Protesting has been a vital part of American history — from boycotts during the American Revolution to marches during the civil rights movement.
Mobilization of activists has become easier due to the advent of social media. Within seconds, masses of people can be informed about a protest and within a half hour there could be hundreds of individuals in the announced meeting place.
Demonstrating and marching are important, but the work does not just end there. The true test is to effectively organize after protests end and to act in ways to bring about concrete change.
“For a protest to be successful, there needs to be work done somehow in the political system,” said history professor Ralph Young, who wrote the book “Dissent: The History of an American Idea.”
“You have people on the outside shouting, but you have to have somebody on the inside listening,” he added.
Young said he thinks many of the protests that have erupted following President Donald Trump’s election have been “nebulous.”
“If there is going to be an actual chance to combat Trump during his administration, there needs to be more of a focus on dismantling his policies, rather than just protesting about the dislike of him,” Young said.
Students and other citizens need to make our government listen to us through means other than protest. We need to attend City Council meetings, write letters to our representatives and volunteer our time for causes in which we believe.
Philip Gregory, a junior English major, is the president of 15 Now, an organization that advocates for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and a member of Stadium Stoppers, a group opposed to the proposed on-campus stadium.
Gregory has even helped organize protests against the potential stadium, as well as Trump’s presidency, following the election results.
“Students today treat protesting like a fad, but aren’t actually invested in the issues,” Gregory said. “Just liking a post or signing an online petition doesn’t solve the issue at hand.”
It is easy to fall victim to “fad” protesting or simply voicing opinions online. I myself have done it following the outcome of the election. But it is more important to voice opinions and create impact in more constructive ways.
Katie Kimball, a 2016 advertising alumna, has participated in protests for Black Lives Matter, but said protesting is not the only way to make a change.
“It is important to be educated on the issues, work within the community and to talk to the people and politicians who represent you,” she said.
Young also said the best way to create change comes from self-education.
“In order to properly mobilize, one must first fully understand both sides of the issue at hand,” Young said. “There also needs to be a sense of community within the protestors and outreach to politicians in order to ensure the needs are met.”
Students have a lot of potential to change the social climate of the society in which we live, but to do so we must remain united and active. We must carefully choose causes and dedicate our time fiercely.
“Millennials now have the power in the country,” Gregory said. “And we need to be consistent in making strides in order to create the changes we want to see.”
We shouldn’t only voice our complaints online or even in the streets — we need to act.
Cierra Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.