Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is held up as one of our country’s heroes today. At the time, he was considered a dangerous radical who refused to condemn rioting and refused to give an inch on his principles. He did not unite and try to find compromise. He did not let the threat of arrest stop him. He did not stop fighting for his cause until- literally- his last breath.
You can only push someone so hard before they get to the level of frustration and urgency that Dr. King reached. Even though his protest was peaceful, the police still beat him and his supporters. The police- probably to this day- will claim that they feared for their lives and the protest had to be stopped.
There have been protests every week of this year. This is in addition to the past two years of BLM activism and pride rallies. This anger is boiling and it will not go away.
This situation is not just the fault of Donald Trump, although his administration is the uniting enemy at the moment. Neoliberal policies in the US have been frustratingly similar to conservatives policies. In fact, the Affordable Care Act was an entirely right wing idea, which made it unpopular among active progressives. This isn’t to say that the ACA wasn’t infinitely better than the state of healthcare in the US before its implementation- just that it was essentially the equivalent of substituting a bandage with duct tape.
The healthcare issue- and specifically the lack of a conversation around single-payer, is just the tip of American issues. We have stagnant wages for everyone aside from the top %10 of income-earners in the country (and I use the word “earner” very loosely in this context, since the upper class is almost exclusively composed of people like Donald Trump and Martin Shkreli. Inflation is rising faster than wages, and the minimum wage is already too little to live on, even for a single person with minimal expenses.
The most destructive situation is the privatization and financial structure of public universities. Not only are student loans ruining our economy because they destroy buying power for low-income educated people, they’re also not doing much to find jobs for their students. For almost any productive field, students have to leave the country for work, because their wages in the US are too low to pay back their loans. This is driving talent out of the country, or at least the talent from middle-income families who can afford to move and start their life someplace better.
The American system is putting too much pressure on youth in particular. We work longer, harder, and with more skills than our parents. We also work for lower wages and no respect. (We’ve all heard the “lazy millennial” bullshit by now).
This sounds like another college left-wing millennial complaining, because it is. I want to be clear, though, that this is not just a problem for young people.
Every time we skip another yearly checkup we realize that we’re getting a little too comfortable with being unhealthy.
Every time we work another 12 hour shift we fall asleep with sore limbs knowing that the toll labor takes on our bodies is unacceptable.
Every time we struggle to come up with money for tuition we have a little less patience left for our education.
Every time we get needlessly stopped by an aggressive cop we care a little less about the law.
Every time we’re disrespected, we have a little less disrespect for the people pushing us.
We are going to be pushed too far, and just like Dr. King we’re going to understand why people riot.
And yes, we’re going to riot. Because for everyone who doesn’t think that education, wages, or healthcare for the working class are their problem, we are going to make it your fucking problem. You aren’t giving us a choice.
We will block your route on your way to work. We will burn police cars. We will break the windows on government buildings. We will throw the biggest rocks we can lift and we will scream as loud as we can because our problems are society’s problems.
Either listen to us now and help us fix this, or we are going to fix it our way.
PHOTO CREDIT: JAY COX