June 7th, 2014, I took to the streets of Seoul with joy in my heart. My home state just leagalised same-sex marriage; I strutted through Sincheon at my very first Gay pride parade. We listened to a woman sing, “Let it Go,” which has been rumoured to be a bit of a gay anthem of letting go of the restraints that we and society put on ourselves. I found myself in the company of thousands of like-minded people. We began to march the short 1.5 kilometer route filling our bellies with beer and laughter. Everyone anticipated the post-parade drinking, partying, and dancing.
We pulled up short—a temporary delay. Perhaps one of the floats had some issue with the tinsel or flags. After about 15 minutes, a friend and I walked towards the front of the parade to see a Christian group sitting in the middle of the street, prohibiting the legally sanctioned parade from moving forward.
This sit in went on for hours. I, as a Christian also queer woman, struggled between feeling ostracised from one group because I was a part of another. This is, of course, not a new feeling to anyone who claims both queer and Christian identities, but I felt an anger that reached a point I had not yet experienced. It scared me.
I responded with the only way I knew how; I talked to the people sitting down. I didn’t move when the police told me to simply because an older Korean wanted to sit down and protest in a space that I had claimed as my own. I told the police officer that I had the same right stand here as she does to sit, perhaps more because I was there for twenty minutes…waiting and watching. I stood peacefully countering their out of context Bible verses while I was pushed, shoved, sat upon, had water thrown on me, etc.
That was my response to dealing with it. One of the greatest women I have ever met had a very different response. She shouted (in Korean) about this injustice, about their ignorance, about the way the police protected the Christian protesters and bullied the LGBTA parade participants.
The next morning while she and I ate Thai food, we talked about how we felt about our personal responses and the other person’s responses. I told her that I envied her passion, and that I felt embarrassed that my response to anger is passivity and words. She countered with my ability to keep a level-head and wider picture in mind when I am angry. She was Malcom X; I was Martin Luther King Jr.—neither one more right than the other. We’re both fighting for the same goal.
I know my personal beliefs. I know that if I were in Ferguson, MO right now I would be peacefully protesting. I would be heeding President Obama and the Brown Family. With the information I know (from non-partisan US and Global news sources), I am infuriated with the outcome of the Ferguson trial. I do not know how the jury came to their decision, nor will we likely ever find out despite releasing the testimonies and evidence. But, in this aftermath, we have several options in how we respond. I plan to follow the “Let’s not just make noise; let’s make a difference” philosophy of Michael Brown’s family (Bennett and Burman, The Atlantic).
However, a man for whom I hold a lot of respect has posted about this, too. He brings up many valid points in that peaceful protests have become “cliché and commonplace,” with which I agree. I would also like to add to his argument that some police officers respond to peaceful protests as threats to society (pepper spraying at UC Davis; tear gas anywhere). How can we stand by this passively? How can we allow this behaviour to happen while our hearts are still beating and our brains still functioning? Where is the breaking point? When is it enough?
Ergo, I am conflicted. Everything in my bones screams for justice. Yes, Mike Brown stole cigars. Perhaps, he punched Darren Wilson. I do not know what happened. But, I cannot shake this feeling that there had to be another way. There has to be another way. Since Michael Brown’s death, more and more articles have surfaced about needless or accidental killing of people by police forces. Yes, I understand this is a tactic to whip everyone up in a frenzy, yet I don’t necessarily think it is wrong. I don’t like demonizing our police force. There are so many men and women who proudly protect and serve. Yet, we, as a country, need to also address the corruption, racial, and social profiling that happens all the time. We, as a country, need to be heard. We’re not just prattling children for the police and government to deal with. We have valid concerns about how our police use their weapons. We have real issues with civilian gun violence. We’re living in a shoot first, figure it out later society by which I cannot abide. Treating violence with violence is not how we’ll succeed. But, sitting-in and passive movements may not be the answer, either. We need a “both, and” approach to this. We need to work injunction with one another to bring about necessary change. We need Malcom X's passion and Martin Luther King Jr.'s peace. We need both.
However you choose to respond to the Ferguson outcome, please do so with education and purpose. Ignorance and recklessness cannot, will not win this war. I’m not sure what will.