In the first decade of the 20th century, we had the women’s rights Suffragette Movement protests. The 30s was the decade of the Great Depression. The 50s and 60s had the Civil Rights Protests. The 70s was mainly known for the student rooted Vietnam Protests. The 80s had the Iran Contra and The Cold War. The 90s was known mainly for the WTO riots, of course based here in the Northwest. The first decade of 2000 was when the longest war in US History began, the Iraq War. It was also full of protests involving Occupy Wall Street and the big banks.
Now as we near the closing of our second decade into the 21st century, it seems history is repeating itself. We have Black Lives Matters protests, which are being sparked by events that are reminiscent of the horrible acts displayed back in the 50s, but now we have the internet and social media to bring these acts of injustice to the pubic eye as they happen. The protest to halt and ban the continuation of the Dakota Access Pipeline that is drilling into sacred Native Lands, and violating a treaty made between the US Government and the Sioux Nation back in the 1850s. 11 million people world-wide participated in the women’s rights marches the day after the swearing-in of our 45th President, who is the first person to hold that office that has been both a reality TV personality as well as has been accused of multiple acts of sexual assault and harassment prior to taking office. The first week of his time in the White House he has signed executive orders banning immigrants from Muslim countries entry into the US, stopped funding for various art and rights organizations while also imposing gag orders.
People are scared of what their government is becoming. They are scared that history is repeating itself. But one thing is different now than it was 60 years ago: we, as a people, are more educated in our rights and right to protest, and have found our voices. We will not back down.
So as a parent, how do we teach our children about not only their right to assemble based on their First Amendment Right but also to incorporate that behavior in every part of their lives, to not be afraid to question anything. This is not just about their rights, but the rights of others. To be courageous and vocal on the behalf of people who may not have a voice or are having their rights violated. To teach them to NOT be selfish and have the “it doesn’t affect me” mentality but rather, realizing it affects us all, and that whatever level of privilege they are born with, to use it for good rather than evil.
“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” – Leonardo de Vinci
I recently saw an acquaintances social media post that stated “Children should be in school, not protests”. This affected me so deeply. This had insulted me both as a mother and a human. Insinuating that parents that let their children protest were bad parents. Even worse saying children that protested were bad and shaming them for having a voice. It was then I realized I had to break down our process, and how we taught our daughter to fight for both her rights and her voice, to show people that it in fact exercising that right can be the best teaching tool you ever give to your children.
I was raised with a “Don’t speak unless you are spoken to” mentality. I didn’t have my own beliefs or things that I truly FOUGHT for until I was over 18 years of age. I had never done a lick of community service or fought for anything that didn’t directly involve me. Then I moved out and realized – SHOCKING – the world did NOT revolve around me and there were things that my voice COULD help with. And more importantly, I could fight for what I believed in.
When Madison was very young, as I have mentioned in other posts, she often stood up for those around her being mistreated because of racism or classism. She had our voices early on, but the power and importance of protests wasn’t introduced until a bit later. First march – was on MLK Day. We talked to her about the real things Dr. King stood for, and not just what was taught to her in school. We joined the march being organized by people locally and not large organizations. The march started in south Seattle, NOT a parade downtown with bells and whistles. We then began the process of Unlearning her from what school taught her that was exaggerated and fabricated.
It is important to note that “protest” isn’t just gathering in groups chanting in the streets. We must teach our children to protest daily. To RESPECTFULLY but FIRMLY stand up for what they believe in, in all aspects of their lives. Some of the things we taught our daughter to have a voice about as she grew up:
- Is a teacher mistreating a minority student? STAND WITH THEM, BE VOCAL.
- Is there a community event but you have to go to school? Tell us why you want to go and how you can help – we will not only support you but get you out of school the correct way.
- Do you feel like you are being mistreated by someone in a public place? Make eye contact, raise your voice, find support, CALL US.
- Are the police or other city officials misusing their power to intimidate a minority in your presence? Take video, CALL US, Do NOT loose your cool or be disrespectful, stand by the side of the person being victimized. Normalize the discussion, be supportive. MAKE EYE CONTACT.
- Are men around you sexualizing you or being sexist in their behavior? Have a voice, BE strong, do NOT ignore it and DO NOT allow it.
- Is your school teaching things about history that are fabricated and false? Raise your hand, respectfully question and disagree. Be informed. Inform your peers. Stand up for the real truth.
- Are you ANGRY about something that’s happening in the world? Take a breathe. Don’t be reactive. Do your research. Don’t believe everything on the internet. Once you know your facts, organize and assemble, DO NOT be impulsive and reactive. Be informed, organized and intelligent in your actions.
- See something that makes you sad? i.e. homeless, animal cruelty, racism, xenophobia, homophobia? Find out what you can do in YOUR immediate surroundings to join the fight. We must work from the inside, out. Donate, march, volunteer etc.
- See someone homeless or hungry outside of a store and you are going in? Buy them a bottle of water, and something warm to eat. Make eye contact, smile and learn their name. Then make plans to volunteer at the nearest shelter.
These are the things that I wish were said to me as a child and teen. These are the things that would have not only helped empower me as a young adult, but helped me figure out who I was as a human being, earlier in life. It of course helps the immediate issues at hand but there is an underlying effect on the human condition, on our souls – that happens when these things are implemented at a young age. It shows us the depths of ourselves as people, and shows us the power and potential we have to change more than ourselves, to change the world.
So in response to those that think children should be in schools not protests – I say – the WORLD is the best education system for our children. In school my child was taught math (kind of), geography and biology, and a very biased and fabricated history. In the world of protest, rallying, marches and social justice, she was taught: compassion, kindness, fierceness, realness, government power, civilian power, amendment rights, LGBTQ and women’s rights, religious rights, human rights, animal rights…shall I go on?
We as parents raise our children with the lessons they need so they can turn them into tools when they grow up and go into the world, properly prepared for being confronted with all kinds of injustices.
My hope for you as a parent is that you can be that support for your child as they figure out who they are and struggle to find their voice in fighting for what they believe in, regardless if it aligns with your beliefs.
My hope for you as human being, is that you are able to use the things happening in the world, as a syllabus of sorts for your parenting, and use it to create a level of compassion that sometimes is hard to find.