You may have seen me, waving my protest signs. Most likely you have not; the majority of the people who pass me by never look outside their own private bubbles. I was like that for a long time, too. I lived in my little world, and would occasionally hear about people like Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, and Philando Castile, and I would wake up. I would read articles, and post memes, and be so angry, and want to do something… but just trying to keep up with the minutiae of day-to-day living would drain all the passion out of me, and I would fall asleep.
Just as our current system intended.
And then came 2020: a pandemic, and yet another tragic murder — and I woke up for good this time.
I’m Grandma. I protest in support of Black Lives Matter and police reform.
The Black Lives Matter movement has called worldwide attention to the injustice intrinsic to American policing. The conservative world is ready to excuse any but the most egregious abuses perpetrated by bigoted, abusive, and corrupt police officers, and insists that the ones who are caught are just “a few bad apples.” It amazes me that NO ONE ever FINISHES that particular quote:
“A few bad apples will spoil the whole barrel.”
Don’t mistake me, though. I used to think the system was broken, and just needed to be ‘fixed’. I now know it is working exactly as intended: sowing division, championing ignorance, and keeping the ninety-nine percent — the rest of us — in line. Racism is one of the favorite tools used by the right to divide and conquer the masses, but it’s not the only one; it’s difficult to think of a minority group that doesn’t have its own unique group of conservatives dedicated to hating them. That hatred comes from fear, and when people are afraid, it’s a lot easier to get them to kick down rather than up. Racism is a cancer in the body of our society that cannot be ignored — a cancer that is invariably fatal. Unless we want to see the end of our Great Social Experiment, the cancer of racism must be excised from the government. As for our police, it seems the whole damn barrel is spoiled, and it is past time to rethink law enforcement. I don’t expect things to change overnight, but I do expect change, and I intend to do my part.
My journey began with my first protest in early June of 2020, right after the death of George Floyd. Once there, I looked around and saw my own frustration and anger mirrored on all these other faces. The organizers asked us all to lay on the cement for eight minutes and forty-five seconds, and as I did so, I found myself crying… thinking of George lying there, begging for his life, and crying for his Mama, while those bastards squeezed the life out of him for the world to see. And I remember thinking, we cannot let this continue.
The next weekend I went to another protest. And the next. Then came a week when there were no protests scheduled, but I didn’t want the weekend off. I did not want to fall asleep again, so, inspired by Greta Thunberg, I began my solitary protest.
From late June of 2020 right up to today, I protest twice a week on the corner of Columbia Center Boulevard and Quinault Avenue. Being a senior, standing and walking for long periods of time can be difficult for me, so I protest from a chair. I don’t keep any schedule (in order to discourage potential stalkers) but I try to protest for ninety minutes, twice a week, barring illness or bad weather.
I’ve had the sprinklers turned on me. I’ve had people stop for a hug. In the past two and a half years, I’ve learned a lot about the Tri-Cities community, and a little bit about myself. I grew up just south of here in Umatilla, Oregon. I was a bookish, liberal-minded kid surrounded by conservatives. I felt so alone sometimes. One of the main reasons I decided to pursue this course in the beginning was so all those other liberal kids out there today could see ME, and maybe not feel so alone. But as time has passed, I have given myself additional goals.
The defining trait of the conservative is fear — fear of change. Change makes conservatives feel uncertain, and unsafe, which makes them angry and often unreasonable. They usually reject any change before they understand it; but once an idea becomes familiar, the conservative’s fear departs, and reason returns. I remember when conservative America rejected the idea of gay marriage; now, the majority support it. It just took them some time to get used to the idea. So it’s the conservatives I focus on now.
I look at what I am doing as planting seeds. Every time someone flips me off or yells some ugliness, I know that they read my sign, and I planted the seed of an idea in their mind. They yell, “All lives matter!” and I immediately respond, “Yes they do! Even Black ones!” Regardless of what they do, I wave and smile, because you can’t beat hate with more hate. Over time, the seeds I plant will grow, and other seeds will be planted, and eventually they will stop hating. They will stop being afraid. And then we win. We WILL win, of course. It’s inevitable. It is slow work, but it is worth doing.
Tumbleweird is kindly giving me a platform here from which I hope to share my experiences and insights, and hear some of yours. Feel free to write to Grandma with questions, suggestions, information, and criticisms; you can’t discourage me. When it comes to police reform, I am in this fight to the end.
Grandma is a kindly old widow who lives in her own private asylum in Finley with her cats and peacocks. Her hobbies include playing with Legos, collecting feathers, and making things.