Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why I've stayed in for the recent protests

(besides just being lazy or the weather.)

I've been thinking a lot about the #blacklivesmatter protests and #oaklandprotests and #berkeleyprotests and why it just hasn't FELT right to be out there. I used to feel inspired to put my feet wherever my heart was by marching or protesting, etc. But something has changed, at least in this instance.

The big marches each night seem younger and angrier than I am or feel. They also seem whiter than seems appropriate. While I am white, and constantly work on an anti-racist place, I'm not sure that these #oaklandprotests have gotten there, or that any kind of protest in the dark in Oakland can, at least not right now, with FTP and Occupy still so much on all parties' minds. (Last weekend, a FTP march was convened after a peaceful, black-led march that explicitly asked for this not to happen. Of course the "diversity of tactics" march made the news.) Black lives matter- I want to support that message, desperately. But somehow marches that end up night after night with stand offs with the police, vandalism and arrests feel like they're coming from a place of privilege: how many black people can afford to knowingly put themselves at the mercy of a broken police department and the criminal justice system?

Then there have been AMAZING protests and acts of civil disobedience organized by black groups. Most of them I didn't hear about till after the events- they were organized and executed just perfectly. One, #blackbrunch, involved going into restaurants in upscale neighborhoods on the weekend and reading off names of black people killed by cops. In another, the West Oakland BART station was shut down totally peacefully- amazing civil disobedience. I applaud these efforts and feel no need to co-opt or make them mine.

And then there have been sweet grey-hairs near my house most evenings- 10 to 20 of them- holding #blacklivesmatter and #Icantbreathe signs at a busy intersection. There is something sweet about these old white people caring. It is also strange to see them out there and feel that something is wrong. I can't put my finger on WHAT is wrong, but it's just not quite right. It's like holding a sign isn't enough. But what I'm doing- nothing- isn't any better, it's worse.

I haven't figured out how to be a good ally in this case yet. Work in progress.