In one way – nothing has changed. One year later and I still keep seeing (white) people in my communities – online and off – taking the same stance as they were this time last year during the protests in Ferguson.
“This type of violent protest doesn’t do any good! No changes get made. MLK promoted peaceful protests!”
First: The protests haven’t been violent. There was a burst of criminal activity during the protests. The police chief at the press conference after the shooting from two nights ago made a point to disassociate the two. The protests have been loud and in your face and aggressive and full of yelling and screaming and tears and cursing, but the protests themselves have not been violent.
Second: Yes, things are actually slowly changing. Not as fast or as much as they need to be, but democratic candidates are now being “forced” to release their criminal justice plans along with their plans for the economy and the environment. This is a real issue now getting real attention, did anyone care about police body cameras a year ago? Did candidates have to mention how we’re going to deal with the ineffectiveness of militarized police forces in their stump speeches? No. But now they are.
Third: this statement and stance (that the BLM movement should be protesting PEACEFULLY) assumes that these loud protests in Ferguson were the first mention of the systemic racism in the criminal justice system. And no – this is just the first time we heard about it which is exactly why it escalated. The black communities in places like Ferguson were well aware of the mistreatment and unfair persecution based on skin color. But those of us in the safe white suburbs had no idea this was as common of a trend as it is. Why do we know about it now? Because the protests got loud. And aggressive. And people got arrested and the police got militarized and news crews were sent to film it. If these protestors had stayed quiet in their communities trying to talk to their city councils like we white people seem to think they should do, nothing would change.
But now we know how the DOJ found many problems in the police department in Ferguson. And this prompted us all to analyze our own police departments.
Fourth: There have been PLENTY of very calm and quiet peaceful protests and people still get arrested. Religions figures and activist leaders. I’ve seen people who hear about the gunfire from two nights ago and group that into “all of the protests” and now see anyone sees photos of a black person being escorted by police at these protests and assume they are the criminals waving guns around. And this assumption, this lack of a need to make sure we understand the facts behind stories of arrests, this is proof of the problem. The fact that white people see pictures like this:
in their newsfeed and assume it’s representative of “thugs” and “criminals” being violent at protests is EXACTLY what happens when you live in a racist system. We see those photos and we don’t bother to understand why they’re being arrested.
We see photos like this:
Oath Keepers have shown up in Ferguson with assault rifles. Protesters led by @TefPoe telling them to get away. pic.twitter.com/n9PNwkGNBL
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 11, 2015
And think, “Well…good. They’re getting violent and aggressive, we need those guys to protect.” Even though there have been hours and hours of non-violent protests in the last 48 hours, there have been thousands and thousands of angry-but-not-criminal protestors and because of a small burst of actual criminal activity…suddenly we’re okay with this type of presence?
So now I know about Oath Keepers. Something I’d never even heard of until this morning. And I’m wondering why we’re more scared of angry people screaming in the streets than of self-policing organized military forces supported by several local governments and politicians. And as someone rightfully asked on Twitter – What side are those guys even on? They seem to support the constitution so are they making sure people can enjoy freedom of speech?
For this middle-class white woman living in the suburbs of Alabama, a lot has changed in a year. My eyes are open to issues I never knew existed. I’m learning even my own instinctive reactions to certain situations prove that systemic racism exists. I’m part of the problem, I now see. When Cecil the Lion got killed and everyone was choosing their stance (Against Planned Parenthood, Vetaran Support, Black Lives Matter) and saying “Why do you care more about a Lion than my issue?” I made the naive statement that I “assume the best in people and that everyone cares about more than one issue” and it was pointed out to me that people of color in our country don’t have that luxury. They can’t assume people care about the Black Lives Matter movement because so many don’t. And I was once again reminded of my own privileged view of the world.
But in some ways I’ve not changed. I see the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement call out white people and my instinct is to ALWAYS get defensive. “I AM NOT RACIST!” is always my first thought. I still haven’t stopped that response. But then I think back to my instincts in so many poignant moments over the last year and see that I am part of a racist system. And these words hurt me to my core but I need to keep reading them. I need to hear the voices and try to change my world view and teach my children about the privilege their skin color gives them.
A year later and I’m trying to find ways to be part of the solution, now that I’ve finally come to terms with being part of the problem.
1 thought on “A Year Later For This Middle Class White Woman”
So well said! Like you, I’ve learned SO MUCH about my privilege in the last year, and I’ve been reading everything I can about how to be a part of the solution, and recognize that in many ways I am still part of the problem.
I had never heard of Oath Keepers until your post, and I read (most of) the article you linked. I found it hard to finish reading – it’s so scary. I don’t even know what to think about people who call Hilary “Hitlary” and talk about her “Chairman Mao pantsuit” – how do people even come up with this ridiculousness? To me those people’s brains are so, so warped and I can’t understand it. It makes me sad and afraid. I can only hope it’s a teeny tiny part of our overall population. But I’m afraid too that it won’t matter, because sometimes I feel like the many “sheeple” in our midst, only believe the most sensational, outlandish things. Sorry for the long response, but I guess my point is, I SO feel you on this. All of it.