Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On the Other Other Other Hand....

White folks confronting a police line in Berkeley a few hours ago:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
Last night, Elon James White was adamantly denouncing the "highjacking" of the protests against police violence by ignorant or worse white folk who should step back. He seemed most annoyed with the handful of "anarchists" who were going around setting fires and breaking windows in Berkeley, he says they bring disrepute on the Movement.

He says these demonstrations are about police violence and murder -- of Black people. "Black lives matter..." Remember?  Eric Garner? Michael Brown? Not "all lives," BLACK lives. But so many of the demonstrators in Berkeley -- where he is -- are privileged white student asshole jerks who know nothing and care less about the oppression of African Americans and are only looking for their moment in the spotlight.

Tonight, however, he seems to be terrified on the one hand, elated on the other, wanting to denounce, and yet... there's something happening here...

They shut down I-80 in Berkeley. They went out onto the freeway and shut down traffic to and from San Francisco and the East Bay in both directions for however long they were able to hold the line, and Elon freaked out and had an anxiety attack. He does not approve.  #ICan'tDrive became a new hashtag.  They shut down BART. They shut down Amtrak, too. This is going too far.   

Apparently hundreds were arrested -- volunteered to be arrested?? -- at an Emeryville shopping mall.

But I really can't tell what's going on from the Twitter Machine or any of the livestreams I've checked. It's disruption and chaos and yet...

There's something happening here...

Somehow the message is getting through: Slowly. Haltingly.

This has got to stop, the police murders have got to stop, the oppression of black folks and the destruction of black lives, families, and communities has got to stop. Until it does, the People -- black and white and all the other colors together -- are going to take action. Some of it will be nice and polite and friendly and manageable. Some of it won't be. But action there will be until this intolerable situation changes for the better.

It can be done and it will be done.

"Sorry for the inconvenience. We're trying to change the world here."

And then there's this: 

Dear White Protesters: 
As I walked through the streets of Berkeley tonight listening to the overwhelmingly white crowd chant things like “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” I felt uncomfortable. I passed white people holding signs that said “I can’t breathe” and I felt uncomfortable. Then, when we were instructed to sit down in the middle of the main street that runs through downtown Berkeley and were made to listen to a white person on a bullhorn declare “All lives matter!” I felt invisible. Ignored. Forgotten.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

"Whose streets?" As a Black person in this country, I am well aware that the streets belong to white people. I am not empowered or made more safe by hundreds of white people chanting that the streets belong to them. The street in Ferguson where Mike Brown was murdered and lay dead for 4.5 hours should have belonged to him, but it didn’t. He’s dead. He’s not coming back. That’s because the streets belong to white people.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

"This is what democracy looks like?" You’re right. Democracy has always meant that (for reasons you’re well aware of but like to pretend you don’t remember or don’t matter anymore) black people are a consistent minority in this country and thus must petition white people for our basic human rights. Democracy means voter ID laws and poll taxes. Democracy in America is a white majority dictating whose voice matters. Democracy is white liberals telling black folks to calm down and go the polls (and vote for Democrat) as if Bob McCulloch isn’t a "democrat." As if Jay Nixon isn’t a democrat. As if our president isn’t Black and it hasn’t done shit to lower the ever mounting body count of Black people gunned down in the streets by police and vigilantes. As if any Black politicians in a non-majority Black district can get elected, much less reelected, without catering to white people’s feelings. I know what democracy looks like and it hasn’t done very much for people who look like me.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

"All lives matter?" NO THEY DON’T AND THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT! Black people’s lives don’t matter, that’s why I’m out in the streets, to get people to realize that my life has worth. I have to protest to get people to even think about the possibility that if the police or some vigilante gun me down, it’s not because the genetic defects believed inherent in my blackness finally manifested and I had to be put down before I became more of a threat to white america. White america doesn’t need a reminder that "all lives matter," it needs to be made to recognize and respect that Black lives matter.

It’s Black bodies that are bleeding and dying in the streets. It’s Black bodies that can’t breathe. It’s Black bodies that are seen and treated as threats to whiteness as we shop in Wal-Mart, play in parks outside our homes, walk home with a pack of Skittles, sleep in our beds. It’s Black bodies that have hung like strange fruit from the trees of this nation for centuries.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

Stop whitewashing our movement. Stop pretending that “All lives matter” means anything other than “HEY ME TOO! WHAT ABOUT MY WHITE FEELINGS! DISREGARD THE ACTUAL REALITY OF BLEEDING AND DYING BLACK PEOPLE AND CATER TO THE HYPOTHETICAL AND EXTREMELY RARE POSSIBILITY THAT POLICE OR VIGILANTES WOULD BE ABLE TO EXTRAJUDICIALLY MURDER A WHITE PERSON AND FACE NO CONSEQUENCES!” Black people know our lives don’t matter because white people’s hypotheticals matter more than Black people’s reality.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you.

Stop cannibalizing our movements with hashtags about every other life but ours. Stop plagiarizing Black people’s actual struggles for fictionalized white pain (I’m looking at you Hunger Games, with your whitewashed protagonist. “The Hanging Tree?” For real?). Stop scrambling to stand atop the growing pile of dead Black bodies to use it as your makeshift platform to secure more privileges and status for yourself. Stop using protests that should be about Black lives to exercise your white angst, break shit under the cover of darkness, and then bask in the bright light of white privilege while Black lives are declared to be worth less than the windows you broke.

Dear white protestors, this is NOT about you. This IS about making Black Lives Matter.

Our streets shouldn’t be burial grounds for Black people. Black people’s rights shouldn’t be put to a vote. Black people should be allowed to breathe, walk, exist, without fear.

So, if you’re actually here for making Black Lives Matter, put down your “I can’t breathe” signs (because you can, and that’s the point) and pick up one that declares Black Lives Matter (because right now they don’t, and that’s the point). Get off the ground and stand in solidarity as Black people “die-in” (because it’s not white bodies lying dead on our nation’s streets, and that’s the point). Hand over the bullhorn to a Black person (because your voice doesn’t need a bullhorn to be heard, and that’s the point).

And please, stop saying #AllLivesMatter…until they actually do.
It's true, yes, and yet tragically police violence and killing is not solely about blacks -- unless we want that division to rule us forever.

I got into this issue with people who didn't know anything about the killing spree the Albuquerque Police Department were on for years. Remember that? No? It's forgotten now? Well, I haven't forgotten. And I got into the issue of that killing spree -- which has mercifully paused if not completely ended; there hasn't been a police killing in Albuquerque since August -- with people from out of town and out of state who claimed the police must have been targeting blacks... And I scratched my head and looked at the statistics and said, "No. Not really." Less than 10% of those killed by police were black. "Then they must be targeting Indians and other people of color." Well, that might be closer, but only because most of those killed had Latin last names. In New Mexico, a lot of folks whose last names are Hispanic look "white." Unless you knew them, you wouldn't know they were Hispanos. So, no, the killing spree wasn't based on color or ethnicity. More than half of those killed by APD, however, suffered from mental illness of one sort or another. A significant number were drug users/abusers. Many -- not all -- were poor.

There were specific targets for killing, in other words, but it wasn't black folks because they were black. Those targeted for killing were people with mental conditions, regardless of color, especially if they were poor or homeless; drug suspects or known users/abusers, again, regardless of color, and supposedly armed suspects, regardless of color, especially those who ran from, fought or resisted police.

These are the universal police targets for killing in this country.

In some jurisdictions, the effect of this universal targeting falls disproportionately on black and brown victims, but the targeting goes on regardless of color.

Making the issue entirely about race is a classic means of division. Telling white folks to step back is one thing, but insisting that black lives are the only ones that matter, or that only or mostly black folks are the victims of police violence and killing -- because they're black -- defies reality. And who does that serve?

White folks should be stepping back and should not try to hijack or betray the pain and suffering of their black comrades in this struggle. But black folks should welcome their comrades as well, regardless of color, gender, status or other attribute. For it is when the People are united in struggle and persistent in their demands that Authority and Power trembles.

Solidarity matters.

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