I didn’t want to go. But unlike other protests, I HAD to go. I really didn’t want to. Did I mention that? Yesterday, was a vigil for Heather Heyer, a a protester who was killed on her way to protest hate.
My family gave me an out. They said I didn’t have to go. They got it. I’m Jewish. Listening to the media talk about the Nazi March in Charlottesville has been gut wrenching. I’ve lost my appetite. I feel a dulled sense of joy. Everything around me feels distant, bleak.
I wasn’t going to go. I mean, I had the out to skip this one. I was tired, achy from a long day. It was warm out and I wanted so badly to sleep off the feelings of dis-ease from the day.
But I went anyway. I have white privilege. I look white. This vigil was where white people needed to go to show solidarity with people of color and with everything that hate hates.
I had written my blog on what to bring to a rally or protest but this felt different; I felt different. I had barely enough energy to gather a candle and a cup to keep my fingers burn free, get there, find parking, and stand there. I needed help to light my candle; I was too out of it to understand how to do it without burning myself. I leaned against a tree and tried to relax. Images of the protester being mowed down flooded my brain. I wanted to cry but the tears didn’t come. I couldn’t smile even at neighboring candle holders. I felt blank, almost numb.
Sometime during the vigil, I realized that I stopped holding my breath. The speaker who shared her history of seeing Holocaust survivors’ tattoos on their forearms resonated with me. I felt seen. I heard singing and I slowly began to sing with the people around me. Holding my lit candle, I started to feel like I was not alone.
The video above provides a bit of a taste of the song and of the feel of the event. There were lots of people around but I was focused on my candle and the melody that carried me.
The protest was a gift when I needed it most. I went from being fearful to being unafraid, in one 60-minute span.
Will I ever be afraid again? Yes, probably so. Will I look at how honoring and remembering a white protester brought vigils all over the country versus the little fanfare I see when a black person is murdered. Yes, of course. I am constantly examining racism and my part in it. Was it worth missing several hours of sleep to be there? Definitely. Would I do it again? Yes, in a second. In a world fraught with violence and pain, I am grateful for the opportunity to stand for love and possibility and hope.
May all your protests feel meaningful and full of hope and may your questions teach you to dig deeply for satisfying answers.
In solidarity with anti-racists everywhere,
Dr. Abi Weissman (PSY 27497)
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