There won’t be anything “white” about Christmas in Chicago this year. Instead the unseasonable warmth gave way to rain and turbulent wind—something of an appropriate symbol for what 2015 has meant to black communities across the country.
Despite several months of peaceful protests, viral videos of black people getting killed or brutalized by police officers, and nonstop news about the lack of police accountability within the justice system, there have been no widespread reforms to address the persistent issues of police misconduct. White Americans, on the whole, continue living their lives, largely unaffected by the issue and unmoved to act.
That’s why protesters now target shopping centers, major highways, and traffic near airports—vowing not to allow the idyllic social order associated with Christmastime to derail ongoing calls for justice.
Instead of getting angry with these protesters, try getting into the holiday spirit. Open up your heart and offer words of thanks.
These leaders, organizers, and activists in the streets aren’t looking for a quick fix. Instead, they’re fighting for a gift that will keep on giving—for families who lost loved ones to police brutality, for scores of people whose lives could be spared with substantive reforms, and for city budgets rocked by hundreds of millions of dollars in police misconduct payouts.
That thirst for justice has to matter more than the extra 15 or 20 minutes it takes to move through traffic or retail shops. It’s really not the end of the world.
Activists participating in #BlackXmas—and similar ongoing demonstrations like it—aren’t conspiring to ruin anyone’s lives. The holidays won’t end as a result. And believe it or not, many of the people out protesting have the same desire to engage in the shared traditions of the season and enjoy quality time with their families and friends.
It’s out of that selfless love for community, out of the desire to create change, that they’re sacrificing time and energy, and even risking jail time for civil disobedience.
We can’t reduce the ongoing protests to whining, complaining, or agitation without any move for a solution. Our leaders need more impetus than ever to take decisive action, especially as alleged cover-ups and announcements of no indictments or charges against implicated officers continue. There’s no tool more powerful than ongoing demonstrations.
Without the work of protesters, 2016 presidential candidates wouldn’t have been forced to answer questions about #BlackLivesMatter and police accountability during the debates. Without the marches, journalists wouldn’t have researched widespread trends, or outlined how corruption and expediency in the judicial system allows police officers to get away with murder. Without rallying cries like “16 times” there would be no interventions from the Department of Justice in cities and towns where police accountability seems to be an afterthought.
Getting mad at protesters for a momentary #BlackXmas interruption might be a visceral human response to what many perceive as an avoidable time suck. But rather than getting frustrated with the demonstrations, try identifying with them. See these moments as representative of the many racialized roadblocks encountered by black Americans on a daily basis—like racial profiling, employment discrimination, educational disparities, and a justice system that extends them harsher treatment than it does their white counterparts.
These issues have wasted time, energy, and taxpayer dollars that could’ve been avoided if we lived in a nation where black lives truly mattered. And when you add it all up, it more than trumps the extra time spent shopping or traveling because of demonstrations.
So this holiday season, try extending thanks to protesters for their leadership, their time, their expertise, their strategic thinking, and dedication—which have all been instrumental to keeping these issues on the agenda.