MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For the second week in a row, there were ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in Morgantown demanding justice for the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other people of color who have died at the hands of police brutality recently.
There were only a few dozen protesters at the Monongalia County Courthouse on Thursday afternoon, a smaller crowd than previous demonstrations, however, there were still signs and chants. There were people of many races, children, parents, college students among others. Mia James, a white protester, was there with a sign and chanting along.
“I think it’s extremely important because I have been a part of white privilege my whole life obviously,” James said. “I just didn’t really realize until recently how much that has affected and how much that has been good in my life.”
James said she has taken part in several of the protests that have taken place over the last two weeks. She said she encourages everyone who believes in the cause to protest if they can, however, she added that she understands there are many reasons some don’t go to demonstrations.
If they cannot, she encourages them to find other ways to advocate for the call for police accountability through making signs for protesters or through whatever means because it is important to advocate.
“Being a minority or being a different color in America it can be hard, people are killed, they’re beaten, there’s so much police brutality in the world,” James said. “I just want to help make a change if I can because everyone deserves to feel as safe as I do on the streets. They deserve to not be terrified whenever they see police.”
Eric Murphy, the assistant director for Service and Learning at West Virginia University, was also at the protest. He said the reason he was taking part in the protest was because it is a form of social action and it’s about using that action to change the community.
Murphy said he went to the Million Man March in 1995 with his father and other protests with his son more recently, but it was the first time he had seen his community come together to put black people upfront.
“This is the first time they have black people and brown people upfront, black men and brown men upfront supporting them as a community,” Murphy said. “And this is the opportunity for us to see what the salad looks like. Keep the flavor of the lettuce, keep the flavor of that and we’re going to work together.”
The reference to lettuce is part of a frequently used metaphor for describing America, not as a melting pot, but a salad with many different textures and origins, all retaining their own identity but working together to form a collective.
Although African Americans and other people of color are being recognized, Murphy said he does not feel great about it. He said he cannot feel great because that is how things were always meant to be.
“It’s not about black lives mattering to me, black lives matter and I get the statement but it’s about the normalcy of me being valued and not being — I don’t need your approval, the fact that you want to love me and support me and understand my pain, that’s about us coming together as a community,” Murphy said. “Where I can keep my most authentic voice and share my most authentic voice without worrying about, without thinking about my need for your approval, knowing that you are my brother, knowing that you are my sister and you don’t look like me but it also being OK with my homogeneous group us coming together and talking about our pain and our heterogeneous family right there supporting us, that’s dope.”
On Thursday, at the protest, people of color had their heterogeneous family right there supporting them. As mentioned earlier, James, a white woman, was at the protest and said she believed coming together was key to helping bring about societal change.
James said now is is not time to stop protesting.
“I feel like we can stop protesting once there is change and once people are — once people become accountable for their actions, once the people that killed George Floyd, once they’re in jail, everything like that,” James said.