One of the worries I've read lately re: Portland is that we're shifting the narrative away from racial justice.
The fact that we're going apeshit over a predominantly white group of moms is a strong indication that those worries are right.
White people have two jobs in this space, according to the majority of racial justice and black liberation leaders going back to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. You donate your wealth, or you get between the cops and the protesters and do the chin-up-mouth-shut act.
At no point can you expect or SHOULD YOU ACCEPT a pat on the back. And any publicity you bring with you thanks to your whiteness needs to be immediately focused on the BIPOC organizers in your presence. They're there. Find them.
This is NOT your fifteen minutes of fame.
Any white person who uses their whiteness to do what those moms did is doing right. Protect the vulnerable, whether they're vulnerable due to size and age, or vulnerable because the cops are much more likely to shoot them in the back then they are you.
Any white person who uses their whiteness to do what those moms did and is interviewed for it and doesn't IMMEDIATELY AND EXPLICITLY point to racial justice as the reason for their actions and relinquish their camera time to BIPOC protest organizers is doing it wrong. This is not your fifteen minutes of fame!
The fact that we have put the white navy vet and a whole bunch of predominantly white moms front and center in the news for days shows us the media is uncomfortable maintaining the public understanding that these are protests against white supremacy. This may have something to do with the fact that the white supremacist power structure is highly visible and deeply entrenched in the news media, even the liberal news media. For example, Bari Weiss and Brett Stephens are usually gainfully employed, in spite of their being Bari Weiss and Brett Stephens. Jokes aside, if the media can frame this as less of an issue with white supremacist power structures, and more a shallow issue of some big mean cops shooting some nice moms with gas that makes moms cry--how could you make moms cry?!--then so much the better.
But the outrage here is not about some big bad cops teargassing some moms.
This is about 400 years of brutal oppression by a white power structure that is even now sending the modern equivalent of slave catchers into cities to commit terrorist acts meant to scare us into submission.
We are seeking racial justice that has been denied by a complex white supremacist power structure that is a lot of things:
Obviously a white supremacist ordering federal troops into Portland to crack down on protests against white supremacy is an example of a white supremacist power structure.
But it's also a white woman--Jen, from twitter, have you seen? Her tweets, O god, are making the rounds--a white woman not believing the smoke in the air is teargas, even as she watches the canister roll towards her moms-link-arms human wall, because she can't believe her government would do such a thing, even though it's happened multiple times in the last five years.
It's a dad who comes to the protest with a leaf blower to get rid of tear gas, now, because his wife is protesting, not before, when it was, what, just another racial justice protest? Where was that giant obnoxious fan machine last week, Chuck? Cleaning up the side yard? Hey, how is Portland these days, Chuck? Have you considered that maybe a video of you calmly leaf blowing your peaceful suburban yard while the president says "Portland is under seige" might actually be more beneficial to more people than anonymously leaf-blowing a protest?
Hell, the white supremacist power structure is evident in the fact that Tamir Rice was murdered by the cops for holding a toy gun but Leaf Blower Lou thinks nothing of carrying a leaf blower into a smokey protest in front of federal troops. That's not a white person thinking their whiteness will protect them, this dude is probably skinvisible in a scene like that! He did that because he has *never* considered that the police might mistake his leaf blower for a weapon. It's not a thing he has to worry about.
White folks, the one message I see repeated more than any other regarding what we need to do now is, "Donate, put your bodies in harm's way to protect the people more likely to experience police brutality because of the color of their skin, and do not expect praise, because you deserve none, because many of you are *400 years late to the protest.*
I'm happy these moms are doing what they're doing.
But white folks who are 400 years to the party--I include myself in that statement--need to be conscious of only using the spotlight to spotlight BIPOC who have been doing this work their entire lives.
I don't want to discourage any white people from getting involved. And I probably won't, because my readership is probably at least 50% my mom. Hi Mom!
But in case that's wrong, I want to be clear that if I'm discouraging you, white reader, by saying you can't seek applause for doing what we all should have been doing years ago, then you need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself why you're doing this in the first place.
Are you doing this to establish a just society, even though that will necessarily mean that you will lose power, wealth, and ease of upward mobility, because sharing equally means more for those who have less and less for those who have more, and *we are those who have more?*
Or are you doing this solely so that you can say you were on the right side of history?
I'm glad for these moms linking arms. And, frankly, the leaf blower is a creative way to use one of my least favorite human inventions.
But never forget that the aftermath matters just as much if not more than the act itself.
Don't believe me? Remember: In the aftermath of the Civil War, we got the 13th and Jim Crow. And in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Act, we got the War on Drugs.
The aftermath decides the new status quo.
Right now, the aftermath dictates that we're going to be seeing a lot of press about white saviors in the coming months.
But we can always do better.
The unkempt thoughts of Benjamin Mumford-Zisk