Thanking Powerful Leaders

December 5th, 2014
Like a lot of people in the U.S. today,  I look at Facebook.  And, as I suspect is true for many of us, most posts really don’t mean all that much to me.  However, yesterday I saw one from a friend, “Worley Dervish” that left me thinking.  She shared the words of another person.  I’ll share it directly here both to assure that I don’t err in describing it and in hopes that it might inspire your thinking as well.

“Status update from Erika Dickerson-Despenza:
If you are white & attempting to engage in conversations or movements surrounding Ferguson, Eric Gardner, or the unending list of lynchings of Blk persons, here is WHAT NOT TO DO:
1. Do NOT give Blk people “suggestions” on what to do, say, or how to act in effort to avoid being murdered. We’ve tried it all.
2. DO NOT tell Blk people how to respond to lynchings. Do NOT talk about lessening anger, “riots,” looting, or the loss of property. At all.
3. DO NOT use the hastag ‪#‎wecantbreathe‬. You are white; you can breathe. You are NOT the “we.” Standing in solidarity does NOT mean you share our oppression.
4. DO NOT change our hashtag ‪#‎Blacklivesmatter‬ to ‪#‎Alllivesmatter‬. You’re not being lynched therefore we know your life “matters.”
5. DO NOT co-opt our organizing efforts to soothe your white guilt. ASK how you can assist not take over. This is NOT your movement.
6. DO NOT engage us with your feelings of white guilt. We’re not here for it.
7. DO NOT engage us with your white tears upon being called out, corrected, or dismissed. This is NOT about you or your feelings.
8. DO NOT engage us with your cowardly conservative Christian speech of just “praying for peace.” We believe in peace but we do NOT believe in defeatism and shrinking from our responsibility of transforming our world in keeping with God’s holy justice through His divine intervention.
9. DO NOT engage us with statistics and lop-sided historical accounts of “Black-on-Black” violence, good policemen, or “racial progress.” We will school you beyond your best textbook.
10. DO NOT quote Martin Luther King as though he was a “yes man” to white folks who encouraged us to not respond in the face of injustice. You’ve clearly misunderstood his entire strategy and did not read the entirety of his speeches.
11. That thing you were just about to say in response to this post because it made you uncomfortable by not privileging your voice, thoughts, perspective, or feelings, do NOT do/say/share that either.
You have been warned.”

That’s powerful stuff there.  I have questions.  They’re not questions about the validity of anything on this list.  It all makes sense.  What I’m wondering about is where the road is taking us.  I’m not looking for an answer here.  I am, once again, just doing as the Quakers might say “holding it in the light.”  I fully agree with that statement “Black lives matter.”  It shouldn’t be changed to some generic phrase in this struggle.  Still, I see that what comes of this phase of the struggle means so much for not only African Americans, but all People of Color.

As an organizer, I recognize that our wins are often small but that build off of each other into something larger and more permanent.  In our society we are looking for the quick big wins.  So, often people don’t see what we’ve achieved.  What is happening now in the streets across the country is the result of a multitude of struggles that have been going on for generations.  What comes of our actions of today will live on whether the wins are miniscule or gigantic.  From my spot today hearing the president’s statement, listening to the news, watching video of actions around the country, and  reading this list it looks like the wins are already great.  It is clear that a strong generation of leaders is standing up, taking charge, and moving forward in creative and strategic ways.  I express my respect and gratitude to them for their great work.  Peace.   

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