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A Wake-Up Call for White Progressives

Posted by Michelle Moquin on July 18th, 2016

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Good Morning.

From Talk Poverty:

A Wake-Up Call for White Progressives

AP_831919305054-1024x683

A woman holds a sign as she and hundreds of other protesters march against the recent fatal shootings by police of black men in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The night after Alton Sterling was killed by police, I got home from work late.  When our three children were asleep, my wife and I finally had a moment together.

The first thing she said, as if she had been sitting on it all day, was: “I feel like we need to get a Black Lives Matter sign for our yard. I know it would be unusual in our neighborhood.”

We live in Chevy Chase, D.C., in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the city. There are about 30 houses on my block, and only one African-American family that I know of. But it didn’t surprise me that my wife wanted a public display of solidarity.  In 1990, when she was 16, her classmate Phillip Pannell was shot in the back and killed while fleeing police at the elementary school they had attended in Teaneck, New Jersey.  It molded her thinking on race and justice.

I was non-committal on the sign—not opposed, I just hadn’t thought of it before.

I had always considered myself a good ally on race: I was born in the nation’s capital on one of the worst days in American history—the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated—when the city was burning, the National Guard was deployed, and a curfew was imposed.  As far back as I can remember, I have thought about what the man—and the movement—have meant to our nation, and the connection between the pogroms my family experienced in Europe and the African-American experience here.

So why, then, the hesitation on the sign?

Exhausted, I drifted off picturing it in our front yard: Who would we be speaking to?  What would the sign achieve?  Would it cause people to target my home or my children? How would I explain the sign to my 3- and 6-year olds?  (My 10-year-old could probably get it, and maybe that conversation was overdue.)

***

I woke to the news of Philando Castile—shot dead in his car in front of his girlfriend and her 4-year-old child as he reached for his license and registration.

I came to work not wanting to continue business-as-usual.  Instead, I joined a gathering of about 50 of my colleagues to talk about the killing of black people.  I didn’t talk, myself. That’s what many white allies think we should do when people of color are suffering: shut up, listen, and be supportive.

When will you get as angry as I am? Which killing will be the one that finally does it for you?

My black friends and colleagues expressed anguish, anger, hopelessness, hope, and sheer exhaustion.  But what stuck with me the most was when a black male colleague asked his white coworkers, “When will you get as angry as I am?  Which killing will be the one that finally does it for you?  I feel hopeless.  And nothing changes in this country unless white people want it to.”

I left looking for a way to take action. The news cycle will move on from these killings, but my colleagues and I can make sure TalkPoverty doesn’t.  I reached out to some folks who had shared powerful reflections during the meeting and asked if they were interested in writing.  You will likely hear from some of them in the coming days.

But one friend emailed me, “I’m not in a place where I can write yet. If you want to get the ball rolling, it’s a great act of allyship to know you don’t have all the answers but want to show support when your peers are hurting, especially when you have a platform.”

***

I woke up Friday morning to the news that five police officers were killed in Dallas. I was hit with shock and sadness—and then the realization that people will try to blame the Black Lives Matter movement.  I checked Twitter and Facebook, and sure enough that narrative had already emerged.  I’m not a huge fan of tweeting, but the message I received from my colleagues the previous day was that white people need to speak up.

So I did:

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.36.04 PM

I went downstairs and asked my wife if she had heard the news.  She hadn’t, and when I told her, her jaw dropped.  My 10-year-old daughter noticed.

“What?” she asked.

My daughter and I walked out of earshot of her younger siblings.  We sat down and I told her what had happened in Dallas, and also what the people had been demonstrating about: You know how if Mommy or Daddy were driving too fast a policeman would stop us and give us a ticket, and then we would drive away?

From there I struggled through what she has learned in school about racism in the past—slavery, segregation, civil rights—but also what she didn’t necessarily understand yet: that racism isn’t gone.  I told her that some people think that black people aren’t as good as other people, or they are afraid of them, or both, and it has led to things like black people getting shot (my daughter winced) when they should have just gotten a ticket, or not even that.  So now there are a lot of us saying “Black Lives Matter” to fight against racism that has never gone away.

I’ve been in a slumber, because I could be, without even knowing it.

I told her if we were black we would have had this conversation when she was younger and it would have been very different, something like: “If a police officer ever talks to you, listen to whatever he says, you can’t talk back, you can’t make any quick movements, because some of them might be prejudiced against you just because you are black and hurt you badly.  People even get killed.”  I told my daughter that black parents have to worry about their children’s safety in ways her mom and I don’t, simply because of skin color.

She got it much better than I explained it, I think.  Just as she thought it absurd when she first learned there was never a black president before Obama, and literally laughed aloud, incredulous, when I told her there has never been a woman president.  Because in her world, there is no room for these injustices—just as there is no room for a parent needing to have a conversation with their child about the life-and-death stakes of their interactions with police.

***

My wife and I are getting the Black Lives Matter sign. We’re posting it in our lily-white neighborhood, which is exactly the kind of place where we need to start these long overdue conversations.

I used to think I was very progressive on race.  But I’ve been in a slumber, because I could be, without even knowing it.

No more.

*****

Readers: Like this writer who writes, “…when a black male colleague asked his white coworkers, ‘When will you get as angry as I am?  Which killing will be the one that finally does it for you?...’” I get what he is saying. Because I think the same thing when I see men stand by and say nothing when a girl or woman is molested or raped.

It’s never enough to just not commit the atrocity. It’s never enough to say, “I don’t treat women that way…I would never rape a woman.”

It’s never enough to just not commit the atrocity.  It’s never enough to say, “I’m not a racist…I would never murder a man because of the color of his skin.”

It is wrong to turn a blind eye, when sicko men are preying on young girls and women, and when cops are committing racist behavior, and murdering innocent black men, and remain silent when you know what is happening.

We as a society are responsible for doing something, for being a part of the solution, or we are just as bad as the accomplices. We can no longer be just  innocent bystanders when we can do something. Men need to stand up for women by joining women in the fight for equality, rights, and stronger laws to protect women and harsher laws to convict rapists.

And whites need to get out of their slumber, wake up, and get pissed off enough to do something. Unfortunately, even in light of this positive write I don’t have much faith many whites will wake up because blacks are being murdered. This has been happening for a long time and nothing has changed to protect blacks from the rabid racists in this country. Will it now – now that cops are being killed? –  Will their murders piss off enough for people to actually do something? Time will most certainly tell.

Thoughts? Blog me. 

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24 Responses to “A Wake-Up Call for White Progressives”

  1. Social Butterfly Says:

    Just wanted to remind everyone who may be unhappy with Trump and Clinton and may be considering not voting, or thinking their vote doesn’t count, 88% of the Congressional seats are up for re-election. You can’t afford to sit this one out, please vote!

    /SB

  2. Joyce Says:

    Thank you Social Butterfly for that reminder. If dems stay home they will screw up like they did when they didn’t go out and vote during Obama’s midterm.

    And that mistake gave the republicans control of the House and the Senate.

  3. Irene Says:

    Did anyone hear about Ivana’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech.

  4. Alycedale Says:

    This is the line in this article that explains me. “When will you get as angry as I am? Which killing will be the one that finally does it for you?”

    I have reached that threshold. That’s why I am adding Gavin Eugene Long to my galley of Saints. Black men willing to die to stop thugs with badges from murdering us with impunity. If that is what it takes, because white juries hand the murderers a get out of jail free card.

    Thus, so far it seems making the ultimate sacrifice is what it takes to get the attention of thugs with badges that this murdering of unarmed blacks has to stop.

    So Gavin Eugene Long take your place along side of Saint Micah Xavier johnson. Marines that faced the enemy, not unarmed innocents as cowardly white mass murders do.

    You didn’t go into a school, or theater or church and murder innocent unarmed civilians. You took on armed, well trained combatants and held your own.

    God receive you, and bless you as the Saints you are. One day like MLK, SC, HRB, RP and other black martyrs, though you be vilified by white america, you will take your place among the honored. Black men and women who were willing to die for the cause of equality and to stop the tyranny of a conscious less white majority in America.

    Black Lives Matter.

  5. LT Says:

    If black lives matter so much why are over 90% of blacks being killed by other blacks?

  6. GM Says:

    LT#5, Same reason close to 90% of whites are killed by other whites. You tend to do violence against those closest to you. Your neighbors.

    Oh, and can’t you be more original when you attempt to denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement? Why just parrot fox news?

    It is obvious that pieces of shit like you are going to try to stop the Black Lives Matter movement the way you did ACORN. By framing the movement with anything you can to allow the white controlled media to float the lie that it is criminal or violent towards white america’s interest.

    This time as Alycedale said we have Saints willing to die to keep the cause going. Be glad they are not like your white mass murders because then your innocent unarmed women and children would be at risk.

    Your race love guns and murdering the unarmed and defenseless with them. Ask yourself when was the last time a black bombed a church or went into one with the sole intent to murder those praying to their God?

  7. Donna Says:

    LT#5, some whites will use any excuse to justify racial profiling for black people but what about the racial profiling for white males? FBI statistics show that most domestic terrorists and serial killers are white males but we don’t see the racial profiling of them.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    When people use statistics to generalise a race I will always have issue with that person. You would expect cops in any crime ridden neighborhoods to be on edge but that is not really the case.

    In poor rural and Midwest neighborhoods where crime, especially illegal drugs like meth the police officers there treat their citizens better. We don’t see police officers shooting and assaulting those criminals.

    I also realize that poor black neighborhoods are crime ridden. But to say it’s not racism is a farce. Neighborhoods were redlined as soon it became more black than white. And when that happened community services that were gone.

    Municipalities decided that they didn’t want to waste their money on those kinds neighrboods. Which drove away good teachers and business.

    And that history you stated is based on many institutions that did not want to hire, school or give opportunities to black communites.

    Honestly I’m not going agree with whites that use statistics to claim BLM is an extremist group at all. When people use statistics to generalise a race I will always have issue with that person. 

  9. Juila Says:

    Alycedale#4, I am a 73 year old black woman. I have been preaching non violence to my children and grand babies all my life. But since I have been reading this blog and your cries of anguish, I have changed my mind.

    I now too have a Saints Wall in my bed room. I too have reach my threshold. If one of my grand babies took up the mantle and died for the cause, I would proudly, place his picture on that wall.

    Black Lives Matter to white america only when they feel the pain of taking those lives. As long as they can murder without penalty they will continue.

  10. Peter Says:

    You better believe they are scouring the life of St. Gavin Eugene Long looking for anything to dis the brother.

    Smile, Sir and take your place of Honor on the Black Saints Wall in homes all over this nation.

  11. Jamie Says:

    This is an article Black Republican Senator Says He’s Been Repeatedly Stopped By Police In Last Year – http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2016/07/14/3798066/tim-scott-racial-profiling/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3&utm_term=1&utm_content=53&elqTrackId=2f05be5ddb13448b8bb52b6fbeab8f2f&elq=5a9970f7de914e8da4d1c5bd5a24e8e1&elqaid=30825&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=6011

    It is one of the reasons we need those Saints and more of them.

    It ends with “I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness, and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself.”

    So to those whites that want to say violence is not necessary, there is a better way. I say, easy for you to say, but walk in my shoes for a week and you will hate those thugs with badges too.

    Saint Gavin Eugene Long, proudly take your place with Saint Micah Xavier Johnson.

  12. Larry Says:

    Zen Lill your father was a cop. Did you ever hear a conversation in this vein?

    Back in the 1970′s my father was a cop in Beverly Hills. He was a self-described “hick from West Virginia.” He once told me that he pulls over every car driven by a black driver.

    I asked him “Why do you do that? His response was: “If you’re a nigger and you ain’t Sammy Davis Jr. you got no business in BH.”

    I asked him – in true teenage naivete – “Don’t you need probable cause to pull someone over?” His answer:”I got a night stick, you got a busted tail light.”

    I thought that that attitude would have passed away with his generation of cops. Obviously not.

  13. Carlos Says:

    Jamie#11, I read the article. What comes to mind to me is And STILL he is stupid enough to be a Republican.

    Perhaps he will be the first to be lynched under a Trump presidency?

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Jamie@11, im scotts speech was great, however, why are you STILL in a poiltical party that has no intentions of doing anything regarding gun reforms or anything positive for any of us black or white? the republican platform for the upcoming RNC has ZERO REFORMS FOR AMERICAN PEOPLE. IT INCLUDES BUILDING THE WALL AND BANNING MUSLIMS. SO YOUR SPEECH AND ISSUES GO IGNORED. NOW WHAT MR SCOTT?

  15. Owen Says:

    I’m a white teenager in Georgia. Rednecks HATE the police, especially State Patrol, but if they gun down an unarmed black kid then they love the police…

  16. Carolyn Says:

    A conservative Republican is simply a rare thing, most of them are lobbyists for the rich & powerful, because they are whores for money & power.

    Get out and vote the bastards out.

  17. Patrick Says:

    Jamie#11, I read the house nigger’s complaint. Boo Hoo for Tim Scott he refused to show up and attend the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s Dream Speech, simply to pander to his racist voters.

  18. Juan Says:

    The GoP is a poiltical party that has no intentions of doing anything regarding gun reforms or anything positive for any of us black or white?

    The republican platform for the upcoming RNC has ZERO REFORMS FOR AMERICAN PEOPLE. IT INCLUDES BUILDING THE WALL AND BANNING MUSLIMS. SO YOUR SPEECH AND ISSUES GO IGNORED.

    Register and Vote people!

  19. Tim Says:

    Jamie#11, I can almost hear his fellow republicons say to themselves damn I thought he was one of the good ones,,,,,he needs to keep his fuckin n88er mouth shut or he will be shown how the southern way deals with uppity ni88ers…in my own opinion of course….

  20. Norton Says:

    Jamie#11, This fool is part of the problem…the GOP is in complete denial of racism and this guy is a member of the Party. He is an embarrassment to his race.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    “There is never a reason to harm any of our law enforcement officers, never”

    I agreed….Until I started reading Alycedale’s comments. Because I will pop off in a sec….

  22. Gary Says:

    I hold the police at least partially responsible for the increasing view of them as the enemy. I haven’t done much research on this so maybe I’m talking out of my ass.

    But I’ve repeatedly read or heard that the cops doing these horendous acts have had a history of being bad cops. I’m sure there are many good cops out there. And they know who the bad cops are in their departments as do their supervisors.

    And yet they are allowed to continue being a cop. Getting rid of bad cops isn’t going to change things all by itself, but it would be a significant step in the right direction if the general public knew there was a nation wide purge going on.

    I won’t be holding my breath for this to happen.

  23. James Says:

    “But officer, I’m a Republican, and a Senator, heres my Honorary caucasian badge.” As if white racist cops would hesitate to kill him. ha!

  24. Ricardo Says:

    Jamie#11, I would have had more respect for him had he spoken out last year when Charlotte cops slaghtered Walter Scott. Not a Peep.