Diane Silver

When do protests work?

Filed By Diane Silver | August 21, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Bernadine Dohrn, gay rights, LGBT, New York Times, protests

Twenty, thirty, or forty years from now I suspect we'll look back on these confused, exciting moments in LGBTQ life and think about the role we played -- or didn't play -- in the revolution. These are times of transition. Decades from now the discrimination and second-class citizenship that LGBTQ Americans suffer may well be be quaint historic notes.

To get to that point, though, we each have a role to play. Yesterday's New York Times has a great discussion considering the question: "How much do protests matter?"

It's well worth reading.

I was particularly interested in Bernadine Dohrn's comments. Today she directs the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern Law. In the 1960s, she helped lead the radical Weather Underground.

Dohrn said, in part:

The secret is that protest encompasses acts that are individual and collective, literary and rousing, pathetic and transcendent -- and we don't know until later whether it made a difference.

I appreciate the fact that she takes note of the uncertainty of outcomes and that she talks about both public and private protests.

Surely speaking up when our upbringing encourages being polite can be the most courageous form of dissent. How many men or boys interrupt the hateful locker room banter about women and girls and queers? When do white people reject the invisible privileges that insulate us from the pain of structural inequality?

The entire discussion is worth reading for anyone trying to figure out how to win equal rights. I thought the comments of Donna Lieberman, Juan E. Méndez and David S. Meyer were particularly useful.

What stands out to you? When do protests work?

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Thanks, for re referral to read Times group blog/ Qu-orum e.g. Question Forum?
Some good points. Agree with most commenters that general tone was too optomistic, but that is looking at it from socienties point of view.
One of the best things that happen in protests, demonstrations is for the PROTESTER/DEMONSTRATOR to feel they have done something constructive... at least made a more public point about something they feel strongly about. Especially for shy people it is really energizing!
Just as this is!

Bernardine Dohrn organized riots and set off bombs!
Why use her as a learning example?

Because people learn and grow -- and whether or not Dohrn has changed, her comments are still valid. I'm not holding up her past actions as a role model. I am pointing to her current comments as being helpful.