Sunday, July 14, 2013

So, My White Activist Peeps, What Are You Going To Do?

I began composing this post in my mind before the George Zimmerman verdict.  When the House of Representatives passed a food bill stripped of food stamps benefits I began to wonder, "Do these congressional representatives, in highly gerry-rigged districts, not have any constituents who
are poor, working folks, who need the pitiful little help with getting a decent meal that food stamps represent?"  And I answered myself, "Of course they do, they are poor and working white people, and they don't vote."

And these white people live with the illusion that black people are the problem, the enemy, the cause of their misery.  And, of course, we all know that none of this is true.  So my white activist friends, whatever the analysis you bring to your work -- whether it is based on class, anti-racist analysis, feminist post-structural theory, whatever -- you must recognize that black people cannot solve the problems like economic inequity, broken criminal justice system, and the multi-dimensional travesty that is the state of Florida.  Poor white people have to recognized their interest in these problems.  

I love all of you, believe many of you do great work, but I live in a bifurcated world -- on one side I teach in a school that is overwhelmingly white and privileged, on the other side I live, volunteer in and consult with organizations that are overwhelmingly populated by my people, black and brown people.  I appreciate your good intentions, the excellent work you do with immigrants, domestic workers, low-income communities of color, and many other efforts that seek to address the grievous injustices that people of color experience every day. But the changes we want -- immigration reform, food justice, health care for all, end to the school-to-prison pipeline, a livable minimum wage, I can go on -- will only become real when marginalized white people can see their interests are our interests:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons
We who believe in freedom cannot rest, We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
                  "Ella's Song", Bernice Johnson Reagon
I don't know what it will take for you to begin to engage your own people, but I suggest you figure it out, and soon. While we may not be able to rest, some of us are getting mighty tired.


  1. I'm so tired of the injustices on every level I weep for us all. What a week to be dismayed, unbelievable, in so many ways in so many places, unbelievable. Marcia Wolff

  2. This is a dark day.

    I am now a member of the Cortlandt / Peekskill Anti-Racism Collaborative and a supporter of the Committee for Justice. Is it enough? NO. It will not be enough in my lifetime, not with the lies and villainy.

    The Peekskill Committee for Justice (CFJ) announced today that they will be holding a peaceful vigil in response to the 'Trayvon Martin verdict' in front of the Yonkers Library at 1 Larkin Plaza at 5:00 pm, Wednesday 24, 2013. The event is scheduled to coincide with the appearance of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's forum on Civil Rights,etc..

    CFJ Chairman Darrell Davis said,"Trayvon Martin is dead and his killer free because today's politicians refuse to even discuss race and racism. Zimmerman pulled the trigger but America in general is responsible. Those of us who point out racism today are turned into the villain by the press and much of white America, without so much as a discussion. If these travesties are to stop, America needs honest dialogue leading to real solutions."

    "We call it the Trayvon Martin verdict because it sure looked like he was the one on trial," Davis added.

  3. I just learned about this national organization last night:

    SURJ:Showing up for Racial Justice

    I was at a meeting of CPARC (Cortlandt-Peekskill Antiracist Collaborative), of which I am a member. We meet monthly to determine how we can best support the Committee for Justice, (currently organizing to save public housing in Peekskill) and we talk about our role as whites in this society.

    We are reading together, not as a book club, but to lift our own white veils, bust ourselves and develop as organizers. For those interested, the book--Lifting the White Veil--by Jeff Hitchcock, is worth the investment in self-discovery and growth.

    And Trayvon Martin's murder continues to break my heart.


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