Two major events dominated the news cycle last week: the presidential inauguration and the women’s march the following day. Before the march, I overheard white female teachers, whom I highly respect, discussing in person and on social media, the pointlessness of the march. After all, why march for women’s rights, which is something that women already have? Why should people go out of their way to demonstrate that they’re sore losers? If people are going to march for something, why not make it for a cause that is worthwhile?
To those who believe that women have equal rights to men, that the women’s march was just a bunch of sore losers showing off, and that the march wasn’t for a just cause, to you I say, I wish you had been there. I wish you could have felt the positive vibes emanating from the largest protest in this country’s history. Millions of people took to the streets because they wanted to stand next to their brothers and sisters in order to take a stand for human rights and against sexism, racism, and xenophobia. Each person who attended one of the marches had a specific purpose for being there, but everyone who marched had that common goal. People across the world have seen a rise of destructive populist political leaders. It was time for the people’s voice to be heard in a way that Thoreau, Gandhi, and King would have been proud. The nonviolent resistance has begun.
President Trump’s inauguration speech, like his campaign, was littered with stretched truths and bold inaccuracies. However, one thing he said that will hold true through the duration of his administration is that the power lies with the people. As he delivered his speech and attempted to appear as a man of and for the people, representatives of corporate America (like the CEOs of Exxon and Hardee’s) stood directly behind him. The people are not blind.
We, the people, were paying attention when, within hours of becoming President, funding for the National Endowment of the Arts (like PBS and NPR) had been cut, as well as a discount on FHA home mortgage rates that was enacted under President Obama. We’re listening to Trump staffers when they say that his proposed budget will include eliminating funding for Violence Against Women Grants, the Office of Energy Efficiency, the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and the Minority Business Development Agency. We noticed when WhiteHouse.gov immediately deleted pages on LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change, and health care from its “issues” section after Donald Trump took the oath of office.
This brings me to why I decided to march. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe in my core that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and I recognize that the next four years are going to be a fight. The time to look away has ended. I intend to set an example for the the students I see every single day in my classroom and for my two young daughters at home. If you watched the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing, then you can understand why I marched for them. I also marched for my wife, my mom, my step-mom, my sister, and all of the women in this country who, despite having the right to vote, have never been treated as equals. I carried their baggage on my shoulders, too. I feel the agony of 19-year-old Nina Donovan of Franklin, TN when she mentioned in her now viral poem “Nasty Woman” that, “even when women go into high-paying careers, their wages are still cut with blades sharpened with testosterone. Tell me why the work of a black woman and an hispanic woman are only worth 63% and 54% of a white man’s paycheck? This is not just a feminist myth. This is inequality. So we are not here to be debunked. We are here to be respected.”
By itself, the women’s march is not enough to earn that respect, but it’s definitely an excellent first step. It got everyone’s attention and dominated the news cycle and social media. Some of the best lessons that I can teach are the ones I give by my own example; this must include staying informed and paying attention to what’s going on, and then following up with more non-violent resistance. If last week’s marchers can channel this momentum into committing to doing the same thing, then we, the people, will begin reclaiming power from the wealthy oligarchs and plutocrats who were recently chosen to run this country.