Where have I been before today? Reflections on the #WomensMarch.

where have you been? Where have y’all been? Why is this your first protest? I cannot put into words how heartbreaking it is to see grown adults that I know and love decide only now to take to the streets. I’m glad you’re there. I’m glad you’re doing something. But weren’t we enough? Weren’t we worth it before? Why weren’t we reason enough?

Where have you been? And where will you be once this doesn’t impact you directly anymore?
— Ijeoma Oluo on Facebook


Today, Eight and I went to the local Women's March on Washington in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, along with about 4000 other folks in our chilly, weird zombie-fogged-over city. And here is the truth. This was not only my 8-year-old daughter's first real rally/protest/march, it was mine as well. 

So when Ijeoma asked the above on Facebook (and Twitter) tonight, I had to sit my privileged, cis, white-lady butt down and really think about this. Why am I a 45-year-old, loud and proud FEMINIST who carried out my first real, in-life, tangible act of defiance and activism today?

I hate to admit this, but I don't have a good answer for her. 

I think for many people of privilege, "the wall" is already there. Separating us from those who are not US. Oh, we see you, we see your struggles, the injustices and inequality, and we talk a good talk (or write a good blog post or FB status), but our activism ends when we close the tab, or get enough likes to make us feel good about ourselves. We look over the wall, but we rarely climb over it. 

It's easy to sympathize with people from afar. It is much harder is to empathize with them. To put yourself right next to them or right in their shoes, and REALLY know what it's like to be truly marginalized and dehumanized. To bear witness and feel the pain of black and brown mothers losing their babies to police brutality. To step in (online or IRL) when a trans sister or brother or non-binary person is being attacked for the mere fact of existing. To send that email or make that phone call to our elected officials demanding action for our Indigenous people living in third-world-like conditions in our country. It's easy to say, who am I to say or do anything? It's not MY issue. 

I guess what I am trying to say, and what Ijeoma's post made me realize is; why have I been choosing easy? 

All week I have seen post after post from the Women of Colour on my timelines saying that they were not going to go to the Women's Marches. That they were TIRED. TIRED of doing SO MUCH WORK, and being attacked time and time again for standing up for the rest OF US. SO tired of showing up, only to be upstaged by white women, taking the credit (and all the selfies) for their work. 

Photo credit: Angela Peoples and Kevin Banette

Photo credit: Angela Peoples and Kevin Banette

This is when I knew I had to go. Because it is WAY PAST time that I step up and into the fray, and let my black and brown and indigenous and LGBTQi+ and disabled sestras take a GOTDAMB break. Time to let them be the ones at home, safe with their loved ones, watching the Live feeds on social media. IT WAS time to PUT UP or SHUT UP.  Hell, it was SO way past that time and I am ashamed it took me this long to put my body and my being on the front line. I am sorry it took so long for me to use my privilege to protect you. To be the RIGHT KIND OF WALL that stops the bigots and racists and xenophobes and sexists from getting to you. I am sorry it has taken me this long to physically lock arms with you and say to all the people with hate and ignorance in their hearts and minds, NOT ON MY WATCH MOTHERFUCKERS!

I know these words are not enough. I know me showing up today is not enough. I know being in the echo chambers I curate online or the "barred rooms" I visit with fellow feminists and friends (as one of our local speakers called them today) preaching to the choir, is NOT ENOUGH. 

I wrote a post a few years ago saying our world needed a revolution. Well... here we are. It's been a while since most of North America has been this OPENLY divided. It is time for us, FOR ME, to make some choices about what side we are on and if we really are who and what we say we are. 

So... Ijeoma, Addye, Kelly, Elisa, Stepha, Aja, Syreeta, Asha, Marni, AJ, Janelle, Amanda, TJ, Jenny, Alexandra, Eight, Ten and SO MANY MORE...

Please accept my apology for not being a TRUE ally until today. My pledge and promise to you is that from this day forward, I am with you, beside you, in front of you (if you need me) and behind you when you don't. 

I promise to do better. You have always been worth it, I was just too shortsighted and walled in my own privileged world to see it and do something REAL about it. I own that. No excuses.  

Love and solidarity AND ACTION.

Eight's protest sign. 

Eight's protest sign.