It’s been nice to see the marches in Aspen, or maybe they are protests, or maybe they are rallies (we should pick a term). Here in Aspen we could even call them parties and not be too wrong. When we gather for any cause it usually devolves into a soirée where you see all your friends.
I don’t want to minimize in any way these gatherings in Aspen; they are important. I do however feel a twinge of “preaching to the choir” about them. I know that it’s not entirely true, but I haven’t heard or seen much of a counter crowd. While there are certainly those in our community who do not believe that racism is a deeply rooted societal problem, they seem to be keeping mostly to themselves.
If I’m going to stand in solidarity with those for whom the zeitgeist of cultural change is long overdue, I’m probably doing less good marching next to a wealthy white Pilates mom than I would marching next to almost anyone else. I believe she probably feels safe enough already. I also have the privilege of assuming that those who are attending a rally in Aspen and are first-hand recipients of injustice based on their race shouldn’t feel especially frightened that at any moment during a march here that they could be a victim of violence.
I was recently informed that during previous marches in Rifle however, minority community members were being harassed, so this was a chance to step up: there was an upcoming march in Rifle on Juneteenth.
What I’ve done inadvertently in the last two paragraphs is expose what white entitlement can look like. It’s pretty sneaky. Since the protests have started I have felt that my participation in one would be to augment the feeling of support among those who may feel frightened to be there. I never thought of the reasoning behind why I felt that way, it had just never occurred to me that I should or would be afraid. I also have the privilege of assuming that those who are attending a rally in Aspen shouldn’t feel especially frightened, but who am I to think I know how other people should feel?
I now recognize that I don’t feel afraid to go to a march because of my race, but also that’s the whole problem isn’t it? No one should be afraid to exercise their right to protest injustice and no one should be experiencing injustice because of their race, but here we are. Given the option of whether I’m going to utilize my entitlement for nothing or something, I’m going to choose something. So I went to Rifle.
First of all there was a counter-protest, which just can’t be reasonably explained as something not overtly racist.
The march I attended was predicated on the Juneteenth holiday which celebrates the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in Texas, whom no one had felt necessary to inform they were free until a couple years after they were emancipated; because Texas. The march was also a Black Lives Matter rally, which is a specific discussion aimed at ending extrajudicial murder of citizens by “law enforcement” because they are Black.
The counter-protest (as is implied) was against those two things. Sound racist to you? They went out of their way to leave no doubt.
It’s hard to not make fun of the counter-protesters, and doing so certainly isn’t likely to convince any of them to think about the ridiculousness of their actions, but here we are. It was my impression that they were trying to intimidate the Juneteenth marchers by appearing as caricatures of racists. However, that tactic certainly didn’t work because we were laughing at the seeming uniformity of their costumes: T-shirt with an absurdly racist slogan on it, check; American flag bandanna worn on top of head, check; angry facial expression, check; middle finger or two raised at kids, check; casual disregard for the Constitution and the principles of America, check.
Clearly a memo had gone out to the counter-protesters that they should wear their gun because nothing says, “I don’t like uppity minorities” more than a rifle slung over the shoulder at a rally where minorities are pointing out the inequality of justice. In this case though, the sentiment must have been, “You know what’s better than one gun? Five guns!” It was clear to me that these were people who thought that they looked cool pretending to be G.I. Joe. They instead looked like they were in a poorly funded satirical movie about preppers. They were the butt of their own joke.
Their most entertaining antic was trying to be loud by revving a fleet of motorcycles as we marched, constantly leapfrogging the marchers so they could pull over and look farcical as many times as possible. One woman mimed “We can’t hear you!” as part of the act. Not sure if she understood that she couldn’t hear us because she is a racist who refuses to hear what she really stands for.
Anyway, I now absolutely feel that the marches in Aspen are preaching to the choir. Sorry, not sorry. I understand that they are convenient and comfortable to many people for whom a feel-good Instagram post is their main objective, and if that turns your crank, then I’m glad it’s there for you. But there are a lot of very real and overtly nasty racists just a short drive away who are going out of their way to attempt to intimidate the right of people experiencing injustice to protest against that indignity.
Perhaps your presence there would be more meaningful.