As I mentioned yesterday, I stopped by the “Aint-Police Brutality” protest on MLK near the police station. I only stayed for about an hour for a couple of reasons. One, I had just worked an 8 to 5 and I was tired. Two, I had spent the majority of my day trying to convince other Black people of the difference between the myth of Black on Black crime and Black people being murdered by cops and that gave me a splitting headache. Three, I had my kids who were cranky and hungry and getting on my last nerve. And four (which I didn’t really mention yesterday) I felt a lot of tension building in the form of white people f*cking sh*t up.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The presence of white people at the protest was nice. Expected, but nice. When we fight issues that affect the Black community, we need white people on our side. And in Portland, you have no choice but to have white people involved. They’re EVERYWHERE. But there are a few things I worried would happen with their involvement.
White people in Portland love to protest. Anything. Everything. Just cuz. Once I saw “Frogman” show up, I knew it was a wrap. We weren’t protesting fluoride in the water, or the right to build a homeless camp under a bridge. We were protesting a problem that has existed in this country for 500+ years; the devaluing of Black bodies. Silly men in green suits are simply not appropriate. We needed to be solid and firm. We needed to be taken seriously. Nobody takes a crowd seriously when someone is jumping around in a green body suit. That’s not how we roll. You think they did that shit in the 60s? Please, save the show for your own causes.
Also, a big part of the reason Black bodies are devalued is because we’re seen as ignorant and unruly. Now, I’ve expressed time and time again that I don’t think we should TRY to look or act a certain way in order to get “them” to respect us. However, it seemed that the Black people involved in the protest were actually being organized and respectful. They were simply there to march and chant and express their concerns. However, a lot of the white folks were there to f*ck sh*t up and cause a scene. And when the Black folks stepped in and tried to keep things from getting out of hand, they were dismissed by the white people. Just look at the conversations on the Facebook page for the event. One participant wrote:
“Just now, an African American guy got on the bull horn, and said, ‘the cops are on the way. Let’s stay on the sidewalk. We don’t want people getting arrested.’ He was shouted down, and the marchers, mostly white, continued as they were
I have an honest question: How is it solidarity with the black community if the white solidarity folks just disregard that request / input / observation; if they don’t even engage it, and keep ‘taking the streets?’ We who are white, are protected by our privilege. Are we making targets of others, who are more vulnerable? Shouldn’t we look to the targeted community for leadership on tactics? And consequences?”
“I’m disappointed in that amount of self-righteousness and brazen behavior instigated by primarily Caucasian people during this march. Several situations occurred in which people of color were verbally abused or ignored by white male protestors when they were attempting to keep the protest in line. Likewise, the environment had been and continues to be dominated by a white male presence. I notice people who often come to protests for the sake of causing disruption; the selfishness is transparent. This IS issue of race and how we choose to discuss it in our community, we cannot ignore the status quo of race that remains under wraps during these events. We obviously do not live in a post-racial society, this issue is not just about police brutality, it is an issue as to how the voice of minorities seems to still be stifled. To those who revel in public disturbance and disrespecting the people who have a stake in this issue for the sake of getting off of anarchy and self-righteousness: your not an ally, you are not aiding in getting the point across, you are selfish and you are part of the problem. The only people I saw disturbing the peace and being abusive to others were primarily white males, it is problematic; it should not be ignored– and if you want to challenge my opinion be my guest, but also be sure to look at all those photos and recordings taken before you get defensive, Therein lies the truth.“
Those posts were met with comments from dozens of people who threw in their own points of view. Disappointingly (but not quite unexpectedly) protest organizer, Jessie Sponberg replied to the former post dismissively asserting that he felt no need to apologize. He admitted to being one of the many who blew off the suggestions of Black protestors to continue with his own agenda. And that is kind of the norm for white people in Portland.
Look, I’m not saying that the presence of white people is unwanted. We do need allies. But what we don’t need are self-righteous white saviors or professional protestors who push their own agenda for self-glorification while disregarding the pleas of the people who the issues directly affect. IF sh*t would have gotten ugly, if the cops would have come, who do you think would have gotten in trouble. Who would get blamed for the fuss? What the f*ck were we protesting in the first place. This didn’t start because a 40-year-old white guy was murdered by the cops.
If you say you’re there to help, then help. Don’t take over, don’t disrespect, don’t completely disregard the people you claim to want to help in the first place. If you just want to protest something, I’m sure there’s plenty other causes that could use the type of help you have to offer. Go fight for marijuana or something. In our country’s history, Black people have protested and marched for their issues sans that dramatic show. We got over the shuckin’ and jivin’ as soon as we weren’t being forced to do so. I really want all you white folks who claim to care, to take a step back and ask yourself if what you’re doing is actually positively contributing to the cause. And if you’re unsure, stay your ass at home next time.
This is why Malcolm said we need to have our OWN sh*t.