This is the fourth in a series on Whitewater’s local politics of 2021. The largest political gathering in Whitewater in 2020 was a rally for racial justice in Whitewater following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Hundreds attended. It was not, however, an allowedly progressive event – the small local group Whitewater Unites Lives invited anyone, and many (if not most) who attended surely did so without considering themselves progressives. (I’m not affiliated with either group.)
Official reactions to that broad-based rally, and to a separate group of Black Lives Matter protesters, show that Whitewater is not a progressive city. It’s not even a center-left city.
If Whitewater were a progressive city, or even a center-left city, then her city manager would not have been confused and frustrated at the simple observation that (1) ‘Black Lives Matter’ simply means ‘Black Lives Matter [as much],’ (2) would have readily understood that ‘All Lives Matter‘ is a rejection of ‘Black Lives Matter [as much],’ (3) would not have gone to another city and complained about the reasonable expectation to understand these points, and (4) the Whitewater Common Council would have addressed all of this more confidently, responsively, and openly.
The reception for that BLM group, of which two university professors were core members, shows limits of progressive politics – or any significant political changes – in the city. Some of those limits are structural and some are cultural. See Built Against Substantive Change.
(These progressive efforts for change, including presenting several enumerated demands, would not have been my approach, in any event. One does not demand what one cannot lawfully take, and there was no chance of compelling immediate change from Whitewater’s city government or agencies. In the absence of a lawful power to demand, successful efforts are attritional, not immediate. An approach that looks at many parts of an institution at once – from bottom, sides, and top – is less practical than a focus on one part. If one wishes to negotiate with leaders, that’s a lengthy process of discussion. If one opposes leadership, then a long attrition campaign should stay focused on those leaders, without additional goals. Lengthy means lengthy, and long means long.)
And yet, and yet — what part of their free exercise threatened others? Would Dr. Thomas have called down lightning from the sky? (How convenient, then, to fly a kite and key.) Would Dr. McFadden have sent a flock of flying monkeys into the city? (It seems unlikely; having seen Dr. McFadden and her friends march through town, her complexion shows no tint of green.)
About those BLM protesters, marching day after day in the summer, a simple observation: it’s a loss of composure, if not of reason, to have overreacted to them as though they were a danger to this city. If lawful marches and lawful discussions are too hard for Whitewater’s residents and officials, then the deficiency lies with residents and officials rather than these protesters.
Tomorrow: The Campus.