What we have witnessed in the streets of Baltimore this week is a popular uprising - it is Black resistance to repeated and unchecked state violence. As white anti-racists, we stand in solidarity with Baltimore and Black resistance to white supremacy.
The mainstream media only has one frame of reference for covering these events: to undermine and discredit its significance by using ready-made and racialized labels such as “riots,” “looters,” “thugs” and “criminals.” These terms are not ahistorical, and these terms are not apolitical. Every time a news anchor wags a finger because of the destruction of property or paternalistically wrings their hands over their imagined idea of the broken Black family, they are affirming the violent anti-Black bedrock that this country sits upon. This is not ok. This is a feedback loop of hypocrisy and denial.
Either/or thinking (“good” protesters vs. “bad” protesters) and double standards characterize our media coverage, immediately erasing the context out of which these actions emerge. When white people express rage, such as when there is a loss in a major sports game that results in a “riot,” the media coverage is much more forgiving, and never refers to those engaging in “violent” behavior as “thugs.” Similarly, the “good” cops vs. “bad” cops binary fails to take into account the role of policing in Black communities - justifying the over-policing of Black communities and other communities of color and suggesting that it’s only those rare “bad” apples that contribute to the fear and rage in Black communities toward law enforcement. It is Black communities, not white communities, who are subject to unfair searches through “stop and frisk” laws that disproportionately target people of color and Black people, not white people, who are targets of legally sanctioned, yet dehumanizing, policing tactics on a daily basis by “good” cops. It assumes that “good” police officers are somehow devoid of conscious and unconscious bias when interacting with the communities they are sworn to protect. This binary assumes that policing is necessary in order to keep residents safe from crime, and that it is not the state’s tool for social control.
Too often our white skin privilege renders us indifferent to the reality of Black people’s lived experience. We can assume that police are there to protect us. We need not worry that an interaction with police may result in us taking our last breath. Time and again we’ve witnessed videos of police interacting with armed white men pointing a gun at officers, which rarely results in an officer’s use of force, let alone lethal force. Yet we have been conditioned to see Black communities, and Black bodies, as objects to be feared.
The media perpetuates the ideology that property is more valuable than Black lives. By focusing on the “looters” and “violence,” mainstream media gives permission to a national audience of people sitting in the comfort of their own home that they, too, should be outraged at property damage, and diverting attention from the focus on police murders, lack of accountability, and lack of investment in Black communities. As white people, we are encouraged to “pray for peace” in times of uprising; instead, let’s work to end police brutality and invest in Black communities. The media’s call for “peace” is really a call for a cease in the disruption of white comfort. Naming this is essential.
We support Black people expressing themselves in response to oppression and brutality in whatever forms that takes. We recognize Black people's right to lead their own struggle and determine their political strategies, and we recognize the important leadership that provides to all people committed to justice. We don't believe it's our role as allies to dictate what such struggles and strategies should look like. We commit ourselves and call on other white people to engage in critical self-reflection and examination about the meaning of race and whiteness in our lives. Our on-going work is to question the assumptions we hold about security, law enforcement, and the tactics of change; to excavate the lies and distortions we have internalized about American history and the color of justice; to be honest and radical in our evaluation of inequities and the privileges we have been afforded. The greatest tool we have toward this critical learning is our ability to listen. We must recognize and lift up the experiences and wisdom being expressed by Black people about what it means to be Black in this country. We also commit ourselves and urge other white people to take action and organize. Engage other white people in conversations about racism - call them in to the community of justice and transformation. Reframe conversations in white communities from “peace” to a focus on systemic racism and state sanctioned violence. Build relationships and networks with other white anti-racists and show up when allies are needed in this struggle - at rallies and actions to support the Black Lives Matter movement or helping with planning and providing needed resources. Promote and defend the voices of Black dissent and resistance against state repression and media racism. Help provide material and legal resources and court support for Black and other people facing such repression for standing up and speaking out against racist police murders. Let’s dismantle white supremacy.
#blacklivesmatter #blackspring #baltimoreuprising #bmoreunited #baltimore #Baltimorerising