White Allies Must Confront Their Heritage of Sabotaging Black Movements
White people who refuse to process their ancestral pain hurt the political aims of Black Lives Matter
Since George Floyd’s death, white people in Portland have created their own reasons as to why they clash with other white people over Black lives.
Amid the chaos and death in the Portland protests that belie the peaceful nature of the larger movement gripping the nation, the Wall of Moms stood out as a particularly salient gesture of solidarity. They first appeared in mid-July, forming a human barricade between protestors and federal agents who were obstinately charged with protecting government property but instead spent their evenings brutalizing citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights. To the federal agents, these yellow-clad white women were no different than the antifa agitators they believed had hijacked or engineered or commandeered the demonstrations. The Wall of Moms were tear-gassed alongside other protesters. Their numbers grew larger the next night.
As I watched the news arising from that city, I became curious about how white people were putting their bodies and, in this time of pandemic, their lungs in harm’s crosshairs every time they went outside with their masks. In my neck of the woods, where the stakes are lower, white people also engaged in solidarity. I noticed more and more white people — but only a few — wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and masks as they shopped for bok choy and kale in Kroger, located in the conservative Arkansas county where I live. Despite my matching regalia, they never made eye contact or conversation with me.
White people do not have a coherent sense of ancestral pain. They crib ours and misuse it.
Politics is more than the study and behavior of those who have power — at least for Black people. For us, there is no divide between spiritual life and political progress. We are joined with our ancestors, who slaved the cotton fields and braved the Freedom Rides. We have a spiritual kinship with the redlined and the unjustly incarcerated. The Black ontology of politics builds on these historical experiences because of our…