On Monday night, November 23, 2015, three armed, suspected white supremacists shot five Black protesters in Minneapolis who were peacefully demonstrating against the police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jamar Clark, that occurred on November 15th (#JamarClark). Clark was executed by police while handcuffed; a story that is disputed by local police. Initially, police refused to release the names of the officers, refused a Department of Justice investigation, and refused to release the video of the incident. Since that time, protesters have been occupying areas near the scene of the crime as well as the local precinct, disrupting business as usual and occupying the local precinct, all to demand justice for Clark and his family. Police aimed to stop protesters by arresting them and spraying them with chemical irritants. No doubt, as a result of the protesters’ tactics, this incident was not swept under the rug, and two demands have been met: the DOJ will begin an investigation and the names of the police officers have been released. Black activists continue to put their bodies on the line to hold police accountable.
Because of the success and determination of protesters calling for racial justice, white supremacists saw the gathering of #BlackLivesMatter protesters and allies as a hunting ground. These men attempted to infiltrate the group and blend in, but were immediately identified as “shady” people that didn’t belong to the movement. After all, the movement is built on love in our hearts and solidarity with Black people, so of course white supremacists wouldn’t fit in, no matter how hard they tried.
We stand in solidarity with BLM Minneapolis and all Black-led struggles against violent, racist institutions of policing and extrajudicial systems. We, as white anti-racists, believe we must counter the white supremacist backlash and media narrative that ignores protester demands and explains acts of terrorism as isolated incidents carried out by lone gunmen. These “lone gunmen” are part of a network of white people intent on preserving their version of America, one where whiteness reigns supreme, at the expense of all other lives, particularly Black lives. Our anti-racist stance may provoke discomfort or anger from other white people, but we must be courageous and vocal of our solidarity with Black-led movements. For these reasons, we stand in solidarity with Minneapolis, and with all other Black-led groups working towards liberation from a racist police state. We believe there are more white people of conscience who see the injustices committed across the country and want to change hearts, minds and institutions. We are intent on creating a network of white anti-racist people willing to create a new America. We imagine an interdependent, intersectional future where we work together to create racial justice through our personal actions and in our larger institutions. This will be a future where justice reigns supreme and Black lives matter.
The expressions of white supremacist rage toward Black people and allies is not a new or recent phenomenon, and white supremacists are using tactics to terrorize that are similar to what has been used generations before us. Church burnings, mass shootings, armed counter-protests, and now infiltrating the movement with intent to cause harm, such as in Minneapolis, are failed attempts at stopping the movement and reclaiming power. Why do they do it? Because the perpetrators see that the movement is winning, thus, they are losing. They feel the tide turning, acts of justice and accountability increasing, and the consciousness of white people shifting, as more white people are defecting from white supremacy and see the benefit of a just and equitable society for all.
While it is comforting to perceive these violent acts as the last desperate breaths and vestiges of anachronistic systems and social attitudes, we must also be aware of the ways racism and white supremacy can be less explicit and less immediately visible, and continue to work against more diffuse forms of oppression such as appropriation, micro-aggressions, social norms, inequities in access to care and education, etc. This is especially important around the holidays as we partake in capitalist rituals of consumption; as white people, we need to pay attention to the ways in which corporations profit from Black labor and continue to divest from businesses that reify oppressive systems. In our solidarity work, we must also be mindful of the ways we try to spread awareness and call others in; it is imperative that we remember the murders of Black folks are normalized through consuming them via graphic images (that can retraumatize Black communities) and a lack of intentionality around our goals in sharing news and articles. White people used to sell photographs of Black folks murdered through lynching; let us not perpetuate that horror in our social media feeds.
As society celebrates Thanksgiving, a holiday that celebrates the alleged coming together of pilgrims and Native Americans, we inadvertently reinforce white supremacy, with very little effort being put into understanding the violent history of genocide toward Native Americans and the attempts to re-write them out of American history. It is important that we reflect on how genocide continues to be perpetrated today by racist vigilante killings, police killings, health disparities, joblessness, and mass incarceration. This racism has murdered generations of Black people and other people of color. We have a moral imperative to educate ourselves to build a new identity of whiteness free from the racism that has left a violent imprint in our hearts, minds and very fabric of our being. We must raise our children in a culture where Black lives truly matter.
We, as white anti-racists, believe that the strategy to end the white supremacist system must include multiple tactics - including breaking white silence. As people across the country gather with friends, family, and other loved ones for this holiday season, let us keep in mind the many people who will not be joining their families at the dinner table because they were killed by police. Now is the time to have conversations with other white people about racism and its implications in America. We certainly do not all wield weapons, but we often wield our power and privilege in ways that are complicit with the white supremacist fabric of our society. White shooters wore masks to conceal their identities; it is crucial that we as white allies, comrades and accomplices take off the masks of politeness and pretense that allow us to laugh uncomfortably at our families’ racist jokes, to not challenge stereotypes and assumptions, and to avoid the courageous actions that might hold ourselves, our families, friends and loved ones accountable. For many white people, these conversations require support and tools. Showing Up for Racial Justice, a national white anti-racist network and organization, has a toolkit for white people interested in having holiday conversations with friends and family members. The toolkit can be found here: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/alternative_narratives_for_holidays
We recognize that white silence is complicity and condones the atrocities we see committed against Black people, such as Jamar Clark.
Although the holiday season is often seen as a time of celebration, we believe it is time to lift up the memory of Jamar Clark and the countless others who have been murdered this year at the hands of police, and each year for decades, while the murderers are free to celebrate the holidays with their families. That is a privilege denied to many as a result of police brutality in this country. Think about the protesters who were shot for simply demanding justice, who will more than likely be spending their holiday in a hospital bed. We don’t believe that white supremacist terrorist tactics will end the movement, but will only serve to strengthen its resolve. In fact, we may see more white people coming into this movement as a result. We hope with all our hearts that the response to such horrific, explicit acts of violence will be that more and more white folks who have been standing on the sidelines will be ready to stand up together and say "enough is enough" to white supremacy. We await you with open arms.
White People 4 Racial Justice (WP4RJ) is a white anti-racist collective and activist project of the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE-LA) and operates within a national network of white anti-racists called Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). WP4RJ is rooted in acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter: Los Angeles.
Alternative Narratives for Holidays: http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/alternative_narratives_for_holidays
Black-owned Business Guides for the Holiday Season:
Have that Awkward Conversation About Race and Whiteness: http://kuow.org/post/have-awkward-conversation-about-race-and-yes-whiteness-too
Racial Justice Holiday Table Setting: http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/showingupforracialjustice/mailings/70/attachments/original/SURJ_Holiday_Placemat_V7-01.jpg?1448400460