“All it takes is one push.”
The police were out numbered many times over last week, and that’s all it would have taken to push past them and lead the masses onto an on-ramp and beyond. The two men having this conversation, in a way pleading those surrounding them to nudge ahead, were angry. They were also loud, and white.
A lot of white “allies” have shown their support in the unrest surrounding two non-indictments of killer cops, which is great. Bodies are needed in this fight, and sheer numbers can help send a message and take streets. But at recent demonstrations in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, I saw many white people not only participating, but leading. Taking over, in some ways—leading chants, talking to the media (who, also white, talked primarily to white folks).
On Thursday, when the organizers invited people to speak out while they occupied Park Street Station, many white folks found it necessary to participate; one even insisted that “All lives matter,” the whining slogan of Caucasians who can’t stand feeling left out. At the mouth of the Mass Ave bridge, one white woman yelled across the silent crowd, “Thank you to the good cops.” Another person, also white, carried a sign that said, “Am I next?” with an arrow pointing down.
No. You are absolutely not next.
We white folk have work to do. It’s not just about addressing racial injustice in the context of police brutality. It’s about taking to task a country where racism thrives. In the context of these actions, that means following and listening. It means telling the media that they need to seek out voices of black people, it means amplifying black voices when you can, and it means stepping in when you hear a white person perpetuating racism.
Hard as it may be sometimes, it also means keeping yourself out of the center.