By Donald Trump’s ninth day in office, I had spent 1 day protesting in D.C., 1 day protesting at the Atlanta airport, and two days traveling to and from D.C. Is this the plan? Protest every weekend? Spend 44% of Trump’s time in office protesting?
I’ll clear my calendar.
Ignoring the stack of grading undone and the manuscript untouched, here are the good parts. I’ve realized justice ain’t nothing but a family thing. My sister and I drove to D.C. together. She’s a Spanish professor and I’m a History professor. We had twelve hours to dissect this administration from our disciplinary perspectives, alternating between my rants on America First jingoism and her rants on the protection of Latin American relations. Then we’d both talk about being women. Repeat on a loop.
In week 2, I attended the Atlanta airport protest with my mother, who used to take me along whenever she’d set up apartments for the refugees our church sponsored. I played with the kids– amazing how kids do not need a common language beyond mud and running — while Mom stumbled through language barriers to fill out the school registration paperwork with the parents. Supporting refugees has always been a part of her patriotism.
Both weeks, Dad hung out the black flag he now flies in place of his American flag. The red, white, and blue will come back when his country does, he promises.
More good? Protesting with thousands of my new friends, I realize Americans are not slacktivists as has been charged. Yes, we tweet and update Facebook — but we still get out there, march, send postcards, make phone calls, and create community. We keep humor with our signs. We make friends, “Hey I love your sign. Where you from?”
D.C was incredible — waves and waves of people and pink hats, down every street, packing every car. Everyone smiling and saying “Can you believe this?” We weren’t sure if we couldn’t believe that so many of us came out or that we now live in a country where we feel a need to march for our rights in such numbers.
Still, I think Atlanta’s support of refugees moved me even more. This is a city of refugees — reflected in our foodways, markets, music, schools, and businesses. My county is home to Clarkston, the most diverse square mile in the US. My local school system serves kids from 156 countries, speaking 162 languages. We are a global southern city — our own Global South.
Trump called Atlanta, represented by John Lewis, a “crumbling” city. His words were as off as his timing, insulting Martin Luther King’s home city on MLK weekend. He even managed to insult the city while the Falcons were on the winning streak that has taken them to the Super Bowl. Now it isn’t just the Falcons, but all of Atlanta chanting RISE UP!! Enough people came to the airport that the police kept opening the barriers to allow for more people to protest safely. The spirit of hope was just as strong as in D.C. the weekend before; the sense of urgency was greater.
Signs stood up for Atlanta and refugees: RISE UP; Y’all Means All; Welcome to Atlanta Where Refugees are Welcome. In addition to city pride, I saw many more Bible verses; perhaps these were people who had just came from Sunday School with the Good Samaritan in mind.
We rise up for justice, for immigrants, for women. We rise up for history. We rise up too, for those who cannot. We march for the undocumented who fear arrest. We march for members of our families in the military who cannot protest their boss. We know they are there because we grew up with them in our city.
In the 1960s, Mayor William Hartsfield called Atlanta “the city too busy to hate.” Teaching history, I call it, “The city to busy to hate, but we can pencil you in.” Now, I wonder if we may be rising up, at last, to be the city busy fighting hate.