Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dear fellow activist facebook friends:

We are in an unprecedented moment of energy and possibility.  In all my years of activism, I’ve never seen a time in this country where there were marches – big marches -- every night for weeks.  It’s inspiring and heartening and also a little scary and intimidating.  The scary and intimidating part for those of us who are not Black, and even more for those of us who are white, is the ever-present danger that we will overstep or misstep, miss our cue, give support where we shouldn’t or say something meant to be supportive that comes off as condescending, arrogant, appropriative, dismissive, dogmatic, ignorant, racist, idiotic, …  If you’re like me, you’re feeling this may be the moment you’ve been waiting for, and that you might end up being told you don’t have a place in it.

Doubtless we will be told that.  But here’s the thing – other people will tell us the opposite.  And that’s okay.  At times like this, a lot of things get said.  And a lot of them are true, and a lot of the things that are true are also contradictory, because there are many many truths.  I’ve read articles by Black people telling white people the only sign we should carry is #BlackLivesMatter.  And I’ve read things by Black people who don’t like #BlackLivesMatter.  I’ve read eloquent defenses of property damage and harsh condemnations saying it’s all white anarchists doing it and putting Black people at risk.  I’ve been at actions where organizers nearly came to blows over whether to have a die-in; some people felt it was too passive, and others that it powerfully symbolizes the incessant killing.

It’s tempting to just sit back, take it all in and not say anything.  That’s mostly what I’ve been doing, and it’s a comfortable position – hey, I’m just here to support and listen, it’s not my place to say anything.  But there’s a fine line between being respectful and dodging responsibility.

I appreciate so much the photos and news reports and links to great analysis my extremely attentive and prolific friends have been posting in the last few weeks.  I would be so much less informed without you.  I’ve also seen a few things in the last week that made me uncomfortable.  I’m not posting any links ’cause this is not about calling people out.  It goes without saying, you don’t have to listen to me.  If it resonates, great.  If it doesn’t, keep doing what you’re doing.  Don’t unfriend me and I won’t unfriend you.

Here are a few things I wish my facebook friends would not do:
  • Compare one group’s action to another’s, saying, “This is more moving than this.”  It’s not a competition.
  • Put down activists who choose nonviolence.
  • Put down activists who damage property, as long as they don’t jeopardize others.
  • Assert that those doing things you don't like at protests are cops, unless you know it, like in last night’s gun-toting CHP incident.
  • Call a white person being choked by cops an example of white privilege just because he didn’t die.  No one should be choked.
  • Suggest that college students who get raped get too much attention, because non-college students are slightly more likely to be raped.
  • Pit victims of US drones against victims of ISIS beheading.  They’re both war crimes.
  • Trash Malala Yousafzai as a Western puppet and then fawn all over her when you find out she’s a socialist.
  • Call spending two hours in handcuffs and not being allowed to go to the bathroom “torture.”
  • Post those privacy notices that don’t do anything.
I could go on but that’s enough.  Keep those links coming!  And see you in the streets (as soon as it stops storming).