On Saturday May 30, I decided along with my daughter and a group of friends to join the protests in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. I really had no idea what I was doing. I only knew that something has to change and I want to be a part of that. We had heard helicopters circling for days and things were getting bad. That morning before deciding to head downtown I had a deep discussion with my brilliant daughter about the state of affairs. I started my morning with the viewpoint that I just don’t understand how destroying property and other people’s livelihoods did any justice to helping the cause of “black lives matter”.
I am always one to listen and when a valid point is made to shift my opinions and she quickly did. She reminded me of Stonewall Riots of 1969 that led to reform and more rights for the LGBTQ community that I am deeply entrenched in as a queer woman. And also of the riots in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. A man that proposed peace over everything and said “I have a dream” also said “A riot is the language of the unheard”.
One business owner, who’s place I had visited some 20 years ago when I lived in Columbus and had been vandalized over the weekend, said “I can replace windows, lives can not be replaced.” At that moment I understood what I was unable to see as a successful business owner with white privilege, that sometimes to be heard we must get angry and loud. We are in the midst of a revolution and when sacred revolution is called for we must revolt.
For those of you that might want to spiritually by-pass this situation right now and say “let’s come from love.” Let me say sometimes the language of love is not pretty.
Sometimes LOVE is packaged as pain and terror.
I wholeheartedly believe this. Many times in my life my trauma has sent me to my knees to re-evaluate my life and it was all from love. Everything comes from LOVE or is a cry for LOVE. Love shows up in many forms and right now its burning down cities around the Un-United States.
So I decided to join these protests PEACEFULLY. We geared up, packed our backpacks with water and baking soda for first aid, wrote the names of our emergency contacts in permanent marker on our forearms and I joined the REVOLUTION. As we found our way we encountered police officers and National Guard units marching the deserted streets of Columbus, blocking access to all areas as much as possible.
We walked through alleys and grass lawns to get to the front lines of one of the protests. As I arrived and took my way to the crowd, I heard a black woman on a megaphone saying “White to the front, Black to the back.” At first my ignorance got the best of me and I thought I am here for them, don’t they want to be seen. That fleeting thought was quickly replaced when a small voice inside me said… no protect them, they are less likely to hurt a white woman of privilege.
So I marched with my hands high above my head to the very front of the line and stood tall with other white folks, all the time concerned for my friends, my daughter and the others, but never for myself. As I took my place on the front line tears welled from deep within me. These were not tears of fear, I have had guns to my head, they were tears for the realization and all consuming knowing of the centuries of oppression that I could feel in my bones, but had never experienced because yes I have white privilege.
I don’t think I ever really understand that till this moment. That because I was white I could be a shield of safety.
I know this has to stop and I don’t know what to do so all I could do was stand there with my hands in the air on the front line and show that I care, that I am here and that I stand for blacks, I am their ally and their lives matter and no lives matter until black lives do.
I want to reiterate at this point that we were peacefully protesting, holding up our hands and signs, with a few people on megaphones talking about rights and change. This lasted less than 5 minutes and the line of SWAT and Police Officers stood silently watching at first. We were told the National Guard was nearby and there were snipers on the buildings to be careful. Then, out of nowhere, I heard a huge pop and smoke started to fill the area and I realized as I zoned in that tear gas grenades were being thrown by the line of law enforcement in front of us and exploding into the crowd.
People started running and screaming.
I was not wearing a mask or face covering at this point and my lungs and eyes filled. I backed away as people on the sidelines offered first aid. I raced to the side to find my daughter and friends and then quickly still coughing and without aid, put on my mask and returned to the line. The second round included not only tear gas but a barrage of shots came into the crowd. At first disoriented I thought they might be actual shots but they were rubber pellets just smaller than a hockey puck being fired into the crowd and several of us were hit with the sting.
We dispersed and assembled again. They started bringing in tanks and the National Guard appeared and they came toward us and we moved on. We were not rioting, we were not looting. I will leave that to others but after experiencing what I did and seeing how a cops treated peaceful protestors I understand how cities all over the country are on fire.
A state representative that was in the crowd was maced I found out later, someone was pushed off a building by a cop and killed in another peaceful protest. I have white privilege, I want to be an ally, I am doing what I know I can and I completely support all forms of RIOTING in the name of love and change. I am here. I see you. I have a voice. I have a choice. I stand with you.
It starts with one small act of revolution.
So it’s your turn to REVOLT.
How will you stand up?
Now is the time.
There is no other time but NOW.