the discomfort of thought

So I wasn’t really going to write anything else about yesterday’s Angry Runner guest post but I feel like 30,000+ page views (which is like, 29,900 more page views than I normally get) warrants some kind of follow-up.

To start off, I want to say I’ve never been one for moderating comments. In the past, I’ve taken delight in approving the comments from people telling me I’m a cunt and an idiot and my blog sucks and I’ve gleefully told them all to eat shit. But I understand an exchange about racial injustice can get quite a bit uglier than an exchange about my grammar and punctuation. So I did trash three comments that I found particularly useless and distasteful. I don’t want this blog to turn into the comment section of a YouTube video.

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Since I possibly still have the attention of a few thousand of you (compared to the few dozen I had two days ago) I want to reiterate that I still agree 100% with the perspective AR offered and I want to thank her for writing it. I also wanna say thanks to those of you who took the time to offer your considerate and thoughtful commentary. There are a lot of people who are smarter and more articulate than I am and I’m always thrilled to surround myself (both online and in person) by those people.

With that in mind, I’m certainly not going to try to explain Black Lives Matter. There’s this whole big web site that already does that and you should totally read it. I do want to respond to a few comments left on this blog.

First of all, for those concerned about the safety of runners, protesters say they do not plan to interfere with the marathon or prevent runners from finishing.

Second, people have mentioned that this chapter in St. Paul (or that chapter in Seattle) is not recognized by the national organization, so they’re not the REALLY REAL Black Lives Matter movement, and I think pointing that out is sort of just another way to diminish and marginalize the efforts of people who are desperate for change. Are they not allowed to use the hashtag or carry the sign unless the national organization has recognized them? Are they not allowed to fight for racial justice unless they’re carrying an official #BLM member card?

Third, a lot of people seem to be saying they are all for social justice and racial equality…as long as it isn’t too disruptive or uncomfortable. (Because being deprived of your basic human rights and dignity is not at all uncomfortable.)

Several suggested activism of a more orderly fashion such as a booth at the state fair and to that my response is: the fuck?

the fuck

The media does not come out to cover booths at the state fair. Nobody pays attention to people handing out pamphlets and wearing arm bands. Nobody gives a shit about civil obedience. If people were already listening, the BLM movement would not be necessary.

I think the point of this protest is to leverage the visibility and publicity of the event and to cause a disruption that is going to be seen and felt by everyone there. A nice cozy sit-in may might make you feel good about your activism, but it’s the discomfort associated with a loud, disruptive demonstration that will effect the greatest change. You don’t have to agree with the strategy, but you have to admit it makes an impact. Look at how much we’re already talking about it, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

Read this remark by Martha Tesema from a piece in The Atlantic about the interruption by Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqueline Willaford of the August 8 Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle:

No matter how down people say they are with the cause, when they act like being slightly inconvenienced is more important than the lives of people of color, that suggests they probably never truly supported the movement. Marissa, Mara, and allies were not invited. They forced themselves on stage, so the reaction of the crowd was instinctive and understandable, to a certain degree. But if we look deeper at why they chose this provocative way of approaching this Seattle crowd, it says a lot about the urgency of Black Lives Matter and the lack of awareness among this progressive, liberal audience.

And continuing, she says of the hypothetical Bernie Sanders supporter who was inconvenienced by the disruption:

Ultimately, it’s not a life or death issue for her. Of course, inconveniences are annoying. But what is the worst that is going to happen to this Sanders supporter? I’m more concerned with what is going to happen to young women of color who are silent.

The stakes are higher for women of color.

And this may be an inappropriate parallel (anyone who reads inspirational motherrunner blogs knows we LOVE to compare EVERYTHING to running), but when you’re training for a marathon, you don’t just go out and do nice, comfortable 3 mile runs every day and expect your body to comply when you try to make it run 26 miles. You have to get uncomfortable. You have to disrupt the routine to bring about the tremendous changes required to finish a marathon. Otherwise, you will fail.

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There are just a few more remarks I want to point out that I found especially powerful.

From nathanmichaelblack:

Ya know what would be a real miracle? If at some point in the race, EVERYONE joined the die-in. Imagine the runners, watchers, vendors, police, everyone, all stopping for a few minutes of silent protest. THAT would be powerful.

From positiveblackwoman:

This post proves that you don’t have to be a certain race to “get it.” If you still don’t get it there are books out there. Some people like me try to live our lives in peace bringing unity between Black people and cops and then last weekend in Rochester, MN 4 educated Black women were stopped and harassed by the police as we were walking back from downtown in front of our hotel. We were so upset we were shaking. All the cop kept saying was “cops lives matter.” I guess she assumed we were apart of the Black Lives Matter movement and had resentment towards us. The racist rants that come about when the threat of disruption comes to something that matters to you is why BLM must exist.

And from Angela, who posted this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

And here a few other quotes I found on the internets that I think reinforce this theme of upheaval and discomfort as a force for change:

Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. – John F. Kennedy

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

And just for fun, let’s watch Are All Cops Racist? from a recent episode of the Daily Show.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with our regularly scheduled programming of running and bullshit. 😉

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7 thoughts on “the discomfort of thought

  1. Perfect. The other thing I keep thinking about:

    We’re at the point when most decent sized cities have a gay pride week or weekend. And though you’ve still got your typical grumps in newspaper comment sections whining that you can’t have straight pride rallys, pride weekends in most cities have parades that you’ll see families at – regardless of orientation. They’re visible and they’re out there.

    But in the 70s, these were gay liberation marches and riots. People were quite literally fighting for their lives and it took concentrated action in multiple cities to bring exposure to the movement. As you say so well above, people have to make things visible to make a difference. And with visibility comes clashes which have been pretty much the only reason why any movement has ever gained any traction. This is nothing new.

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