There's a stark difference between how we treat Open America protestors and the Black Lives Matter movement. It's because of race.
What makes you American? Is it your birth certificate, your green card, your passport? Does eating hot dogs and carrying a gun make you American? Are you American when you sing the national anthem at a football game? Does it make you less American if you don't, if you kneel? The idea of American-ness is so ingrained in following national traditions - traditions largely based on a racist and genocidal history - that protesting them is seen as anti-national. When you attend a Black Lives Matter protest, wear a hijab as a House Representative, or call for children crossing the border not to be locked in cages, you're seen as un-American.
That's a problem. While the First Amendment sure protects "covidiots" who want to go out and protest national lockdowns, it also protects those fighting systems of injustice. After all, America was built on dissent, on people rising up against those in power to create a more equal society. It is all our fights for equality that have defined our history - whether it was the suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, or the LGBTQ+ community's Stonewall Riots. Our freedoms have only been granted to us after we fought tooth and nail for them. That still begs the question, when we fight racism, sexism, or really any other ism that has come to define our country, why is it seen as un-American?
Q: What do Charlottesville and protests to open America have in common?— Oren Jacobson (@Oren_Jacobson) May 6, 2020
A: Nazis who Trump called fine people. pic.twitter.com/zu3wozkeAa
Reflecting on Colin Kaepernick's dissent at the NFL, Lisa Hicky of The Good Men Project stated, "That's really probably one of the clearest examples where they just outright said he’s being unpatriotic... It’s almost like [he was] disrespecting these symbols of America and therefore disrespecting America itself. The whole reason [he was] kneeling [was] to stop people from getting killed, like people are dying. And somehow the dying is the American way." Kaepernick infamously "took a knee" during the national anthem before playing at NFL games in protest of police brutality.
Hicky's observation is in stark contrast to how we've seen Open America protestors being treated. These (mostly white) men and women taking to the streets, risking our public health, are seen as patriots who simply want the best for the country's economy. They aren't seen as unpatriotic or anti-national, they're simply viewed as folks expressing their freedoms. They aren't even seen as disrespectful. Meanwhile, those protesting actual injustices are told that they have misrepresented the facts or just need to be less violent. Why is this such a problem? When we vilify those expressing dissent against those at the top of the country's socio-economic ladder, we tell ourselves one truth: Dissent is only acceptable when it doesn't make us uncomfortable. When it doesn't affect our own liberties. When it doesn't challenge our status quo. And what kind of dissent would that be anyway?
In light of Ahmaud Arbery's death, protestors - mostly people of color - have been forced to craft protests that follow stay at home orders. Instead of taking to the streets in groups, protestors ran 2.23 miles individually in his honor. They posted photos of their sneakers on social media. Should they have exhibited the same kind of apathy that Open America protestors did and decided to organize on the streets, they, like Arbery, would have been shot at and silenced. If there's anything un-American, it's putting the lives of hundreds of our neighbors and community members at risk because you want to get a haircut. Dissent has always been American - the color of your skin just decides whether the rules of dissent apply to you or not.