In the last week our family has joined two Black Lives Matter rallies/marches/protests (I’m struggling with the most accurate term). One was in Fredericksburg, VA, organized by the Student Government Association at the university my husband and I attended and at which he has worked for two decades. The other was a mile from our home in the suburbs of DC. Living just outside of Washington, D.C. means we’ve always attended marches there. Marches happen in big cities. Traditionally anyway. Now we’re seeing them in small towns all across the country.
It was lovely to be able to be a part of an event within walking distance of our home. We walked there with our signs and met friends. Both of my children saw multiple people they know. It was quite convenient and easy to fit into our schedules, which was a treat.
I hadn’t really thought about the impact however. We gathered at a very busy intersection beginning at 4:30 in the afternoon and were there for more than two hours. Lots and lots of cars passed us during that time. It was heartening to hear the honks and cheers and see the supportive signs in car windows. It was loud and hot and hopeful.
It also brought this movement to people who might otherwise be able to ignore it. If we’d all gone into D.C. rather than gathering in our community, many of the people who drove by might never have been aware of our actions. Even if the march were significant enough to make the news, many folks would, and could, ignore it. Driving past, hearing our chants, seeing our signs, they had to see us.
Lots of cars passed by with young children in them. I had to wonder how many of those parents had avoided, intentionally or not, having conversations about race and justice and police brutality with their children. How many of those parents feel their children are too young for this conversation? How many of those parents feel they don’t know how to start such a conversation?
I know that parents of young children can spin what they saw to fit their narrative if they wish. I recognize that’s this isn’t a guarantee that children are going to have the opportunity to engage and question in meaningful ways. But I think that taking the movement to people in this way makes it more likely to happen. I’m hopeful some of those cars full of families took this chance to talk.
Near the end we walked the short distance to our local government center/police station where a few of the organizers spoke. The three middle schoolers I was with (two white and one Black, all of whom live close by) had no idea that was a police station. I’m not sure what that means but it was surprising to me.
My thoughts on marching in Fredericksburg (on Breonna Taylor’s birthday and the day that city removed a slave block from a street corner) are complicated. Living in northern Virginia makes it easy for me to forget many of the realities around us. It was an important reminder to me.