Dear White Protesters

Came across this from a link on Facebook from a group posting for another protest about the murdering of black folks by cops.  We’ve been silent here for multiple reasons but not because we haven’t noticed what’s going on.  There’s a lot to say, but right now it seems the time is appropriate for voices not often heard in New Hampshire to be heard; especially when many people in New Hampshire are showing up to show their support for the struggles in the black community — which really are everyone’s struggle, as the previous post Why I Hate Anti-Racist White Allyship so eloquently explained.

“White hipster Ferguson protesters, also known as the worst people in the world, are now just randomly showing up at places and screaming about Michael Brown because when you have a trust fund and a six figure degree in community organizing, this is what you do.” from InDepthAfrica

From Tamil Gresham:

Dear White Protestors

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.

Tamila Gresham is a third year law student at Berkeley Law and the co-founder and CEO of The Box Scene Project, a nonprofit organization working to reach equal media representation for the LGBT community, women, people of color, people with disabilities, and those that live at the intersection of those identities.  She has a tumblr page Young Gifted and Black

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