With MLK Day having come and gone (and Black History Month right around the corner), I find myself thinking about “appropriate protesting” in America.

Or what we deem as appropriate… and for which groups.

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on peaceful, nonviolent protests — raising up those like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the example of appropriate protesting while vilifying those like Malcom X who called for followers to meet violence with violence.

“This is the better way,” we say. “The right way. Violence doesn’t help your cause. It just makes us angry at you.”

And yet, if America was REALLY honest with herself, we’d realize that any protest that presses on buttons we’d rather ignore are labeled “inappropriate”.

We don’t want people taking a knee at a sporting event.

We don’t want people blocking roads.

We don’t want people flying flags or holding signs.

And when we ignore the knees and the walks and the signs, we get pissed when it escalates to property damage and violence.

To be clear, I don’t like those things either.

And the conflict-resistant part of me wishes all protests could be peaceful.

But I cannot ignore that the only groups called on to be non-violent are the ones who sit on the receiving end of violence… again and again and again.

Blacks & Black Americans.

Native Americans.

Native Hawaiians.

Asians & Asian Americans.

Women (of every color and background).

These groups need to be nice, to be kind, to be patient, to be peaceful while their humanity, dignity, and even their safety continue to be undermined.


I feel violated.

I am confused and frustrated with an American History that allows for white outrage when we feel our rights are being violated…

THE BIRTH OF AMERICA: Which started with talks (hello First Continental Congress) that morphed into property damage (Boston Tea Party, anyone?) and escalated to violence (called the Revolutionary War)…

THE CIVIL WAR: Which started with talks over states’ rights directly connected to owning slaves and escalated well past property damage and into violence as our nation almost fell apart…

THE TULSA MASSACRE: Which resulted in the looting and burning of one of the most affluent Black communities in the country by white people who left 35 city blocks in charred ruins, 800 people injured, and as many as 300 people dead.

THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: Which brought massive violence and death upon anyone who participated… non-violent or otherwise… and ultimately lead to the assassination of several prominent Civil Rights leaders, including Dr. King.

(For a really great article on this, check out Lynne Maureen Hurdle’s “Happy Birthday Dr. King”.)

And we haven’t even touched on the countless violent acts against Native American and Native Hawaiian people.

Does that make violence okay? Eye for an eye and all that?


But neither does it justify violent white outrage or the call for “appropriate protesting” when we refuse (like the British did) to hear the pleas of our communities of color for justice and equity.

For me, instead of ignoring movements because their protests aren’t “appropriate” or – great golly gosh – because they get in my way…

I’m learning to listen to what is being said.

Because if we’ve gotten to the point that people have taken to the streets… marching, rioting, looting… perhaps what that really means is we haven’t listened to the pain of those who have been speaking for far too long.

As I sit with Dr. King’s birthday, I don’t think I can ever unsee the violence that he and others who walked with him endured to force our nation forward.

He wasn’t fought by “just the racists”. He was fought by America and only now do we want to say that we supported him all along.

Protests will never be appropriate.

They aren’t meant to be.

At some point, when the talking runs out, something more disruptive must begin.

That didn’t start with Black Lives Matter or the Civil Rights Movement.

It’s the American way.

Reflections of Racism is my uncomfortable look in the mirror to identify the roots of racism and white supremacy still active in my life. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not standing as a voice for anyone but me. I’m simply sharing my inner monologue in hopes that my failures, faults, missteps, and mistakes can help someone else see, challenge, and change the white supremacist ideologies influencing their world too.

White supremacy isn’t a system I chose; it was one I was born into. But you better believe I’m gonna do everything in my power to choose out, burn it down, and build something better in the ashes.

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