Over on Tumblr people are sharing tweets about how to donate to folks in Ferguson. A good cause to be sure, though I’ve not personally verified these folks are legitimate. (If anyone else can, let me know and I’ll take out that caveat.) I’ve already donated as much as I can afford just now so I’m afraid I’m not able to get involved with these specific people, but I was struck by the word choice in the way it was introduced on Tumblr.
At some level they are, or at least that’s how they were introduced to us who aren’t in that community. It’s more positive than looters (and as far as I can tell much more accurate), but it still seems wrong to me. Protesters to me calls to mind the people who have the luxury of not protesting, it’s a voluntary action. It’s people who are upset enough about what’s going on that they set aside their normal lives and go join a protest. And that’s often worth supporting (I baked brownies and bought wool socks for the Occupy protesters), but it seems different than what’s going on here.
These aren’t people who were outraged by something that happened (reasonably or otherwise) but had the luxury of protesting or not. If a person chose not to go out and march against the police brutality, they would still be stuck in that curfew. They’d still have to deal with the loss of wages, the schools being closed and what that does to a family’s food budget, the lack of supplies getting in and that driving up prices, the police curfews and lack of mobility and everything else. They’re also people who had something done to them. So heck yeah, a bunch of them are protesting, but that word doesn’t seem to carry the weight of the situation.
In a way they’re … refugees, maybe? Though they haven’t been forced to leave, the reality they depended on has been taken away from them. They’re people whose homes have been turned into an occupied zone, where the actions that make life seem like what we expect in America aren’t really possible right now. I’m not even sure I have a good word for that, and that seems telling somehow.