Standing Out in Solidarity Among Voices for Change

Monday, June 8, 2020

Today is 100 days.....100 days since our first case of Covid-19 (according to Governor Cuomo during today's daily press briefing).  It's been a challenging and educational 100 days and if I'm going to be honest, some days have been more difficult than others.  If I were to write a post about what Covid-19 taught me, I would need a dedicated blog post, but this isn't it.  Today I'm writing about the newest national crisis - racial injustice - and my experience with our town's Black Lives Matter march today.

I'm going to be totally honest here and admit that when I heard about the march, a march that would be travelling in close proximity to my home, I was a little apprehensive.  I'd seen what happened in big cities across the country and in our own state capital.  I've lived long enough to know that a few bad apples can upset the apple cart and that even if the majority of the crowd is peaceful and standing up for what they believe in, there is often a smaller delegation that needs to make a louder noise to convey their message.  After seeing how peaceful the demonstrations in Troy went yesterday, I felt less afraid and in that absence of fear, I felt the need to at least witness today's march.

John and I parked at our church where I was happy and not surprised to find a group of congregants already gathered with signs and water to hand out, ready to show their support to the group as they passed on Route 146.  As we waited about 30 minutes for the group to make their way from Clifton Commons to where we stood, passing cars honked their horns and shouted, some raising fists from open windows.  Already I felt a sense of unity and peace as I witnessed car after car, mostly filled with white suburbanites pass our group.  Not one car that passed showed anything other than solidarity.  Finally we could hear the voices, and the brake lights of cars heading west signaled that the march was approaching.  The crowd on our corner raised their signs and cheered as the marchers, several wide, made their way down Route 146.
When several had neared, maybe a couple hundred, the leader directed them to take a knee.  And as this group gave time for the rest of the marchers to catch up, these folks took a knee on the hot pavement and chanted, 'Hands up, don't shoot."  As marchers caught up, they too took a knee.

I've never considered myself a racist, or been actively vocal as an anti-racist, and I confess that while I have worked with and been friends with people of color, until recently I've never given a lot of thought to the subject except for when these cases of police brutality make the news.  I pretty much live my life in suburbia where I'm not forced to think about what life is like outside of my community.  I'm ashamed to admit that.  Today I felt drawn to witness today's Black Lives Matter march and I had no fear that there'd be violence - even on a church lawn.  I don't know why I felt compelled to get out of my car and stand at the curb, but that's exactly what I needed to do.  What I felt in those moments was a raw emotion that was unexpected.  I felt proud of my community, not just the onlookers, but of the hundreds that marched in unity - a march organized by a high school student!  I felt moved by the cars passing by, honking in support.  I felt proud that nearly everyone was wearing a mask and I felt proud and impressed that in this mostly white suburbia I live in.....the majority of the marchers were white.  I hope that the people who need to speak out, begging for justice, begging to be heard and treated fairly, noticed that and felt a sense of support and community today.  I was proud to be a spectator in the crowd on the sidelines and I was proud to know I live in a community that accommodated this cause.  Notice there was not one police car leading or following this peaceful group.

You might be wondering why I'm sharing my personal feelings about this event.  After all, in today's world it's always a gamble when we share opinions or views.  All you have to do is follow any form of social media to realize how quickly tempers flare and counter opinions are offered to contradict any and all perspectives.  I am not looking for or welcoming debates or criticism.  I am sharing because I learned something today - about myself and about my community.  I'm pretty confident we'll never live in a world free from controversy or inequality, but I understand better now that as a society we need to do better to listen and hear people who look and live different that we do.  We need to stop turning our head the other way and ignoring things that don't necessarily affect us.  That's what these people and most of the others (who aren't destructive) are trying to convey.  We ALL need to be part of the solution in a way that involves more than our silence and indifference.  As one passing car said today, 'All lives matter' and we all need to do what we can to ensure that our silence isn't conveying indifference.  And isn't it sad that a problem has to become so rampant and so vile that so many feel the need to speak out?   We may all be frustrated and annoyed to be couped up and missing life as we're used to it, but in the grand scheme of things, I think most of us can be thankful (especially in this community) that we don't need to speak so loudly, in such desperate voices, to have our value and our lives matter.  I hope and I pray that 2020 goes down in history as the year we stopped our busy lives to take notice of what is important and to re-evaluate and prioritize and that when the ball drops and we bid 2020 farewell, we'll be a changed and better world.

Post Script:  While I supported and chose to share this march, on Saturday, July 25 another march took place in Clifton Park.  This march, supposedly for high school students who were marching for equality for the PRIDE community, was joined by the All For Us, BLM group.  This event was scheduled to take place on the Clifton Common grounds but proceeded into a march down Vischer Ferry Road to Route 146.  The group took control of the traffic circle and stopped traffic in every direction.  Since this march was not scheduled, local residents tried to make their way through the circle and down 146.  Several drivers had their car surrounded by shouted at by the protesters.  In at least one case, marchers shoved their phones inside open car windows yelling at the driver that he was called 'white trash'.  This behavior is not OK and I do not condone it.  I'm saddened that the majority of the people who are speaking and marching peacefully are entangled with a handful of angry people who are acting out in these inappropriate ways.  Violence is not the answer.

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