This evening’s reports are that 3.6-4.3 million people or more gathered in major cities across the United States and thousands more gathered worldwide, all in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
The Women’s March movement has had some major hiccups since its birth in the pro-Clinton secret Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. I’ve shared others’ ambivalence about its founders and messaging, and didn’t participate personally though I supported several people who did.
Reports have also been encouraging. The people who moved across cities and towns today include hundreds of thousands of people in every possible social class and on every continent. Light may not have dawned for them until November, but many of them are now declaring fed-up-ness, articulating support for women’s rights as human rights, and hitting the streets in ways that defy the very human impulse to ignore conflict, disagreement, and the disagreeable.
Yes, they’re late. In the context of human history, we’re all late, but Angela Davis reminded marchers in DC today that our organizing for justice across communities and issues still counts and is still needed.
No matter when in the story of justice people join the cast, they risk some injury.
Society’s oppressive default means that clapping back against injustice through street protest means risking contact with police or others with volatile temperaments and access to weapons. Clapping back in direct conversations or confrontations with those who passively or actively support the current order can mean being tagged a troublemaker and alienated from social and professional networks.
While there’s nothing holy about being injured in the pursuit of justice, it’s so common a consequence of social change work that it can be easy to expect or even valorize it.
Today, I co-ran a session on clapping back in local faith communities with my colleague Verdell A. Wright. One of the things we invited attendees to think through is a risk assessment: if they were to respond to oppressive actions or rhetoric, how vulnerable might they become? What resources could they draw on? Who might tangibly support them?
It’s easier to take proactive action against oppressive theologies and policies when you have a strong support system and can bear the cost of responding to attacks. Developing the resources to persist despite injury and through healing is a dimension of the resilience I wrote and taught about last summer.
And resilience is exactly what the participants in today’s global marches will need to endure social oppression’s dismissals, counterarguments, and shape-shifting. As the US organizers wrote tonight, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”