I Am Not a Protester: I am a parent

I am not a protester. That has never been my “thing”. But that was before a news report made my daughter cry.

I am not opposed to protesting, or protesters per-se, I just generally think my time and skills are better suited elsewhere. I have a fundamental, even primal, understanding of how those who are normally being protested against, react to protests, and it is almost never in a way that moves the observer closer to the ideal the protesters are pushing. Even if message confusion and ideology conflation are set aside, I simply think other tactics are more effective. At least for the goals I would like to see the greater “us” achieve.

But yesterday was different. I didn’t change, but my needs did.

When my 13 year old heard the radio reporting the “unite the right” march in Charlottesville, including one participant driving his car into a crowd of anti-racists, she began to cry. I asked her why and she said it was because she was afraid.

Afraid for her own safety.

Because she is black.

I often complain that everyone in the suburbs, which now includes us, are too afraid of everything. We think anyone and everything is prowling just out of sight ready to rape pillage and plunder us individually. We build walls, fences, gates, and make everything private in the name of safety. “We” advocate concealed carry for our own protection, are willing to cede rights to police for “our” protection, and prioritize national defense over humanitarian aid for “our protection”. And here was my daughter hearing about some events off on the other side of the country and she was crying out of fear that this meant she was not safe. My first instinct was to roll my eyes.

Because I’m white.

I am also a grown man. I am by experience and by design the most inherently safe of all. She is 13 and aware enough to see the world around her and think about what she sees. She is old enough to consider motivations, and power dynamics, and historical context. She is aware enough to know that not everyone is one way or the other, but at 13, the thing she is struggling the hardest to understand, is herself.

I do my best to help her respect Police officers and authority in general, but when shots are fired far too often the character to which she can most closely identify with, is the black person being shot. No matter who it is that shot them. When she hears our president speak out about what is dangerous in the world or wrong with the country, more often than not she identifies with the one being called dangerous and not the man behind the podium. And when she sees and hears about a crowd of white men rallying against black people- where I see the guys who look like me and easily dismiss their absurdity- she sees herself in the woman killed by their car.

Why wouldn’t she be afraid?

Who, or what, or where, is she getting messages to counteract all those others? Every parent knows the danger of their own incessant droning being drowned out or dismissed. She hears us at home, but where else? Who else is saying to a young black girl, “I see you and you are safe.”? I thought about this sincerely and I didn’t like the answer.

So we went to a rally.

We went so my daughters could see other people, friends or strangers, who were willing to publicly say that white supremacy is wrong. We went so my daughters could hear people honk their horns to show support. We went so my daughter could be a little black girl, and people would show out loud, that they see her. I wanted her to be surrounded by these people and feel safe.

So no, I am not a protester. I do not think my presence there changed the mind of anyone in opposition. I do not think the waving flags and catchy signs swayed anyone who previously disagreed. I still think my skills are better suited to something akin to lobbying not rallying, but no matter my skill set or political stance, what I most need to be- is a parent.

UVA: Where College Lives

Thomas Jefferson insisted that his founding of the University of Virginia be etched into his headstone. It took visiting campus to understand why.

University of Virginia

My appointment on campus was scheduled for 9am. I intentionally arrived at 7:30.

The head of the original campus is the rotunda, intended to be the library. A long lawn stretches out in front, flanked by arches and doors of student dorms. Jefferson called this the “Academical village”, a name that makes me snicker. Heh, heh; academical.

UVA’s Academical Village

When I walked onto the lawn I saw sprinklers turn on at one end of the lawn and a student shuffling down the walk wearing a bathrobe and slippers. I am a tourist but students live here. 200 year old dorm rooms housing 20 year old kids.

Studying hard

Spaced out along these single room dorms are larger homes that house the school’s deans. This would appear to be the perfect set up for a juvenile movie, you know, the one where a fraternity uses their evil genius to somehow get a car into the Dean’s living room. Not knowing any of this when I walked through campus, I peeked through the ground level window of what I thought was a historic site. The woman inside saw me and waved me toward the door where she invited me inside her home.

the Dean’s dining room

She was incredibly kind and I doubt anyone would vandalize her living room… except maybe John Belushi or Val Kilmer. Neither of those celebrities ever lived here but an adult Faulkner once did, a fact I doubt was lost on this young man.


GQ magazine listed UVA as America’s most “preppy” college. It is hard to say exactly what this means and as the kids woke up and began walking to class I looked to see if I could “see” it. I couldn’t. I went to the bookstore to buy a pendant, which I do at every school I visit, and then I saw it.

Brooks Bros UVA shirt

There were plaids and pastels, bowties and picnic baskets. I’m not sure if I buy the school’s preppiest title but I’m sure the bookstore’s buyer bought it.

Oooh, sparkley.
The only statue that isn’t Thomas Jefferson
A “Jefferson” chair
In the Rotunda
The Cavalier Inn

My room at the Cavalier Inn had a large picture window facing the band’s practice field. I sat and watched young families and college kids watch the band practice. Here, at this school that was not only founded by, but that celebrates Thomas Jefferson at every turn, the student body was not so caught up in yesterday that it ignored the college now.

This about sums it up

At Harvard the football stadium is an icon of the birth of American football. It can seat, and once did, 50,000 people. UVA’s campus has the history while still filling it’s stadium today.