Dear White Allies…

Photo: Kelly Hayes

I wasn’t going to write anything about the flood of vilifying propaganda that’s been unleashed against protestors since Saturday, but the story of two fallen police officers in New York is currently front and center in the lives of all resistors, so I felt I had to say a few words.

I’ll begin by saying that I’m not going to go around trying to get through to people with racist leanings right now (not my job), but for white people who want to try to reach out to other white people (and good on you if you do), please remind them that, historically, this is what total oppression looks like – the crimes of those with power are minimized, excused, and ignored, while crimes committed against them mean war.

And, should you choose to engage these conversations, please remind folks that crimes committed against the oppressive class can be wholly fictional, and punished all the same. I’m not saying this person wasn’t guilty. He seemingly was, and is now dead. That means anyone punished for his crimes (which include the shooting of a woman who has been reduced to a news story footnote) is wholly innocent. Thus, any narrative attaching these crimes to anyone else – any protestor, any random person of color, and for that matter, anyone who has actually committed a crime against a police officer or anyone else – is a work of fiction. But this kind of collective blaming, shaming and persecution should not surprise us, because it is happening in the context of a society that (at least) once more or less lynched a whole town of black folks to avenge one crime that was allegedly committed against a white woman. As it happens, that accusation was seemingly fabricated to cover up a case of domestic violence, which is an issue that is also being swept under the rug in this case.

Don’t let your friends forget that the anniversary of the Rosewood massacre is just around the corner, or that the legacy of that crime still holds. Don’t let them tell you that this is 2014, not 1914, because the past only stays dead and gone when cycles are broken. In the US, crimes against black people have simply been reinvented, repackaged, and continuously re-commodified. As Boots Riley tells black folks in one of his group’s tunes, “All y’alls gold mines. They want to deplete you.”

I don’t have the strength to explain to white people with racist tendencies that policing doesn’t even rank in the top ten most dangerous jobs in America, or that all the wink-wink, nudge-nudge, ‘they keep us safe’ apologism in the world will not erase the fact that we are, as Mariame Kaba has said, living in the new Reconstruction. I don’t have the mental wherewithal to chip away at the cop culture mythology some of your friends have bought into, even though it needs to be dismantled. But, if you can stomach the fight, don’t  let them rewrite this moment in history. Because if the narrative holds, the story remains the same.

I am not appealing to you to fight these battles. Spectra wrote that appeal more eloquently than I ever could, and I imagine that you already know if you can handle this work or not, but if you are going to fight the good fight, please remember what I’ve said here. I would help you, but I’m too tired, and they wouldn’t listen to me anyway.


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