Protesting While Brown

Some might call this protesting, others call it rioting. We’ll be neutral and call it what it is: civil unrest.

Sierra Exif JPEG
UMN fans rio–sorry, celebrating after a 2003 championship. (Wikimedia Commons)
Meanwhile, this is a protest. See the difference? (Wikimedia Commons)

This week, we’re focusing on the disparities in the media coverage of Americans who take to the streets to voice their opinions. And I swear, this isn’t even a case of the Hostile Media Effect! Brave New Films has a quick video on it the differences between the way the media talks about protests when the protestors are White or Black, so I’ll let them get the point across. (A note about BNF, I’m personally a tad skeptical of anyone who “challenges mainstream media with the truth” but you be the judge.)

(Admittedly, the title is misleading–you don’t ever learn why the Charleston Shooter Dylann Roof isn’t called a terrorist, but that’s another post for another time.)

The Washington Post has an excellent look into this if you want more info on the Black/White Dichotomy. However, we’re focusing today on the protestors at the Dakota Pipeline, or as they’re calling themselves, Water Protectors.

If you haven’t been following the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests, then let me give you the run down: Native Americans are protesting the DAPL, a pipeline that would run from Texas to Illinois, cutting through the Dakotas and Iowa. Protestors are concerned about the environmental impact of the pipeline, and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has sued for an injunction on the pipeline, which was granted, bringing the construction of the pipeline to a halt.

As expected, not everyone is happy about this. Matt Vespa, of the conservative website, wrote that the protestors are violent agitators who deserved to be pepper sprayed and attacked by dogs. Meanwhile, the protestors themselves are saying that they aren’t protestors, they’re protectors. In this video produced by Fusion, protestor Kandi Mossett says she is “protecting the very essence of what [she] is made up of, which is mostly water.”

“It’s just so much bigger than one pipeline, it’s the fossil fuel industry as a whole. It’s ultimately going to be something that comes back on us as humanity,” said Mossett. (This ties in nicely with some more hyper-local news about climate protests happening on Northeastern’s campus!)

Of course, we know that there is always a gap between supporters and opponents of a movement, and there likely always will be. Our language is too nuanced, too rich, and too divided to bridge those differences. But the truth itself isn’t divided. The truth lies between sides, between the peaks of protestor and protector, in a place where both terms are simultaneously true. It’s not a comfortable place to sit, to hold two truths that seem intangible. But we don’t exist in a Black/White dichotomous world; we’re all more fluid than that.