How to Maintain the Momentum
Important considerations for a pivotal movement taking place in uncertain times.
My first instinct in having conversations on this topic was that we don’t need another white man inserting his opinion on something that he has no business in talking about. But as I’m learning, maybe that’s not quite right.
There has been a lot of intense rhetoric surrounding the situation the world finds itself in right now. It’s as though the global pandemic wasn’t enough, so another worldwide phenomenon was added.
I really think this was a perfect storm. With everyone cooped up inside for months, there was bound to be a breaking point, in this case, it’s a protest against racial injustice that has plagued the world to this day. What I find surprising, is that everyone seems to have forgotten that there is a deadly virus that is still spreading around the world. Not three months ago, the virus took the United States by surprise and has since been the cause of 100,000 American deaths. As countries open up, and protests continue to draw crowds, a second wave of viral infections is sure to follow.
I think the strange dichotomy that we find ourselves in should be addressed. Those who believe medical professionals and typically abide by their rules are the same people who are actively disobeying those principles in favor of protesting. There have been comparisons between that and those who protested the laws that were keeping everyone safe at the start of the American lockdown. At first glance, perhaps these comparisons seem valid. Where I find fault, however, is in the rationale behind the protests. In one instance, crowds are protesting against rules and regulations that are put in place to protect the very people who are protesting them. They are protesting state control of their activities that have been put in place to keep the general public safe from a dangerous virus.
On the other hand, protesters in the Black Lives Matter movement are taking the opportunity to make use of the collective world’s free time and energy and putting it towards correcting an indisputable injustice against a group of people because of the color of their skin. And despite its visibility, the overwhelming majority of these protesters are making their voices heard without violence or law breaking.
With that said, despite a small effort by some protesters, there seems to be a consensus that social distancing guidelines can be ignored. Although it certainly is a cause that’s worthy of dissent, the same message can be achieved with viral protection guidelines being followed. It would be one thing entirely if those who were protesting would follow up their protests with two weeks of self-isolation, and take the potential infection as a personal risk, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. That would mean that those who have protested would need to avoid shopping, avoid seeing anyone outside of an immediate household, and even avoid those within the immediate household to as high a degree as possible.
It is the responsibility of those who choose to protest to avoid being spreaders of infection. People might have forgotten about the virus, but the virus certainly hasn’t forgotten about us. Despite their pursuit of an absolutely important cause, measures should be taken to protect everyone from viral infection. Risking one’s personal safety in pursuit of an important cause is one thing, but risking the safety of all of those around the protester for weeks after their exposure is not fair.
Luckily, there are other, very effective ways to take action. While protesting continues, those who feel unsafe have other options to contribute to a pivotal movement.
Petitions are available for signing, messages are available for sharing, charities are available for donating, and representatives are available for being bombarded with emails and letters. The prevalence of social media has allowed for these stories to be spread and with them comes the avenues for making a positive change in response.
Beyond the activism that exists now, it is incredibly important to exercise your democratic right when the time comes. I couldn’t say it any better than President Obama himself, so I’ll link his piece on it here, but an important and often overlooked takeaway is this: vote locally. Many decisions that require change occur on a more local level than the presidential nomination. We are lucky to live in a country that isn’t ruled by a single person. Although these elections don’t get the same news coverage as the national election due to their regionality, they are extremely important in making a local change. In fact, direct changes to everyday life are far more likely to come at the local level than at the national level. This means contacting those who represent your region at the national level, but also voting for people whose political decisions directly affect you.
Any hostility towards those who change their minds is in direct opposition to the pursuit of the cause.
Lastly, I want to mention the importance of accepting reformers. People who joined the cause late, or people who were the enemy four years ago. Any hostility towards those who change their minds is in direct opposition to the pursuit of the cause. If we don’t let people in who change their mind for the better, then what is the point of these protests and activism to begin with? Without the reformers, there would be no change.
And to the recently reformed, prove your loyalty to the cause by taking the avenues discussed above. Let’s make a positive change in a scary world.
To summarize, let’s take 3 steps to ensure this movement isn’t just a flash in history, but rather a pivotal time that brought about the change that the world needed.
- To those who are protesting, take precautionary measures in protecting yourself and those around you from COVID-19. Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart, and if you find yourself in a situation that could put you at risk for infection, save your neighbors by isolating yourself, to the greatest degree possible, from infecting others.
- Take action from your own home. Donate, spread the word, and take the time to have difficult conversations with family members. Most importantly, educate yourself on how to make a positive difference through voting for elected officials who line up with your political ideology. Take care to pay attention to local elections which can have a greater impact on your everyday life and also tend to be decided by a low margin of votes.
- Be sure to allow reformers in. Do not drive them away. The only way to allow for positive change to continue is to allow those who have changed their mind to join the cause without fear of being ridiculed back into their former beliefs.
The hope is that now is the time for actual change. The only way to do it is to not relent. Most of the world seems to agree that this movement feels more like a time for a difference to be made. Let’s not waste it.