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Thursday, 14 August 2014

From One White Ally to Others

by: Liberate Zealot

Let me take a moment to explain that I'm on my tablet as my computer's mouse is haunted and so there might well be more spelling mistakes than normal and I won't be able to include links to sources as I would like.  Now on to actual content.

I'm sure everyone reading this is in some way aware of the police violence and protests in Ferguson, perhaps you're even aware of certain feminist and LGBT groups speaking up in defense of the protesters and stating the concerns of police violence and racism in America  need to be concerns of mainstream feminism and LGBT groups.   These are connections I've seen white people speaking out against, sometimes even while claiming to support and stand in solidarity for the people in Ferguson.

So this is my message to white people, specifically those who want to support Ferguson protesters and what they stand for.

Firstly, shut up for a while and listen.  I know this is hard, I like sharing my opinions too.  But honestly, unless we're addressing other white people, and unless we're basing on our opinions on the testimonies of people of color it isn't out place to speak.  So again, spend a long time listening silently, and trust the black people who do speak out and share their experiences.

Next, remember our privilege.  As white people we are given the benefit of innocence by the police and media in a way black people aren't and this has shaped every single one of our lives and opinions.  By growing up to see police as protectors and only having that view point challenged (and at a remove at that) as adults means we might not understand the impact police violence and racism has on reproductive justice.  This is not something that effects out lives.  But if we can remember the first point and listen and trust we will learn from black women how fears of police violence against their children impacts their reproductive choices and parenting.  Things do not need to be self evident to us for them to be obviously and automatically true to the people who are actually affected.

Third, we need to remember that people of color are necessary parts of our feminist/LGBT/differently abled/etc communities.  Their concerns (that our white privilege removed us from) are not ancillary but need to be reconized as fundamental parts of our movements.  To do otherwise is to say people of color are ancillary and not fundamental parts of our communities.  And I hope that I don't need to explain that this makes us at least passively racist.

Lastly, we need to take direct action in support of the people of color in our communities.  However, while doing so we need to remember our privilege and our proper place.  We, and our families, are not Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Michael Brown, or Cece Mcdonald.  We cannot fully know their experiences, and the experiences, fears, and concerns of their families and neighbors, and so we cannot speak for them.  Our jobs are to be microphones, to amplify their voices so more people can hear them, not to speak over them or steal their words.  When we do speak with our own voices and words on these issues we need to do so at the right time and place and towards the right people.  At candle light vigils we stand in silent support.  We raise our voices to the predominantly white police, politicians, and media to call on them to act with justice and hold them accountable and culpable for their actions and words.  We challenge white people who tone police, and play respectability politics, or what want to turn the Ferguson protests and the extrajudicial slaying of Michael Brown away from the endemic racism of police violence.

And again we listen, we respect, we trust, and we support.  The concerns and oppressions of people of color need to be fundamental parts of feminist/LGBT/other movements, but in doing so we white people need to remember our support cannot include speaking for people of color.  

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