Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recommended Reading

I think a lot about my motivations for going to Black Lives Matter protests. I think about what I should do during to best use my privilege for good and protect black people while still keeping myself out of the spotlight and making sure it's about black people. I hear different things about what I should do as a white person. Should I be in the middle of the crowd during a march to avoid the cameras, or should I be on the outside to keep myself between black people and the police? Which chants are appropriate for me to participate in? Is it better to keep silent during certain chants or change key words to acknowledge my white privilege?

Should I even write about my experiences at these protests? Should I be taking photos and videos to post? Writing is my best skill and I want to use it to uplift the oppressed. But is that why I write about these protests? Or is it just to get myself and my little blog more attention and praise? Am I doing this to appear as and feel like a good person?

These questions came into my mind again upon reading this piece by Ashleigh Shackelford:

For White People Who Want to Attend #BlackLivesMatter Protests

To many Black folks at these rallies though, we are openly and publicly grieving. Our protests and rebellions are out of channeling our trauma into action that is a form of healing, strategy and moving through pain. We are marching, yelling, singing, physically and mentally exhausted because WHITE PEOPLE ARE KILLING US. So when I see white people show up to rally excited and smiling, ready to march like it’s a hobby — I’m disgusted and absolutely fucking livid. When I witness white people taking up space, pushing myths of whiteness as political truth or using white saviorism to reframe their power and privilege, I’m ready to fight.

This might be the first article that made me question whether I should be there at all. The hard truth is that more bodies at a protest means more attention from the media. The harder truth is that more white bodies likely gives a protest more legitimacy to the racist media. And by that I mean all mainstream media. Is racist.

But Shackelford makes a great point. These marches are like a funeral procession for black people. They need to be treated with the proper respect. They are somber and serious events. We white people need to stay quiet unless instructed otherwise. To stay in the back unless it's to stand before lines of police.

But I should also think about other ways to help that are truly out of the spotlight. Volunteering for the black community and the movement in ways that minimize my visibility. I want to help in ways that avoid triggering black individuals as much as is possible. It may be impossible to avoid that entirely. Joining the white organizations focused on promoting black liberation is a good start, I think.

These things I just rambled about are probably the things that my fellow white people should all be thinking about, no matter how they're trying to help. I believe it's impossible to entirely avoid selfish motivations, so confront that in yourself. Think about your real motivations for what you do. Think about how black people might feel about anything you do. Think about how to best minimize your savior complex and maximize the help to the black community. Minimize the harm you do.

It all starts with self-reflection. That is the best think you can do. For yourself and for anyone.

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