By Bo Greene
After Sunday’s Black Lives Matter rally in Bar Harbor, I read some comments online from people about how uncomfortable they were hearing one person convey his anger about police brutality and the George Floyd murder by demonizing police officers in general. I, too, was uncomfortable listening to that young person at the rally, pointing his fingers at the Bar Harbor police station. I was just as uncomfortable reading the conversation about it online.
Rather than questioning the organizing abilities of the 17-year-old organizer who felt compelled to do something, why are we not asking ourselves why WE didn’t organize something? Where were the adults in our community calling for a coming together? Why weren’t we so upset about what happened to George Floyd and countless others that we couldn’t take it one minute longer? The organizer was motivated by a deep feeling of upset and an unquenchable need to do something. He reached out to his friends to call for a protest. So many of us were also in need of such an outlet that his call to action went, by our town’s standards, viral. He didn’t have an agenda; he had a powerful need to respond. Did we adults have that same compulsion? Did we take to the streets to demand change?
The organizer wanted to be with people who cared. He wanted to see people holding signs and chanting together. He is making choices about what kind of adult he wants to be. There was no lineup of speakers. It was just a rally. The person who offended jumped up first. That’s it. He used his frustration and passion in a way that I didn’t like and maybe you didn’t like, but some people appreciated. And it was awkward and ugly for a short time and apparently infuriating to some. But it was an organic moment that no one asked for or knew exactly how to respond to in real time. The rest of the rally was incredible and people were so glad to be there.
As I reflected on the event I thought, you know what? Maybe things need to get ugly. I’m so tired of us old people saying “this isn’t the way you make change, the way you get anything accomplished.” I’m not going to tell black people to make their voices heard by making sure white people are not uncomfortable. I’m not going to tell young people that they can facilitate change only if they make sure us old people don’t get rattled. I’m not going to do that because I have not been oppressed and my life is on the downside. I need to believe that young people will continue to have the conscience and confidence to take a risk and call for protest.
The organizer did the hardest part, deciding he couldn’t do nothing. Now what will the rest of us do?
Bo Greene lives in Bar Harbor