A viral video showing BLM protesters welcomed on stage at a pro-Trump rally upholds the forces of White Supremacy.
This morning I woke up to a few messages sharing the internet’s latest attempt at racial-feel-goodism — a viral video of Black Lives Matter protesters speaking at a Trump rally. The video, which already has 13 million views in less than a day, shows BLM protesters at a Trump rally called “The Mother Of All Rallies” (which…is kind of hilarious when it’s reported that fewer than 1,000 people showed up, but I digress). The protesters are at first insulted and dismissed by the speakers onstage, but then one speaker decides to give them two minutes on stage to patronizingly “show them what patriotism is all about.”
In a short and very pandering speech, Hawk Newsome, president of BLM New York, explains that BLM isn’t “anti-cop,” that they “aren’t asking for a handout,” and that they want to get rid of “bad cops” just like Trump supporters want to get rid of “bad politicians.” After the speech, Newsome is shown taking pictures with Trump supporters as he talks about how some of them came up to him after and said that they agreed with him. He says that he wanted them to see that a member of BLM was a “Proud American and Christian.” And that BLM members were “educated.”
Newsome says, “I think we made some substantial steps, without either side yielding anything.”
Record scratch — Um, excuse me? Someone come collect your man Newsome. Please.
My gawd, where do I even start with the things that are wrong with this? Because… well absolutely everything is. I guess we’ll just start a list.
Yes, the primary speaker is a black man, but who is really being centered in this video? Who is being humanized? Who do you walk away from this video saying, “see — they aren’t as bad as we think?” It’s not the BLM activists being humanized — they are having to showcase a certain set of behaviors in order to even be seen as human. They are having to highlight how they aren’t “like other black people” in order to even be heard. They have to be proud Americans, Christians, eloquent speakers, willing to shake hands with White Supremacists — all while White Supremacists in the audience scream that Eric Garner was a criminal who deserved to die.
What do the White Supremacists at the rally have to do? Patronizingly give two minutes of stage time, out of an entire day of hate speech, to BLM activists, and pose for a few photos with black people who just bent over backwards to appear nonthreatening to them.
“We don’t want handouts. We don’t want anything that’s yours.” Yeah, about that. White America: I, and many other black activists, DO want something that is yours. We want what you have that you stole. We want the profits you’ve made from the exploitation of our labor and the destruction of our bodies and souls. We want our fair share of space in your school textbooks. We want some of your congressional seats and city council seats. We want a bigger chunk of college admissions and job interviews.
White America: I, and many other black activists, DO want something that is yours. We want what you have that you stole. Click To Tweet
Some of what you have, you stole. Some of what you have, you’ve maintained by shutting us out. Some of what you have, you don’t deserve. You know this. We know this. And this is why you hate Black Lives Matter so much. This is why you hated Dr. King and Malcolm X so much. Let’s not lie. Let’s not act like in a world of finite resources, if we correct a deeply unjust system, those who have profited off of that inequality will not lose out. It is this unspoken reality that has sustained White Supremacy — the knowledge that if white people do what is right, they will lose what they never had a right to. Let’s call it what it is, and let those allies who say that they are willing to fight against racism actually put their privilege on the line. We are who we pretend to be. And if we pretend that we are only here for hugs, and not for socioeconomic justice, all we are going to get is hugs. Like Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We’re coming to get our check.”
What is the moral of the story this video tells? That if we just talk peacefully, we’ll find common ground and we’ll recognize the humanity in each other? That if we just prove to those who have voted open White Supremacy into our highest offices that we are no threat to them, that they will…ask to get a picture taken with us?
If we pretend that we are only here for hugs, and not for socioeconomic justice, all we are going to get is hugs. Click To Tweet
It should not be shocking to you that a White Supremacist at a Trump rally would get his picture taken with a black man. It should not seem revelatory that a White Supremacist at a Trump rally would let a black man hold his kid. Trump supporters are not evil monsters. They are human beings. And human beings are capable of having black friends, even black spouses, and still voting for policies that get black people killed. Human beings are capable of taking a friendly photo with a black stranger one minute, and explaining why Trayvon Martin deserved to die in the next. And that should not make you feel good. It should not give you hope. It should scare the fuck out of you.
I know that a lot of people — especially white people — have relatives who voted for Trump. I know that for many liberal white folk, it has been very painful to reconcile the relative they have known and loved, with the hatred and violence that that relative has chosen to support.
Know that this is how White Supremacy works. That you can go to church on Sundays, volunteer with your PTA, and vote for a man who is openly courting actual neo-Nazis. You can attend a rally and proudly stand next to someone holding a sign saying that Obama is a Muslim terrorist and still be considered a valued member of your community. You can love a black person, even give birth to black children, and still think so little of them that you would vote away their safety and security. The problem isn’t that we don’t see how Trump supporters are “people just like us” — the problem is, that is all we want to see. In our efforts to not reevaluate what whiteness actually means in America, we will absolve those who are actively strengthening racist hate of any responsibility for their actions.
The Lack Of Accountability
Let’s go back to this awful sentence that Newsome thought was a good idea to say — “I think we made some substantial steps, without either side yielding anything.” What the actual fuck does that even mean? Right now, we have a president who has already tried to ban Muslims from this country, declared war on free press, pardoned an abusive and racist cop who was targeting and torturing people of color, endangered the futures of millions of undocumented immigrants, equated anti-racist protesters with murderous swastika-wearing White Supremacists, brought us to the brink of war with North Korea, banned trans people from serving in the military, and basically more evil and oppressive shit than I thought it was possible for one president to fit into nine months of presidency. Not only did the people at this rally vote this horror into office, but after seeing what it has wrought, they are showing up to cheer it on.
These are people who are, right this very moment, upholding staggering amounts of hate and oppression. And instead of being shown the reality of what they have done to this country…instead of being held accountable… instead of being told to own up to their racism, xenophobia, sexism, and transphobia…instead of being asked to help clean up the godforsaken mess they’ve created…instead of being made to feel the actual regret and shame that is absolutely necessary for growth when you have committed regretful and shameful acts…
…they get to fast-forward to feeling good. To proving to themselves and others that, because they can listen to a black person speak for two minutes and take a picture with him, that they are not racist. Then they get to go back to being racist as fuck.
You can love a black person, even give birth to black children, and still think so little of them that you would vote away their safety and security. Click To Tweet
Is this what we’re fighting for? For individual racists to want to be our friends and give us hugs? It’s sure as hell not what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for the destruction of the system of White Supremacy. I’m fighting to make it so that, even if you hate me because of the color of my skin, you don’t have the power to ruin my life because of it. I’m fighting for political and cultural representation, economic justice, the destruction of the prison industrial complex. You are on a stage in front of people who are consistently voting to uphold the very systems you are trying to destroy, and instead of explaining to them how their choices are upholding these systems, you….beg for them to not see you as someone who doesn’t hate cops? What a waste.
The system of White Supremacy is vast and complex, but it is a system. And all systems have parts that we interact with, and can destroy. Instead of doing the real, and sometimes very unsexy work, of destroying this system, we are instead reinforcing White Supremacy by once again agreeing to try to prove our humanity to those who are actively working towards our destruction?
Let’s stop trying to take the easy way out. Let’s stop trying to feel good about a system that nobody has any right to feel good about. Let’s stop allowing ourselves to not only be distracted, but to be derailed by feel-good narratives that have us begging for the hearts and minds of individual racists instead of fighting the system that empowers them. Instead of finding a way to feel good about your Trump-supportive friends and relatives, let your love for them push you to see them as they are, and demand better from them. Demand that they act like the good, kind people that you thought they were — in real, quantifiable deeds, not empty words or photo ops. Every day that we delay in doing the work that is necessary to destroy White Supremacy, countless lives are crushed beneath its feet. Stop falling for lazy and manipulative “feel-good” racial narratives, and get to work building a reality that actually IS good.