San Diego State and colleges across the country erupted in outrage with protests all week after both the election of President Donald Trump and his Inauguration. More demonstrations took place after he signed an executive order prohibiting entry into the United States from seven Muslim majority countries.
Though commendable, did these protests have any impact?
For many individuals, marching through the streets and their campuses is the only way they know how to express their dissatisfaction with the political climate.
But,it is not the only form of action an enraged individual should be taking.
How many of the protestors, after putting down their bullhorns and picket signs, went home and called their representatives and senators? How many even know how their senators voted on the confirmations of Jeff Sessions and the grossly inexperienced Betsy DeVos?
What happens after the protest? The problem is, after a long day of protesting, many feel as if their deed is done. Protesting creates a feel-good illusion that undermines real activism that affects change, such as getting in touch with the people in elected office.
Not to suggest that those protesting aren’t passionate about their causes, but protesting alone is ineffective. Racism, sexism and the rest of society’s woes will not be solved by marches and chants alone. It does allow people to channel their passion into something that gives them a sense of purpose and hopefulness, but the fervent political energy on the ground is disproportionate to the results.
Real change is realized only when people aren’t merely part-time activists who fall back into passivity once the hype of a situation dies down. Real change won’t be realized until affected communities come to view all societal issues with compassion, rather than focusing on only those ills that affect them personally.
For example, the historic women’s march late last month brought millions of women together. But where were these white women when New York City police choked Eric Garner to death, or when Muslim women across the country were getting their hijabs snatched off?
While a particular issue may outrage some people, too many of those not personally impacted don’t see the need to invest time, energy or emotion into it.
This is precisely the problem.
White people should use their privilege on the front lines by marching to end state-sanctioned violence against black people.
Black people should be marching alongside Muslims to fight against the Islamophobia that continues to rob them of their constitutional rights.
And we all should continue to resist efforts to further marginalize those communities targeted by the new administration.
Only by realizing the intersectionality of these struggles can a strong coalition form and have an impact affecting real — and lasting — change.