It appears we can no longer protest. We are most especially not supposed to protest our feelings, our own past failures, apathies, unattended worries or shortcomings. In fact, we can no longer protest based on feelings at all- only facts, and since the president-elect hasn’t been in office yet, there is no reason to protest. You see, nothing that has happened in the past matters. We are suspended in ideological animation awaiting the possibility that something could happen, without permission to react to either the possibility of or past evidence of aggressive and harmful acts. (In other wordI hate to tell you this but, people are protesting our protest. (Even though they told us to stop protesting. I know- I’m as confused as you are.)
You see, today, someone told me I was a lost and confused millennial- and she was concerned for me as a woman… I am neither. As it seems, I was lured to explain why I am protesting and in response, received a passive aggressive and invasive response:
“Beautfully [sic] written, you are very eloquent with words. Im going to leave it at that, cause as an educated woman with a vagina, I am concerned for you as a women [sic] and the millenial [sic] generation as a whole. You are so lost and confused.”
This is precisely why I protest. Please do not tell me or others who we are.
So here’s how it all went down. Chad Prather posted a video: “Maybe it’s time to protest the protesters!” To which a friend replied, “this is what happens when you give kids medals when they dont win…..they just cant handle it [sic]”.
I felt compelled to say something, being someone who’s been making a point to hold space for folks who feel they need to fill the streets at this particular time, “Saddened by this massive overgeneralization. I never gotten [sic] a trophy in my life and I’m a protestor. I’ve attended several events and have been standing in warrior for friends and colleagues who feel unsafe due to a slew of assaults (left out of the news) that have been occurring in NYC since the election. I’m grateful to have learned how to hold space for the voice of people in pain, even when it’s not mine, just as we were able to when we used a ceremony (re)appropriated from Native Americans as an opportunity to heal. I remember when I was encouraged to help folks and “spread my light” and now I’m some kind of nameless idiot who should be arrested or punished for speaking up where balance is needed. It’s mindblowing [sic].”
No surprise I would get a response from this particular crowd, but what became clear in each response is what I would consider the granular and divisive nature of denial, which has come to pass as product of living in a narcissistic society.
Similarly, taking this emotional habit to a global conversation, we as a willingly open-minded people, must consider the post-colonial possibilities of a world without the “white feelings” imprint. You see, the white man is a political narcissist.
Friend: “protesting who was elected …thats what im talking about. Ive protested before, Protesting who was elected-no i dont get it. Because some peoples choice did not get picked. my choice wasnt elected either. protesting for clean water, for a man who was put in prison for no reason, against racist- most definitely [sic]”
Unknown lady: (first attempt)- “Please explain to me what are you protesting, words?? Cause you cant be protesting the President Elect, he hasnt done anything to protest, The electoral college??? Mean people??? The democracy in general??? Criminals??? what is it that you are protesting to change???
(second attempt)-“Just reading your post, sounds exactly what he is talking about, your protesting feelings???”
Can someone tell me what is wrong with feelings? (another friend asked)
Well– I guess it depends on who’s governing the field. This is something we (white folks) really need to think about, and draw upon for reflective analysis. After decades of making racism, politics, ideology and power about conversations of rights and other external resources, it’s time to turn the conversation inward- to the politics of feelings (Morgen, 1983).
I don’t know where you stand with this but I’m willing to stand in to support people’s feelings, even if they are sourced from a very different experience than my own. If people are taking to the street to express that they don’t feel safe, while the news and media has colluded that we should, then I’m willing to be told I’m wrong by the “mainstream”. I’m willing to be laughed at and rejected. I’m willing to be told I’m late to the party. Why? Because I know what it’s like to be told who I am (when I am not that thing). I know what’s its like to be pushed, suppressed, degraded and disregarded. And I can’t turn away from folks who have expressed the same, or who are coming to terms with their own confusions and fragility, and are willing to rip off the band-aid. So again, this is formidably why I protest.
Most of all, I write to say to the folks who condone my expressions that- I call your bluff. I call in the folks who have selectively enjoyed my music, my charm, and my humor at times when it served to entertain them. I think of the way white culture does this in many ways- to appropriate and reject the very things which serve us, make our survival possible, and afford us our “identity”. You (the consumers) are the very people who have walked out the door at the times when I/we have spoken my/our mind. So I say to you, stop coming to look for advice and validation, stop using me as a safe space for conflict and stop consuming my feelings as your own. Stop telling me who I am, what I should do, and what I need to learn, and most of all, stop telling me what I can do for you. I will not stop protesting. I will not make you feel comfortable and I will not succumb to your invalidation as something I should own. It doesn’t belong to me and I’m rightfully handing it back to you.
Morgen, S. (1983). Towards a politics of “feelings”: beyond the dialectic of thought and action. Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 10(2), 203-223.