Why the Violence and What’s the Role of the White Ally?

April 27th, 2015

I’m a white anti-racist activist with more than two decades long commitment to nonviolence.  Let’s just lay that out there to start with.  Back in my early days I was studying Gandhi, Dr. King, Buddhism, Hinduism, and various Christian traditions, along with being influenced by many elders in the struggles that I was involved in at the time.  I’m still committed to nonviolence.  The simplest reason is strategic.  The folks we’re fighting, those who are in power, have a bigger arsenal.  If we become violent they have greater discretion to use it.  Our strength lies in not giving them the o.k. to attack.

Therein lies the big question; what happens when the powers that be have already decided they have the o.k. to attack?

I started this entry by noting that I’m a white anti-racist activist.  That white piece is important here.  I think it’s important that those of us who are allies ask ourselves how our whiteness impacts our perceptions of what nonviolence means, our understanding of its history, our willingness to make the commitment, and our expectations of our fellow activists in communities of Color.

In recent months there’s been a story replaying across the U.S. Communities of Color, especially Black activists having been fighting back specifically against police brutality and more broadly against racist systems.  In many renditions of this story there are some incidents of disruption of the day to day and occasionally violence, though that tends to be sporadic.  The mainstream press likes to grab onto it and make it into news.

What happens in these stories is that white liberals, including many good activists who have claimed to care about racism for years, get upset because of what they see to be violent actions and disruptive behaviors.  They want peaceful protest.  They want actions to be directed toward a clear target and to follow the rules and regulations set forth.  They’d feel much more comfortable with a permitted rally or march.  They definitely get angry when things get out of control, when they can’t see the strategy, and when actions they deem to be violent happen.

Part of what made the Civil Rights Movement a success were those who were both committed to nonviolence and ready to defend themselves and those around them with a weapon if necessary.  We forget that.  We forget the disruptions that the were caused by the actions of those who struggled for freedom.  We forget that the gains beyond those told about in a page or two in a history book some February day in some classroom somewhere that took lifetimes and lives to achieve.

The struggles going on in our communities are like that.  Mainstream media is giving us that one line quip about a 500+ year story.  Just like that history book they’ve missed almost everything and told us only what they wanted us to hear.  We have to ask ourselves is it violence when people are acting against generations of genocide (cultural and physical)? Is it violence when people are acting against centuries of economic oppression in its multiple forms from physical slavery to being denied equal education, pay, and access to work? Is it violence when people are acting against prison, housing, healthcare, and education systems that all work against them?  Or is it simply self defense?

My fellow white anti-racist allies, I have to challenge us.  It’s time for us to step up.  We must take our role as allies seriously and step out into our communities of privilege to create change, to educate, and to eliminate the systems of oppression.  Many of us are doing the work in some way, a few of us live it with our hearts each day.  Now’s the time for all of us to do that.  Peace can’t happen until we take our role so that our brothers and sisters don’t have to defend themselves.

Peace,
amy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s