I Hope “Die-In” Protests Made You Late Getting Home

A black man died, needlessly. You have to sit in traffic longer? Good.

Photo | Jack Cotter

Photo | Jack Cotter

The protests had barely begun when the griping about them started.

And in some ways, maybe the complaints were understandable. Philadelphia activists, enraged by a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict the cop who killed Eric Garner, held a “die in” at 30th Street station, then decided to march to City Hall.

Through traffic.

During rush hour.

Once there, they made a big scene during the lighting of the City Hall Christmas tree — an occasion that’s supposed to be festive. And then they followed it up with other disruptive events — most notably at Sunday’s Eagles game.

And in every case the complaint was the same: Why do the protesters have to interrupt my life? Why do they have to create an inconvenience at this event/game/drive home I’m trying to enjoy? Why did the protests have to disrupt normal life?

“I’m all for protest and I agree but disrupting a children’s choir won’t get much change or sympathy for your cause,” one reader wrote on Philly Mag’s Facebook page.

“How many supporters do you think they gained with this tactic?” asked another.

Let me suggest that the time for persuasion is over. That provocation was entirely the point — and entirely appropriate. Let me suggest, in other words, this:

I really, truly hope the Eric Garner protest made you an hour late getting home from work.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t already have a sense that the killing of Garner was bad — if you can look at the video of a cop choking him to death for the crime of selling loose cigarettes and not get a sense that something is wrong with the system — probably you’re not all that persuadable anyway. There’s not exactly a vast middle ground to be found on the topic.

If, on the other hand, you see Garner’s death and believe it’s just one more straw upon a crippled camel’s back — if you believe that the system is so devastatingly broken that even video evidence won’t result in justice and accountability for the killing of a black man — what are you to do?

And why in the world would you want to let your fellow citizens remain unperturbed, wrapped up in their cocoon of comfort?

It’s damned inconvenient to be a black man in America. It’s not helpful to be stopped and frisked. It’s not easy to be more likely to be shot by a cop. It’s not comfortable to be pulled over for driving while black. Life is often full of interruptions. You have to be careful that they don’t actually end your life.

So if the protesters got in your way this week: Good. If they made you stop and have to think about whether they were justified, better. If they made you cranky and offended, well, that’s the best thing of all. Maybe your life needs a little disruption.

A man died, needlessly. It happens all the time. You’re going to be home a bit late because of it? That’s ok. You’ll live.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.