“The killings are horrible but I don’t agree with the riots…”

I see quite a few people I know – and friends of people I know – expressing horror at the recent murders of Black people. It is and has been outrageous for years… decadescenturies. Unfortunately, some follow that outrage with some version of “… but I don’t agree with their methods/the property destruction/the rioting/etc.”

As recently as two or three years ago I would totally have agreed with them. However, after taking part in several anti-racism, anti-white-supremacy programs through my church plus the loving and firm guidance of several people of color, I respectfully – and strongly – disagree on several points:

1) I do not tell people of color or other marginalized groups how to feel about people or institutions who are oppressing them. I realize, now, that by siding with their oppressors I become one of their oppressors. In fact, by being white and not actively opposing that oppression, I participate in their oppression.

2) As a white person in this culture and nation, I do not know – and can never know – what it is like to be Black in America. The closest I can come is to listen to them, hear what they say, and believe them… and I still won’t know. Also, I know full well that there are many voices in the Black community and that few, if any, opinions will be shared by every one of them. Finding one Black person’s opinion that I agree with and telling other Black people that they should conform to that is racist.

3) Anything I say that implies that I will no longer support their otherwise-righteous cause if the resistance leads to destruction of property will be taken as me valuing property over lives.

4) When I fail to realize that any conflict may have more than two sides it is easy for me to think I know enough to make an informed opinion. However, I know that every narrative angle will oversimplify to some degree to support the view of that narrative. It behooves me to listen to the marginalized people instead of the powerful people.

This has not been easy work. It has been painful at times and almost always uncomfortable for me. I am trying to learn to exist in this discomfort. I feel that it allows me to sympathize – in a very watered-down way – with the existential discomfort that is an acute, daily reality for the Black, Indigenous, other people of color, and LGBTQ people in this world and the intersections of these identities.

I acknowledge that the wording of this post centers me and my feelings. Since I am not a person of color, this is problematic. My intended audience is other white people and I need them to know that they should take up this work and that they will also have feelings of some sort. The work needs to happen despite the discomfort of these feelings and I will support them on their journey.

Window and/or Mirror

I wrote this a long time ago. Unfortunately, it seems relevant again still.

We have a cause. Our cause is just and righteous. Our cause serves all people from oppressed minorities to the silent, suffering majority. No reasonable person could oppose our proposals since they are based on universal, well-researched, unwavering principles. We are receptive to new ideas. Our spokespeople are respectful, passionate and articulate and never engage in the ad-hominem attacks or vicious polarization. We are willing to reach out to anyone and educate those who do not know our cause and what it stands for. We decry the media for being biased against our cause because they are in the sway of our opponents. We work within the democratic, lawful system as it exists even as we work from within to promote positive change. Our cause has wide, populist appeal. We are poor or, at least, not rich. We are disenfranchised and un- or under-represented. We are indignant and, unless those in power realize that they should be serving us (as opposed to the other way around), we will rise up and sweep them into the dustbin of history.

They have an agenda. Their agenda is evil or, at least, short-sighted. Their agenda serves special interests and the minority of people who gain the most from their machinations. It is clear that their agenda is based on transitory, self-serving, half-baked, inconsistent, baseless assertions that any reasonable person could see through if they weren’t duped by the expensive and well-researched, psychologically compelling, guilt-inducing propaganda. They tear down our ideas without offering constructive alternatives. Their talking heads are divisive, arrogant, rude, violent, name-calling mouthpieces. They rely on ad-hominem attacks, vicious polarization and the politics of personal destruction to shout down and intimidate all who oppose them. They distort our cause in the media and use their control of big business and corrupt government to legitimize their agenda . They are demagogues who pay lip-service to our system of government but ignore and even break the law to further their agenda . The only people who support their agenda are those who seek to maintain or improve their privileged position. They make no effort to include those they view as enemies and refuse to believe that there are those who legitimately oppose them. They’re crazy and will do anything to undermine the democratic process that would otherwise sweep them and their crazy ideas into the dustbin of history.