This two sentences appears on page 140 of Alan Brinkley’s book “American History: A Survey:” “Unlike earlier protests, most of which had involved relatively small numbers of people, the boycott mobilized large segments of the population. It also helped link the colonies together in a common experience of mass popular protest.” And what were the colonists boycotting and protesting? They were protesting the Tea Act of 1773 imposed by Britain on the colonies. Ever heard of “taxation without representation?” What followed was one of the most important protests in American history, the Boston Tea Party that led to the American Revolution that was the foundational episode for what became the United States of America. And it was the spirit of this same mass protest against tyranny that codified the Bill of Rights into the American Constitution the first of which says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.” America’s history is a history of protests. The history of change in America is a history of protest movements—women’s rights, civil rights, workers’ rights, human rights.
Jesus Christ protested when he came upon money changers in a Jerusalem temple. What he did was to make a scourge of cords and drive them out, including all the sheep and oxen. Then he tossed over the tables full of money. I Suppose Trump would have told Jesus to cast out the sheep and oxen but that his protest went too far when he turned over the tables full of money. What do you protest and how? Or do you protest the protestors? Do you sit on the sideline totally uninvolved with every aspect of human suffering and oppression until protestors show up, especially black protestors, and then you protest the protestors because of their skin color? What issues involving the environment, human rights or civil rights stir Amarillo folks to action? I wonder.
Donald Trump is the last person on earth to try to restrict how people should protest. He took out a full page ad in a New York Magazine declaring the guilt of five African American boys who were found to be innocent of anything having to do with a Central Park attack. He called for the death penalty. This was his way of protesting—with money—with money for an ad in a newspaper of wide distribution. Donald Trump’s bigotry led to his ongoing protest against President Obama presidency with his silly “birther movement.” This was Trump’s own bigoted protest that he knew could be used to stokes the fires of racism and bigotry. And so once again Trump is using another platform to attack black athletes to stir up racial division. On Sunday, when NFL owners locked arms in protest Trump said that form of protest was okay—but not taking a knee. Trump gave NFL owners a pass for protesting the same thing the knee was protesting. What a shallow idiot.
If I were to ask folks to name 5 things they protest right here in Amarillo I wonder what the answers would be? Would most people say “nothing, everything is just fine and dandy here?” Would they point to the disparate treatment of certain neighborhoods when it comes to the fair and equitable distribution of taxpayer dollars? (Hey they can build a useless baseball stadium but can’t clean the alleys.) Would anyone point to the job disparities when it comes to black females working for the City of Amarillo—where 85 percent of those making over $60,000 are white males? Would anyone point to how police enforcement allows white drug houses to operate with impunity while black and brown folks get arrested and their faces splashed on the local news? Anyone willing to protest how this town has practically cleaned out a generation of young black men sending them to prison while white men get a slap on the wrist? Anyone willing to protest the racial bigotry and ongoing taxation without representation that still abound right here in Amarillo? If not, why not?
I am an old protester—started when I was five with the white man who owned the farm where my grandparents were sharecroppers. He showed up and told us to “pick cotton in that back forty.” I stood with my arms across my chest and say, “If you planted it you pick it.” I have been protested every aspect of America’s racial injustice every since—in Palestine, Texas, in Houston, Texas, in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Denver, Colorado where I refused to stand for the National Anthem—and I still don’t, and in Washington, D. C. As I said, I am an old protestor exercising her First Amendment Rights. And I will continue to protest whenever and wherever I can against American’s bigotry including that flowing from the old, ignorant, uncouth, nasty lips of the Klansman in the Oval Office. # TakeaKnee
Copyright 2017 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.