I had the privilege of attending the Women’s March in Chicago a few weeks ago. While in Chicago, my friends and I wanted to see the Trump Tower. The towering glass building lies right on the Chicago River, close to the mouth. From across the river, we stood with a few thousand other people shouting at the building that represented, to many of us, the obscene wealth and wickedness of our new leader.
This was also the only time I have seen riot police. Police were everywhere. They were often on high ground, looking serious and grim. Everyone kept their distance, and with good reason.
The Trump Tower was different. I was close enough to the riot police to see the colors of their eyes. They were on horseback, holding shields and wearing helmets. The adults all kept their distance, but the children didn’t. Perhaps they were too young to understand what the police represented; what the police were capable of. However, I also would like to believe that these children were one of the reasons the police did not lash out at us.
The children, mostly young girls whose ages must have been in the single digits, were fearless. They walked right up to the riot police, but it wasn’t the men and women that intrigued them. It was the horses. The kids were amazed by them.
I saw one of them walk right up to a horse and stand on tiptoe to pet it. The adult with the child was reasonably terrified, but the officer on horseback was calm.
“You should ask if you can pet him,” the adult said. So the child did as she was told, and the officer smiled. The adult with the child was relieved. It was a tense moment for all the onlookers, myself included. Meanwhile, the child was smiling from ear to ear.
I would be lying if I said I liked the police. I don’t; I see the police not as law enforcement and peacekeepers, but as a group whose actual goal is to keep the lower castes of society in line. Of course, many police officers do not recognize their place within the system.
There were no arrests at the March on Washington. I don’t know about Chicago, but I can imagine it would be similar. I saw a lot of civil disobedience there, from shutting down an entire section of Michigan Avenue (one of the busiest streets in Chicago) to human roadblocks to allow protesters to march through to the gathering in front of the tower. And there are lots of reasons for that.
A huge part of that was the whiteness of the protests. Black Lives Matter protests are often just as peaceful as the March was, but you see arrests there. You see tanks and pepper spray and concussion grenades.
That’s what happened with Inauguration Day itself. Sure, a limo was set on fire and a Nazi got punched twice. But the protests on Inauguration Day were also about as peaceful as one would expect when a fascist comes to power despite losing the popular vote by three million people.
A huge part of white privilege is the fact that we, as white people, can march through the streets without fear. Because white people often do not march or work with people of color, we do not realize the amount of privilege we have. But feminism is intersectional by its very nature. Life is intersectional. “White Feminism” isn’t feminism.
If you do not take into account the experiences of women of color and how they experience this patriarchal society we live in, you solve nothing. Sex workers need to be taken into account. Trans people. Queer people. Indigenous people. Muslim people. Disabled people.
If it involves women at all, feminism has a presence. Because women are a part of just about everything, feminist thought must always be present. It must also be inclusive.
That being said, I do believe that those children were a part of the reason the police did not turn on us that sunny Chicago afternoon. The police as a system are evil in my opinion; but the people are people as well. It takes a certain kind of evil to deliberately injure a child. And it’s not like police never hurt children. They do, and they do it often.
But the fearlessness of a child, to walk right up to the very symbol of their oppression and ask to pet the horses –that’s powerful. Powerful enough to bring any human being to their knees.
These very same children led chants to the thousands. They are our future. They are what feminism looks like and will continue to look like for as long as feminism is needed.
The fight against militant fascism within our country has only just begun. Those children will lead the way. They are our future. They are also our hope.