Protesting / Race / Congress

What purpose does protesting serve? A few months ago a friend and I drove about 1,300 to North Dakota to stand with the Sioux tribes at Standing Rock in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. There was great racial tension. It would seem I was viewed as a member of the privileged elite as a result of the color of my skin. More than that, I was a “white” male. I was excluded from certain meetings as a result of my skin color. And what did we accomplish? Aside from our donation of supplies and our serving as extra hands for a few days, we really did nothing. According to the article found here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/dakota-access-pipeline-oil-leak_us_5913764be4b021221db9d34b?utm_hp_ref=dakota-access-pipeline), the not yet operational pipeline had already leaked 84 gallons of crude oil as of April 4th this year.

On January 20th of this year, I went to an anti-Trump rally at Auditorium Shores here in Austin. I recall a speaker going through the audience, thanking every socially defined group of people except for mine. He thanked “black” people and homosexual people and women and muslim people… I understand the thought process is that I have been privileged all my life as a result of my skin color and genitalia. I can’t say I wasn’t. I don’t know what it is like on the other side. I don’t know how my life would’ve been different if I were born female, or to parents of African decent, or gay. I do recognize there are people who look like me staying at the shelter where I work. Were these men born with the same privilege? I recognize there are people who look like me working at the convenience store down the street, making what I expect is little more than minimum wage.

Now I hear that voice in my head that says these men likely make more than their counterparts who belong to these socially defined groups. I don’t have all the answers. But I know I’m not the enemy. And I think, maybe the answer is just to let go of these socially defined labels. I recently watched a video regarding racism. The speaker said it is important to recognize these differences as significant because our “race” is great tool in helping to define ourselves. Why? Why does it matter what color my skin is? In this video, a young male of African decent said he was proud to be “black”. Why? Why should we be proud of something over which we have no control? I’m not proud to be “white”. I don’t feel I am white. My skin color is not #ffffff. I’m not proud to be heterosexual or male. It would seem irrational to be proud of these things.

But what’s worse, these socially defined labels work to divide us. Ask a first-grade child “What is the opposite of white?”. I’ll give you 10 to 1 odds he or she says “black”. We let these labels define us. But we are not opposite each other. We are more alike than we are different. We can continue to divide ourselves, adhering to this great distraction, or we can wake up. Only when we free ourselves of these labels will we have the power to define the real threats to our well-beings.

So what good does protesting do? It makes us feel heard and little more. The decision-makers are not going to be swayed by my taking to the streets. They don’t care what I think. And they especially do not care for the opinions of those who defy the law in order to be heard. In the past, protestors have resorted to violence in order to be heard. These efforts may have brought a spotlight to their causes. But, generally, violence in such a situation hurts members of the community and does little to influence the decision-makers. We could always write our congressmen and congresswomen. We can use the promise a continued career in the congress or politics in general as means to having our voices heard. If they want to remain in their positions, they have to do what we ask of them. In order to influence Congress, we need to educate ourselves. Research what they will be voting on (https://www.countable.us/articles/495-s-congress-voting-week-15-2017) and write your representative: (http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/). Still, the most effective way to make significant change in our world would seem to be just to wake up. Stop seeing each other as enemies and start working together to make a better world.

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