Gov. O’Malley was the first to take the stage with Vargas who jumped right into it by asking questions related to the sharp rise in arrests of black youths under O’Malley’s administration. Not long into the conversation, however, black activists, most of whom were women, began singing/chanting in the back of the room, “What side are you on, my people? What side are you on?”
After Gov. O’Malley left the stage, Senator Sanders came out. He, too, was shouted down and interrupted repeatedly. Unlike Gov. O’Malley who allowed the protesters to be heard, Sanders was visibly irritated, saying things like, “If you don’t want me here, I will leave.” He even shushed them at one point.
Sitting in the middle of this maelstrom was a fascinating experience. I, like many of the others there, was initially irritated by the protestors. I was there to hear the candidates and was frustrated that they weren’t being heard. Even a bit angry, in fact. “These are your allies,” I thought. “Why on earth are you attacking them? Why are you disrupting an event where the people there are sympathetic to your cause?”
Frustration. Anger. Being silenced.
Every single one of these emotions that ran through my white privileged brain in the first few moments of the protest until I was slapped across the face with what I was being forced to confront. Every single one of these emotions are felt acutely and painfully every single day by racial minority groups in our country. But, instead of being inconvenienced by not being able to hear a politician speak, they face them in the context of being slaughtered in the streets by the police officers who are tasked to protect them, incarcerated in astonishingly disparate numbers, and blamed for not being able to escape from the prison of poverty that holds far too many of them in bondage.
I had missed the point (because I didn’t listen) about how the initial question to O’Malley played right into the planned protest. Good for the moderator.
I loved the way this blog post described the transition from anger and frustration at the protesters, to a sudden realization of the lesson they were teaching.
I hope other, privileged, white people like me get to read this blog post from Eclectablog.