Please Take a Stand. Just Not on Someone Else’s Neck
I want to make something perfectly clear from the start. I am not a white apologist. I am not a white feminist apologist. I’m not any kind of apologist. But I have seen some things from thinkers on all sides of the resistance that are extremely disturbing and I don’t think they bode well for the movement should they continue.
I have read several articles, which frankly, I was expecting, criticizing white protesters who for the most part are or should be their critic's allies. For the most part, their argument seems to boil down to, “where have you been for all these years as we have fought against our oppression?”
Likewise, I have seen defensiveness from those white protesters defending their bona fides as progressive thinkers, which then turns into them sounding like white saviors basically saying “we’re doing this for you, you should be grateful.”
Could we just stop and take a breath? I don’t think we are helping our cause by this back and forth that just creates the kind of division our opponents want to see. These are valid conversations that are happening and maybe the anger and bitterness have to come out in order to get past them and find a way to unify.
I know resisters from various backgrounds with various motivations. But we have the same goal. We are trying to disrupt the process. We are trying put a wrench in the works. We are trying to make our government understand there are consequences for their actions and we aren’t going to forget and we aren’t going away. This is the goal.
So, in my opinion, we need to get past this idea that there is one issue more important than others and that whenever there is an effort to address a specific topic, it is flawed if it doesn’t encompass all the concerns of all the groups involved. Protests are going to come from all sectors and each one must have a precise target.
Having said this, I do think there are some concerns that are more urgent. Immigrants, Muslims and LGBTQ individuals are under an enormous threat right now. Their safety is at stake. Therefore, those who face the most urgent oppression need to have their concerns voiced forcefully.
As I said earlier actions need to be targeted and specific. The more nebulous the protest, the more easily it can be dismissed. Think the Occupy movement. Within each protest, diverse constituencies must be represented, but they must speak to the unique concerns within the specific topic.
The criticism of the Women’s March was that it was a tool of white feminism. But that was not my experience. I am a man with Native American heritage and I was surrounded by diversity. The signs spoke to numerous causes: Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and many others. All of these topics were being covered within the umbrella of how they effect women. Yes, the majority of protesters were white. But, most of those I saw and spoke with shared common concerns that ran the gamut of progressive causes and issues, but the anchor was the fate of women and the assertion that women were not to be trampled by jingoistic pretenders so afraid of vaginas they think to grab them is to control them.
So, to those resisters bitter with white resisters and they’re lateness to the cause I say, isn’t this kind of awakening what it’s all about? Aren’t we about persuading all people to understand oppression and do something about it? We must accept them and allow them to work alongside us to stop Donald Trump and create a unified America.
To white protesters I say, please be aware that a savior complex does nothing but build resentment. You are not working for, you are working with and when the issue does not affect you personally, you have to let others take the lead.
One of the ways we get rid of white privilege is to stop making comparisons that are invalid, such as how much better the Women’s March was because there were no arrests. It’s smug and it ignores the causes of the violence and arrests. And it ignores the fact that the police are reluctant to arrest white women. Be aware and be respectful. And do not fail to support and march with those whose issues do not directly affect you.
We are wading through hundreds of years of oppression. It’s easy to look at whites as part of the problem because whites in America have always been at the center of the problem. Likewise, whites are fighting the guilt of their role in oppression. Because they seek redemption, a reclamation of their place in nature, their rightful place as a part and not the best, just whole, whole with all pigments and faiths and societies.
The resistance to Trump has awakened progressives of all stripes to the need to fight for ourselves and our causes just as hard, if not harder than the other side has fought for there’s. If the idea is to make people understand that we are the majority, we have to accept that while we are a unified majority, we are also a diverse majority and each person deserves respect and dignity that validates the journey of others.
How else can we proceed? Are we a wave or a puddle? Do we believe we can create change? Or are we content to complain? Transformative movements create more than noise. They create a cogent argument that can stand the test of ideas from sources less worthy, but loud. So, let’s cut the extraneous controversies and face the opponent head on without swerving. We are not counter punching. We are not playing rope a dope. We are finally giving voice to the myriad voices of humanity that say one thing. To paraphrase Eugene Gant in Look Homeward Angel : we will go bent over in this house no longer.