A few months ago, I helped document the Women’s March and with that experience, I understood what the Women’s March was for. I was naïve enough to believe that everyone else knew, too.
I realized I was wrong a few nights later on the phone with my dad. He said, “Annika, I’m going to tell you something you won’t like. It’s been a few weeks since all those millions of people marched and I still have no idea exactly what it was for.”
I started to list off all the reasons they marched. I told him it was for immigrants who want better lives for themselves and their families, for women who didn’t want their pussies grabbed anymore, for the LGBTQ+ community who want the right to love and marry whomever they choose, for people of color who want racism to finally end, for science and religious freedom and more. It was a catch-all for those who were feeling threatened by the incoming presidency and the next four years.
At this point my dad stopped me mid-rant and brought up Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to explain that most people knew exactly what the main point of MLK’s march was — to end segregation of African American people — but that the main point of the Women’s March was lost among too many different issues. The message had become jumbled and lost to spectators like my dad. I immediately tried to draw comparisons between MLK’s march and the Women’s March to help clarify that jumble — MLK’s march was for more than just ending segregation too just like the Women’s March was for more than just women’s rights — but my dad stopped me again.
There was a difference between the two marches too big for him to ignore and after a few nights of good sleep and deep-breathing, I understand a little better what that difference is.
I cannot try to equate the power of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington with that of the Women’s March we saw a few weeks ago. To do so right now would be entirely disrespectful because Martin Luther King Jr. and everyone who followed him marched to end an oppression completely unjust and full of genuine suffering of a minority group of American people. The Women’s March was sparked largely in retaliation against the ideals held by a billionaire now in power.
Therefore, the reason my dad could not let me make comparisons between the two marches was not because they weren’t all marching for equality and justice, but because to put the Women’s March on the same pedestal as MLK’s march would feel too much like saying “Trump’s words are of equal importance as the truly horrible and blatant racism, discrimination, and segregation that African Americans felt fifty years ago.”
So, I began to wonder that the marchers did not make a statement where it mattered most. Was the point of the march lost? It was millions strong and yet half the country still doesn’t seem to understand what it was for — in fact, a huge portion of the country even seems to believe the Women’s March was made up of a bunch of cry-baby, sore-losers and that it was nothing more than a temper-tantrum.
I am not a part of that portion and I do not think my dad meant to say that he was either. I believe racism, unfortunately, still exists in this country and I believe people should always protest unjust ideals. People who voice needs for social changes have sparked large and important civil rights movements in the past — MLK’s march on Washington being only one of many — and I believe the Women’s March could spark another.
I am proud to have been able to help cover the Women’s March, but there is no way of knowing how effective it was until history gives us those answers and people should not already claim that they have them. What history will tell us depends entirely on what human beings are doing right now to be activists for civil rights.