Protested. Arrested. Not a hero.
I am not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless.
by Kathleen Carpenter
During the summer, I was one of the almost one thousand people who participated in civil disobedience as part of the Moral Monday movement, a protest effort organized by the North Carolina NAACP to focus attention on the increasingly regressive laws being passed by our Republican-controlled state legislature. And, yes, I was arrested.
You would be correct to say I heard the call (to justice) and responded.
Upon my release, I posted a photo of myself departing the detention center on my Facebook page along with a description of what I had done. The following are comments posted by Facebook "friends:"
- You are awesome and inspiring.
- Don't know what the issues were but does my heart good to see you make such a strong stand for your beliefs.
- Such amazing strength. And so brave!
- Thank you for representing us. You did hard, noble work. I am very proud of you!
- Seeing you and Rev Jay get arrested made me proud to be a UU. I told my kids you’re true heroes.
All of this is well and good, but you know what? I don’t feel particularly “strong” or “brave.” And I certainly don’t feel like a “hero.” I guess what I really feel is humbled.
To me getting arrested as a sign of non-violent protest was a no-brainer. As a Unitarian Universalist, it was an opportunity to walk my talk about justice. But here’s the part I found so difficult: no, not the cuffing by the police, not waiting in a police wagon with twenty others in the sweltering heat, not even being chained ankle-to-ankle with 11 other women as the guards moved us from one room to another. No, the difficult part was that none of that was difficult.
I never felt afraid for my safety. I never wondered if I’d be left to linger in a cold jail cell for weeks on end. I never worried about police brutality or if could make bail.
You know why? Because as a white, middle class woman with the media spotlight focused on my every move, my arrest experience did not require a tenth of the bravery my friends of color face every day of their lives.
So while I like to think I made a difference, I don’t think I’m a hero. I am someone who appreciates her privilege to break the law without fear of anything more than a bunch of people calling me a moron, the descriptor some conservatives used to describe Moral Monday participants.
The power of my experience is that I now appreciate better my position of privilege and the responsibility that comes with it. It is because of my racial and economic status that I CAN and MUST take risks that many of my brothers and sisters cannot without legitimate fear. So, I’m not a hero, but I do hope I’m something of a role model as a UU living her faith. Blessed be.
Kathleen Carpenter is a Credentialed Religious Educator who for more than 20 years has served the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte (NC) as Director of RE for Children and Youth. She has served on the Thomas Jefferson (now Southeast) District RE Committee, the Southeast LREDA Chapter, the LREDA Committee on Mentoring, and the UUA’s Religious Education Credentialing Committee. Active in the Charlotte interfaith community, Kathleen is the mom of three young adults and a newlywed as of Valentine's Day 2013.
In a new Skinner House book and e-book, Resistance: A Memoir of Civil Disobedience in Maricopa County, Annette S. Marquis, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) and Multicultural Programs Director for the UUA, describes her 2010 experience protesting Arizona's punitive immigration law, SB1070, Marquis, who spent a night in jail, shares what she learned about the struggles of migrants and people of color in Maricopa County and about being an ally in the fight for justice.