An Open Letter to My Fellow Non-Black People of Color
1. Ferguson is not just about racism.
Ferguson is about anti-Blackness. Calling it racism and glossing over anti-Blackness is erasure and may serve to bolster state violence, under which Black people suffer most. A black person is killed every 28 hours by a police officer, security guard, or self-appointed vigilante. Do not subsume yourself into that narrative. Do not co-opt the Black struggle for your own benefit, so that you, too, can be mad about something. Performative tears do not matter. Black lives matter.
2. Ferguson is not just Black and White.
By viewing racial dynamics through a binary, we are necessarily excusing non-Black people of color from mobilizing. In addition to demanding that white people wake up and smell the anti-Blackness, we all need to be held accountable for the ways that we, intentionally or not, perpetuate the forces that drive the surveillance, displacement, imprisonment, and genocide of Black communities. While Asian Americans, for example, have been demonstrating solidarity, they also need to have a thorough privilege check-up. The call for an end to affirmative action, even from someone that is Asian rather than white, is still anti-Black. To counter this, I am calling for non-Black people to stop accepting bread crumbs from the white power structure, thinking we will be spared. Our progress should not come at the expense of Black lives. Black lives matter.
3. You are not Black. You are not Black. You are not Black.
Stop appointing yourselves as experts on Ferguson. Stop lecturing Black people on how they should protest. Stop falsely equating your non-white skin with a degree in Black Studies. Advising Black people on how to be recognized as human beings is a way of leveraging anti-Blackness.
By insisting that you know how Black people can solve the anti-Blackness crisis, you are recycling the idea that Black people are the problem, that they alone need fix their behavior to navigate a state that doesn’t see their humanity. Moreover, physical manifestations of rage, like burning flags and slandering the state, are all appropriate reactions to yet another murder of a Black body. Black people do not need to cater to your feelings, or what you think is respectable, or what you deem will be most successful.
All of this is not to distract from the endless work that white people must do; in fact, white privilege has now revealed itself as even more immense, even more ineffable, than we had imagined.
But this is a call for non-Black people of color to interrogate the ways we may benefit from anti-Blackness and to fight against that with every fiber of our being. We will not see liberation, until the day that the phrase “Black lives matter” is a truth which needs no repeating or convincing. We will not see liberation until all of us are invested in Black lives.