Marching this Saturday in Raleigh: The moral (and effective) thing to do

By: - February 5, 2019 5:00 am
Photo by Phil Fonville

There’s a vexing conundrum that frequently confronts movements for social justice when they’re trying to rally supporters to action. It turns out that the best and easiest times to spur people to action often coincide with the moments at which the movement is at its weakest and least able to effect real change.

Think about it.

Five-plus years ago when the Moral Mondays movement really took off in North Carolina, it was at a moment of historic impotence for the state’s progressives. With the Governor’s office, the General Assembly and the state Supreme Court in conservative hands and an aggressive, hard right policy push in full swing, progressives had few, if any, venues in which to make a stand or push back. A similar reality confronted progressives at the national level in early 2017 after the inauguration of Donald Trump.

In both instances, millions of caring and thinking people felt themselves and their values to be under siege and, with no real hope of relief from the powers that be, turned to massive street demonstrations, direct actions and even civil disobedience. Tens of thousands of progressives said, in effect: “We may not be able to change things right now, but we’re sure as heck going to let people know how angry we are.” (As an aside, it should be noted that those protests did, in fact, help to blunt at least some of the worst and most regressive policy proposals.)

The flipside to this conundrum, of course, is that when the moments finally do arrive at which the possibility of real progress on the policy front is at hand, it often gets harder to rally the troops. Having, for instance, taken action at the polls to elect new and improved political leaders, many would-be activists can find it easy to grow complacent or even resentful.

“Wait a minute,” goes the complaint, “I just busted my butt to get some better folks elected and now you want me to head back out into the streets to remind them to do their jobs?”

It’s this latter scenario, of course, that confronts progressives – both nationally and here in North Carolina – in 2019. The 2018 elections produced gains for Democrats and, in Washington, a new majority in the House of Representatives has joined in the national resistance to Trumpism. Meanwhile, the end of Republican supermajorities in Raleigh offers real hope for an end to right-wing government and even some prospect for the passage of useful legislation.

A big test this Saturday

So what will be the response from progressive activists to this new and improved reality: a renewed commitment to action or complacence? Let’s hope fervently that it’s the former. For while it may be understandable that people have grown weary of the struggle in recent years and impatient for real policy progress, the hard truth is that the newly elected lawmakers in Raleigh can’t do this on their own.

Notwithstanding last November’s enthusiasm or the forward-thinking promises and platforms that helped make it a reality, the simple fact remains that the powerful forces that have dominated our state and nation for the last several years remain ascendant and in no mood to cede or share power without a fight.

That’s what makes this coming Saturday’s 13th annual “Historic Thousands on Jones Street” Moral March such a critically important event. If people turn out in large and enthusiastic numbers, it will send a powerful message to newly enlarged progressive caucuses in the state House and Senate that their supporters have their backs and are ready to keep pushing.

With the strong support of activists this weekend, the fights to expand Medicaid, end partisan and racially discriminatory gerrymandering, raise the minimum wage, adequately fund and combat the privatization and resegregation of our public schools, fight toxic pollutants like GenX and coal ash, stop tax giveaways to the rich, and end the ideological takeover of the University of North Carolina all receive large and important boosts. Without such support, the odds of success in each area grow significantly longer.

What you need to know

The theme for this year’s HK on J Moral March is simple, straightforward and appropriate: “No time to stand down: We must stand strong and endure.” The event will commence with a pre-rally at 9:00 a.m. at the corner of Wilmington and South Streets near Shaw University and the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium complex. Marchers will head from there to the old State Capitol Building at 10:00, where they will hear from an array of talented and inspiring speakers on each of the topics described above and many more, including Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the North Carolina NAACP, and Moral Mondays movement founder, Rev. William Barber. The weather forecast is for a dry and seasonable day with temperatures right around 50 degrees.

Hope to see ya’ there!

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.