For the record, I hate the things Chi Nguyen witnessed. (She wrote about them here.) I did not encounter any of those things — although it could be that when I heard people chanting “March march march” this was during Angela Davis’ talk…from where I was I could barely see a screen (with the occasional top of someone’s head) and could hardly make out what anyone said. I didn’t join the chants, just remarked that the crowd was getting restless, as me and my friends kept shifting feet trying to avoid pain after hours of standing in the same position. As far as I could tell, there was no violence, including not only physical violence but also the verbal and behavioral things Chi mentioned.
Respectfully, speaking for myself, the peaceful behaviors I witnessed are those I learned at multiracial, multi-class, multi-disabled women’s events over the past 30 years. Lesbian events, actually. A lot of shit went down in planning and organizing meetings and events; it wasn’t all nonviolent communication and roses. But we learned, most of us, and improved with practice, sometimes incrementally and sometimes exponentially. I thought the Women’s March in DC was a coming-of-age, built on all the sacrifices and painstaking education brought to white women (and white men) by women of color who live and breath intersectionality from birth through death (and queer men of color, too).
Also, just because there was no overt physical violence at the women’s marches doesn’t mean there was no fear. A friend told me a few days before I went that she “had a bad feeling about it.” Other friends, initially enthusiastic about going, changed their minds months ago, worried about “what might happen.” I wondered if wearing my orange hoodie would make me more of a target, or less. I think some of the celebration around the lack of violence is simply the fact that no one was attacked.
Your piece reminds me of Loretta Ross and her insistence on human rights and “calling in” rather than “calling out.” Back in the day, I was open to being called out: a good thing because it happened frequently. But not everyone has my constitution or personality type. Beyond (or on top of) personal tendencies, there’s white fragility and all kinds of other stuff in the way. Somehow, as you said, we’ve got to find the right balance between embracing the growth of people new to activism while guiding them into the cultural precepts of a wholistic human rights movement.
Nonetheless, you are correct that none of the marchers were moved to civil disobedience. It’s a kind of training most white Americans have never considered and desperately need.