By: Marjorie Walsh
I do not think it’s a coincidence that my two Black Lives Matter shirts arrived the morning after Representative John Lewis passed away. My social media accounts were flooded with images, tributes and quotes, especially the reminder about #goodtrouble: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
It was only a few years ago that I was discussing teacher unions with a colleague and a union representative, when the latter lumped me in as one of those “moderate Republican women who don’t want to make trouble.” I was slightly offended by her assumption about my politics, but I did not object as the portrayal was fairly accurate.
In more recent months, my posts promoting social justice and affirming Black Lives Matter have led to responses that assume that I’m liberal. I was left wondering-- why is the pursuit of equity, specifically in dismantling racism, considered partisan? I could provide a history of my political affiliations, but it should not be relevant. I can speak up and say “Black Lives Matter,” even if I do not support each item on the organization’s agenda.
Rarely do we agree 100% with a candidate’s platform, but that should not prevent us from exercising our right to vote. I have voted for Republican, Democratic and Independent candidates. While many of my core beliefs have remained consistent over the years, the parties’ platforms and my own priorities have evolved.
Positioning myself as a moderate, however, can also be seen as problematic. Over the years since the BLM movement, many have sought to remind us that Martin Luther King, JR., was a “proud political radical” who “had a strong message for the white clergy members that condemned him." In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” on April 16, 1963, King wrote:
"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.’”
We are now at a moment of reckoning, as our country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, protests about police brutality continue, and our individual lives under stay-at-home recommendations feel simultaneously stifling and chaotic. What is the peace that we seek?
Even if some argue that this is a discussion of human rights, we cannot extricate politics from social justice issues, as many of the changes needed require legislation. Still the partisanship can be mitigated if folks across the political spectrum, especially moderates, engage in the work and make “good trouble.”
“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” - Rep. John Lewis
Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines, silently judging the extremes of both parties as they conflate and attach the other’s views. Neither party is to blame. But we must recognize that the progress towards equality and equity has not followed a trend of incremental positive changes.
When we open our hearts and minds, we can listen to various perspectives across political aisles. Before he passed away, John Lewis asked for this article to be published on the day of his funeral.
NY Times July 30, 2020
“Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself. I will continue to post on social media, engage in courageous conversations, contact my legislators and wear my BLM shirts.
Let’s make this world physically and emotionally safe for everyone! Let’s put in the work! Listen to thebloomingisahabitpodcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-blooming-is-a-habit-podcast-with-dr-stephanie-akoumany/id1480841080?i=1000485237847 and check out our blog http://justbloom.io for more ways to make antiracism and social justice a Habit and tips to heal and grow personally and professionally.
Thanks Marjorie Foley Walsh @thefitlitteacher ! Learn more here : https://justbloom.io/committing-to-antiracism-embracing-a-growth-mindset/
The real change starts at home for each one of us. Do what you can...as much as you can...and know that your voice matters so much! Take your time, but keep putting in the work. It’s everyone’s duty to make the world a better place. Go to https://justbloom.io/being-an-ally-doesnt-mean-having-all-the-answers-how-to-make-empathy-equity-a-habit/ to get more tips to engage in online and in-person conversations about social justice and the equitable treatment of Black people in America and abroad and all people.
Marjorie Walsh (BMS ’06) is a National Board Certified Teacher. She recently finished her tenth year, teaching high school English for Baltimore County Public Schools and most recently St. Mary’s County Public Schools. She taught ESL Across the Curriculum as an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and helped establish a dual enrollment English course with the College of Southern Maryland. She currently serves as a school mentor for new teachers, county curriculum writer, and College Board reader for the AP English Literature & Composition exam.
*Any opinions expressed reflect her personal point of view and do not represent any of these institutions.