anger" , with George's name bursting out of the central sunflower in "rays of light and human warmth". Pic by Lorie Shaull (CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wikipedia)

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.

In the midst of a tumultuous week in America, I saw a couple things that expanded the possibilities of what protest can be.

The first was in downtown Cleveland, in the midst of a protest that was soon going to give way to a police riot. As thousands were gathering to protest police violence and demand systemic change, a fit white guy about my age was jogging shirtless through a gap in the crowd. Rude, I thought, until I saw that he had "Black Lives Matter" painted on his chest and "End Police Brutality" on his back. He'd made himself into a mobile protest sign. I don't know if he stayed until the rubber bullets flew, but I know he showed up. That's more than a lot of us white people in the Cleveland area did.

The second was a day later, on my way back from another hand-wipe-filled trip to grab takeout. In Lakewood, just about a mile west of the Cleveland border, two Black women stood near a bus stop with "Justice for George Floyd" signs. Passing cars honked in support.

We're seeing a hard push back against a police force that, for too many Americans, is more like an occupying army. Given the President's threats to criminalize dissent and impose an honest-to-God police state, it's more important than ever to continue to take to the streets.

The massive scale of the current protest movement has made it impossible to ignore. Thousands are making the choice to put their health, their safety, and sometimes their lives on the line for a cause they believe in. The call must be made: if you can attend, please do. Add your voice. Collective power is real power, and building it starts—though it certainly doesn't end—with people showing up.

But wear a mask to help protect yourself against COVID-19. And learn beforehand how to protect yourself against potential violence.

That said, there are legitimate reasons not to join the protestors against America's pandemic of racist violence: maybe you're immuno-compromised. Maybe you can't afford to get arrested. Maybe you can't get off work or get a ride. Maybe you're afraid you might die. It's happened.

I have another fear about the protests: that white people across the country, in our near-infinite capacity for distraction, will simply stop caring about police violence against African Americans and others. Given the carnival atmosphere of the media cycle and the attention-seeking behavior of our racist administration, this seems like a depressingly plausible scenario.

It's for these reasons that I think we should take a cue from Woke Jogger and the Bus Station Ladies. Let's invite our neighbors not to look away. Let's encourage them not to forget.

Let's have Little Protests Everywhere.

Let me be the first to say this idea might sound silly, or worse. There's a whiff about it of the most abhorrent aspects of performative activism. It might also sound like a throwback to the awareness-raising of the aughts and early '10s, a dipshit rehash of "Kony 2012" in 2020. But at this point, anything is better than complacency.

Most of us, for the past two months, have been living under some form of Shelter in Place laws. Why not try Protest in Place? Put a No Justice No Peace sign up in your window next to the Thank You Healthcare Heroes one. Make some signs with your pod buddies and hold them on a busy street for an hour. Wear a White Silence = Violence T-shirt on your biweekly grocery trip—white folks especially. Use your privilege and visibility to make a statement.

I know how this sounds. People are getting hit by police cars and I'm like, "Be brave, wear a shirt!" I know how similar it seems to the empty, self-promoting gestures of rocking expensive Resist fashion. I know how much it echoes all the hollow gestures of social media neoliberalism I've come to hate. In any other time, it would be just like that.

But. But. Quarantine makes for an exceptional set of circumstances. Everything is heightened. The tensions of the administration's catastrophic inaction— endured the most by Black and Latinx Americans— has pushed us to this moment. Again. Even as coronavirus restrictions lift to varying degrees, plenty of people are justifiably on edge. Being in public has become an occasion; it's both risky and exciting. If you take that occasion to convey a message of solidarity, even in some small way, that can make a difference. I have to believe it can.

Protests are, of course, only a part of achieving change. Signing petitions will never hurt. If you're financially able, donating to organizations fighting racial oppression—here are a couple helpful lists—is of vital importance right now (consider making your donation a recurring one; supporting one's beliefs is easier when it's automated). Getting involved with a local advocacy group like a mutual aid organization is an excellent way to build a sustained commitment to battling injustice in your community—they'll be the ones still working hard when media attention inevitably shifts elsewhere.

For white folks in particular, listening to Black leaders, writers, and advocates, rather than talking over them (or making fetishistic exaltations over Twitter), will be imperative for the genuine ally.

Obviously, there's plenty we can do without resorting to Little Protests Everywhere. And the other stuff—donations, local advocacy—is ultimately the best way to help. But what are we going to do in between? Keep streaming like the country isn't burning right now?

In Celeste Ng's compelling novel Little Fires Everywhere—now both a Hulu series and the inspiration for this article title—characters are forced to confront the inherent injustices of the world they inhabit. That world happens to be Shaker Heights, Ohio, a "planned community" founded on the border of Cleveland. Tiny acts of rebellion make up much of the plot's forward motion, culminating in a monumental break with authority.

As Izzie, one of our protagonists, contemplates irreversible action, she recalls the words of her friend Mia (played in the show by Kerry Washington): "Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can start to grow."

Our criminal justice system, to echo signs from the movement, isn't broken. It's evil. And it needs—more metaphorically than literally—to burn down so we can start anew.

So that's why I'm planning to start jogging again. It's been a long time, and it shows. The early stages of dad bod are creeping in, and I'm not even a dad. But when I'm out for my run, I'm going to have a special message for the good people of Cleveland, the city I love despite its numerous flaws, and for the police that gassed its protestors. My body paint is coming in the mail tomorrow. It's going to say "End Police Violence, Defund CPD" across my chest and sagging stomach. And you can bet your ass it's going to say "And Give That Shit to Nurses" across my back.

* * *

Works Cited

Allard, Sam. " Massive Cleveland George Floyd Protest Turned Chaotic as Police Fired Tear Gas, Flash Grenades into Crowds". Cleveland Scene. Clevescene.com. 1 June 2020.

--- "' The Real Cleveland' Cares More About Restaurants and T-Shirts Than Black Lives and That Sucks" Cleveland Scene, Clevescene.com. 1 June 2020.

Anderson, Savonne. " 5 initial ways you can be a better ally to people of color". Mashable. Mashable.com, 10 January 2016.

Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. " The Pros And Cons of 'Social Bubbles'". NPR. Npr.org. 17 May 2020.

Gibbons, Chip. " Donald Trump's "Antifa" Hysteria Is Absurd. But It's Also Very Dangerous". The Jacobin. Jacobinmag.com, 2 June 2020.

Ihaza, Jeff. " A T-Shirt Is Not a Protest". The Outline. Theoutline.com. 1 February 2017.

Kendi, Ibram X. " Stop Blaming Black People for Dying of the Coronavirus". The Atlantic. Theatlantic.com. 14 April 2020.

Kesslen, Ben. " NYPD commissioner 'troubled' by video of cop cars driving into protesters". NBC News. Nbcnew.com. 1 June 2020.

Love, David A. " For Black America, Law Enforcement Is An Occupying Force". The Progressive, Progressive.org. 26 November 2014.

Mody, Reetu. " The Criminal Justice System Is Not Broken, It's Doing Exactly What It's Meant to Do". Kennedy School Review. Ksr.hkspublications.org. 5 December 2014.

O'Hehir, Andrew. " A nationwide police riot: Is our outrage about "violence" pointed at the real perpetrators?". Salon. Salon.com, 1 June 2020.

Purves, Esther. " The Troubling Trend of Performative Activism". Redbrick. Redbrick.me. 1 June 2020.

RightToProtest.org. " Be prepared in case things go wrong".

Robertson, Campbell et al. "After George Floyd's Death, Toll Rises in Protests Across the
Country.
"
The New York Times. Nytimes.com, 1 June 2020

Stidhum, Tonja Renée. "If Mark Ruffalo's 'God Is a Black Woman' Tweet Were a Marvel Movie." The Root. Theroot.com, 16 Dec 2017.

From Your Site Articles
Related Articles Around the Web

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.