Calling All White People, Part 45
(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)
By An Average White Guy
TODAY’S EPISODE: No, you don’t get to tone-police the uprising, either
[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]
As protests against the murders of Black people by police (as well as other crimes of white supremacy against Black and brown minds and bodies) continue across the nation—and as peaceful demonstrations either turn into riots or end up right alongside destruction and/or violence—there is something I need you, my fellow white people, to do.
No, I don’t mean stop worrying about the fact that the president is now talking about things like the Insurrection Act and moving toward full-on military-backed dictatorship—and no, I don’t mean stop worrying about the insanely spineless and corrupt Republican Party that continues to support the president’s crimes and other misdeeds. A majority of white voters are responsible for those people being in power. Keep worrying about that and for God’s sake do something about it.
And no, I don’t mean stop worrying about the evils of white supremacy that are behind why police feel entitled to harm and kill Black people and which is what got us to protests and riots now. You definitely need to worry more about that and…again…fix it (be willing to give up all that special white privilege and rebuild society in a way that doesn’t have race-based hierarchy).
What I want you to do is stop worrying about the rioting.
Obviously, you want to worry about perhaps avoiding an area where rioting is occurring. But stop worrying about the property damage. Stop worrying about how “bad” violent uprising looks. Stop worrying about whether that’s the “right” way to protest.
It certainly isn’t the “only” way to protest. But it’s valid. The reason workers can strike now (and have for decades) and get things done just by refusing to work and carrying picket signs (although in case you haven’t noticed the government has worked hard with businesses to make even that harder and harder to do) is because before that, workers rioted. Yes, rioted. A lot. The sustained movement for gay and lesbian rights and protections pretty much launched with the Stonewall Riots. The Revolutionary War that we are taught to be so proud of started with a riot called the Boston Tea Party (which we are also expected to be proud of). Riots can get things done and are often necessary because abusers don’t generally stop abusing because you ask them nicely.
We as white people don’t get to tell Black people or other people of color how mad they should be about their oppression. We don’t get to gauge how bad the abuse is that they suffer or how they should respond to that.
And we damn sure should not be more mad at the destruction of buildings than we are at the taking of Black lives indiscriminately.
There is no number of windows that is equal to a single Black life being taken for no good reason. No amount of property damage is equal to casual murder.
I don’t care if every damn building in this country is razed to the ground in protest against white supremacy’s murder and exploitation of Black people. Something decent can always be built up from the rubble. Better societies can be constructed.
Lives cannot be brought back.
So, no matter how uncomfortable the idea of riots might be, lean into your discomfort. Let it wash over you. Take a deep breath.
And consider going to the front lines of protest to protect Black bodies if you can. Or donate to bail funds in your city for protestors. Or bring needed supplies to protestors. Or whatever it is you can do.
Stop worrying and stop tone-policing the uprising.
By the way, also stop rolling out Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and how he marched peacefully and never rioted and “changed the world.” First, he didn’t change the world—the world has kept on abusing and killing Black people (it’s just that legalized and codified abuses got significantly dialed back). Second, white America still mostly hated him for his protests (and ultimately killed him for them). Third, plenty of other Black people rioted during and after the Civil Rights Movement and MLK himself noted that riots were the language of the unheard. Fourth, just stop using MLK quotes to tone-police Black people when you really don’t know that much about MLK and probably fall into the camp of “white moderates” for whom he had very harsh words.
The riots are unfortunate—but mostly insofar as it’s unfortunate that it had to come to this because America was too addicted to white supremacy and too numb to Black suffering to change things. But what it comes down to is that the only thing you should worry about in terms of the increasingly aggressive nature of this uprising is (1) what you can do to help those who are rising up to demand better for Black and other people of color and (2) what part we white folks individually and as a group played in society to help get us to this point—and stop doing that shit right now.
SIDE NOTE: You are welcome to worry plenty about the property damage caused by white instigators who are trying to discredit or distract from peaceful protestors and damage caused by police to incite more violence and/or make it look like they need to be militarily aggressive to keep the peace.
If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.
Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.