Why We March: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention

By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly

In the aftermath of the presidential election, many Americans are experiencing extreme anger, deep sorrow and sense of helplessness. The idea that a person like Donald Trump, who has no political experience and is known for his racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric has been elected as the leader of our country is abhorrent. On top of that, we’re expected to stomach knowing the most qualified candidate in modern history who received over 2 million more popular votes will not be president. It is outrageous. Luckily, one of the great freedoms in our country is our first amendment right to free speech and assembly. So we take to the streets with our outrage and anger to unite and attempt to find direction in such a volatile and politically divisive time.

But does marching and protesting matter? And does the result actually change anything?  With the ongoing anti-Trump protests across the nation and the upcoming Million Woman March planned in Washington DC January 21, 2017, my answer is simply and unequivocally – yes.

First and foremost when any group of people feels alienated, discriminated against and abused by the powers that be, coming together to find solidarity and security are of utmost importance. To be reminded you are not alone and share a common cause with others in paramount. Assembling in protest provides that space. More often than not, when groups of people sharing a common social and political interest come together during tumultuous times, the negative energy carried with them are transformed into a positive and productive energy.

Protesting also lends itself to finding a common voice and allows a space for that voice to be heard. Even if the only people to hear your protests are others with similar perspectives, there is great solace to be found solely in that. But a protesters voice is rarely only heard by other protesters. Protesting in large numbers is a way of demonstrating power. Bystanders, police, media and yes, the political “powers that be” all hear the collective voice.  If enough people protest and march, it sends a clear message for opponents to watch with trepidation. There are strength and power in numbers. No matter how peaceful marches are, there is an underlying message – we outnumber you and will be heard.

Protesting just to protest does not necessarily bring about ongoing measurable change. But it can be spring board and provide opportunities for petitions, changing laws and joining new organizations. Ideas are born and exchanged, new ways to overcome adversity emerge and clear, concrete ways of producing change are cultivated.

For example:

  • Over 250,000 people attended the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Not only were the thousands in attendance inspired but it created pressure and momentum which eventually led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Years and years of protesting and marching for the Women’s Suffrage Movement directly changed our constitution by eventually giving women the right to vote in 1920.  
  • Following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998, the Matthew Shepard Foundation was formed, and thousands of protesters took to the streets, directly resulting in the expansion of the US Federal Hate Crime Law to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity.

These are just a sampling of protests and marches throughout the years where huge strides in social justice have resulted from people standing together in solidarity. If we as people do not march in protest of clear social and political injustices, we are showing by example, or lack example, our acceptance. We accept it when women’s rights are infringed upon. We accept it when racist comments and profiling occurs. We accept it that the rights the LGBTQ community fought so hard for might be revoked. We accept that it’s alright to deport lawfully abiding immigrants.

We were all taught growing up that America was this great melting pot. And this melting pot represents diversity, tolerance, acceptance, freedom and equality for all. I’m sure we’re all well aware that these are lofty principles and more often than not, we continue to struggle as a people to attain and maintain these ideals.  Although far from perfect, the majority of Americans still strive to embrace the idea of equality and freedom for all.

Protesting is the first step in standing up to those who want to “Make America Great” or rather “Make America White, Straight and able-bodied.” No one ever said freedom and equality would be easy to acquire. Our foremothers and forefathers knew this and didn’t sit back and rest on their laurels waiting to see if someone would kindly pass the bowl of freedom and equal rights. It is up to everyday people like you and me to protest, make our voices heard and fight for the America we want future generations to inherit.

On January 21 not only will there be a Million Woman March in Washington DC but also in many other cities across the nation. These marches will send a loud and clear message to Trump and his cronies – you will not be our president. We will not listen to your hate. And as your continue to try and destroy this countries greatest strength – its overwhelming passionate desire for diversity and freedom for all Americans – we will stop you. One protest at a time. We will stop you.