A galvanizing Black leadership has emerged from Ferguson in the weeks and months since the murder of Mike Brown and non-indictment of Darren Wilson which has stoked the fires of resistance across the nation-state, joining with histories of rebellion on this land and across the globe. This wave of uprising against injustice has shown a powerful strength in its messaging, its demands and its ability to continue to dominate the airwaves with important information about racism, police brutality and white rage against Black progress – an essential movement if we are to have real conversations or effect meaningful change.
There is a clarity with which Black organizers and writers have continued to put out calls to white people to both own their privilege and step up in this movement, from demands to stop whitewashing #BlackLivesMatter into #AllLivesMatter to specific guidance on how to behave in the streets (ie – white people: don’t say “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and don’t do a staged “Die In” because the police aren’t shooting and killing white people) to requests that white people say no to business as usual and start having difficult conversations to change hearts and minds of other white people . As Carl Gibson shared, “as white people who aren’t seething with racism, we have the duty to show solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in the aftermath of the Ferguson decision.”
But, as Janee Woods shares, in 12 Things white people can do now because of Ferguson, “a lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation…but think about it like this: staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression.” As white people, we must have the difficult conversations. We must be a part of the learning, a part of shifting the narratives, a part of flooding Facebook, just as much as we must be out on the streets, putting our bodies between Black and other POC activists and the police. From our family meals to social media, everywhere that we speak, we must speak about racism and structural violence or else we are complicit in the system not changing.
Which is why I am excited by SURJ, excited by this event in Oakland (organized by white activists with the guidance of the BlackOut Collective and BlackLivesMatter), excited by Sally Kohn, excited by Laci Greene, and excited by my friend, A’s, recent post on Facebook (below). In our December WNC Dialogue, we discussed Difficult Conversations, from Ferguson to Palestine, focusing on and role playing how to engage with dismissive family members, white neighbors who think what’s going on doesn’t affect them, and white people who are interested in the idea of racial justice, but afraid to show up in the streets and join the movement. And while our strategies in different situations may change, we recognized the need to understand the values and humanity of those we are in conversation with – if we actually want to support them in moving in our direction. This post demonstrates a beautiful, engaging and vulnerable process of “coming out” to friends and family as a white person who cares and who will speak and stand in solidarity:
“Dear friends and family,
Today I want to come out to you.
I am a white, able-bodied, thin queer person who is often extended conditional cis-privilege, and I am coming out to you as someone who cares and loves others and believes we all should have the same rights and opportunities.
Perhaps you’ve seen some of my posts about subjects involving the judgement and oppression of others. Perhaps you’ve seen many of them, because I’ve shared them believing you’d be interested, or perhaps you’ve seen very few of them because I believed you wouldn’t understand them.
But today I’m coming out as someone who cares about you and loves you and wants to share these things with you because I believe you are good people who care about and love others and who want to learn how to be even better.
I see how you share posts about your religion, because you want your loved ones to see your truth. I see your posts on disease and illnesses, so that we may know how others suffer and how to end such tragedy. I see your posts on your loved ones and your achievements, so we may see what you are proud of and the love you have in your life.
I too, post these things.
I post pieces on current affairs, so you can see the truth of the world.
I post pieces on racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, fatphobia, and more, because I want you to see how others are suffering and treated unfairly and how we can end such injustices and tragedies.
And I post pieces about those I love and those I don’t know who usually aren’t celebrated in mainstream media, because they are people who deserve to be honored, and they are loved too.
Perhaps you have found or will find my posts “too political”, or you find me “too aware”. I hear you. But when you say or think those things, know that when I am “too aware,” it’s that I really care about this world and the people in it. And to say that I’m “too political” is to say that I love too much, because my politics are love and justice.
I care about you and I love you, and so I share what I have learned and what I am learning about. I believe you care about and love me too, and I hope that together we can talk about any of these topics in a respectful and loving way, which may be difficult and involve strong emotions.
Please feel free to come to me with any questions about my posts, and please know that I will also talk about these things in person because they are important to me and to the world. And if I feel that you’re being hurtful in any way and I ask you what you mean when you say certain things, know that I’m asking you out of love and concern, because I believe you don’t wish to be hurtful or oppressive.
So, friends and family, I come out to you again, as a person who loves and cares about others, and believes we are all capable of being loving and caring.
Thank you for listening.
Please feel free to share and to add your own identities and privileges to your version.”
Hear this call. Take a moment to “come out” and to reach out to the people in your lives. Invite these conversations, even with people you believe won’t listen. Now is the time.
Many thanks to A Raymond for permission to feature this post and for all you do, on and off FB. Thanks, as always, to other WNC folks for edits and inspiration.