I take to the streets more than your average American. There are times when living in this godforsaken country makes my blood boil and my mind run in circles. I march to feel the pulse of the people. I cry out and shamelessly express my emotions. I protest to remember the power of the masses. And when Oakland mobilized around Darren Wilson’s non-indictment, I was also there.
The first night Oakland protest was largely a clump of White people, especially earlier on in the night. Some people in matching yellow shirts and holding a banner like it was some parade, some young White hipsters with jean jackets and bikes, and other White people from the Revolutionary Communist party.
I won’t whitewash the protestors. There were a significant number of people of color that turned up (even though I would have loved to see more solidarity from Asian Americans). But there were a far greater number of White people — not just present, but holding the bullhorn and microphones. We walked by numerous TV station reporters interviewing White people. When we looked back to see who was drowning out our chants with the bullhorn, it was a White man. White boys on bikes were weaving in and out of the police cars as if it was all a game. White skaterboys danced on the hoods of cars without any consequence. Then there were those awkward moments when the crowd of White people would throw up their hands and chant, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot!” And I would just look away, muttering, The point is that you won’t get shot.
I wondered why some of these folks had turned up. There were so many spectators that were there for a joy ride — seeking out cool scenes to take photos and increase Twitter followers. It seemed like the protest a photo op, more than a display of community power. Then I came across an image on Twitter that said, “It’s not about Black vs. White, it’s about the lack of justice,” which increased my fear about some of the protestor’s motivations. Was it about the humanity of Michael Brown, or was it about the technicality of a non-indictment? Seeing how deep White privilege pervaded the protest that night, I’m more inclined to say the latter.
As for me, I understand Ferguson to be about something much greater than the indictment of one racist killer cop. It’s about the humanity of Black lives in this country and the violence that beats folks down everyday. And in that sense, it’s as much about us, non-Black folks, as it is about Darren Wilson. This type of anti-Black violence doesn’t only lie in Darren Wilson holding a smoking gun, aimed at Michael Brown. It’s engrained in all of us, and our actions of solidarity should not only consist of taking to the streets in outrage. Having ignorant White men on the streets screaming at police and looting for the sake of creating chaos will not bring about justice, nor a just society. First and foremost, we must look inwardly at the ways that we ourselves act out violence against Black communities everyday.
It’s about the way we think about Black people, the way we grip our purses when Black men walk by, the way we consume images of Black women twerking, the way we victim-blame Black trans women for their own murders, the way we appropriate the Black vernacular, the way we avoid East Oakland like the plague, the way we doubt the words that come out of Black mouths.
We are also complicit in the maintenance of the police state that terrorize Black, Latino, Southeast Asian, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities. For many of us, there is still an amount of power we give to the police state. Our instinct is to trust it. To believe it. To rely on it to mediate our problems. To depend on it for the “true” verdict. It’s about this interwoven system of violence that we have come to depend on so much.
Even when we yell out for the indictment of Darren Wilson, we are placing power back in the hands of the justice system — the power to determine his criminality rather than just declaring it so. Until we began creating new ways of connecting with people that does not involve detouring through the police and the criminal justice system, we will continue to be enacting violence upon the communities around us.
Anti-Black violence is incredibly deeply engrained in our lives, and we are all complicit. It’s about how unseeing we are, how numb we are to it. It’s about the Darren Wilson in each of us.
I think Ferguson should be about an internal reflection just as much as an outwardly expression of fury. I’m talking about a lot of self-work, cultural shifts, discussions, and self-criticism. It’s a long-term vision to build a type of movement that will stretch and grow, branch and merge, and spread to pervade everything. A type of revolution that will grow from inside each and every one of us, until it bursts the seams of this current society. I stand in solidarity with the Ferguson people, and believe in fighting to bring about #JusticeForMikeBrown and all those murdered by killer cops.