This week, we have been shocked and outraged at the shootings of five demonstrators in Minneapolis, MN by white supremacists. It is justified and even laudable that we feel this pain and anger – that we viscerally reject this act of terror targeting the movement for black lives. However, it is also absolutely important to remind ourselves that this violence is neither new nor exceptional. White supremacy is a system of organized violence and terror that functions to degrade and destroy the lives of people of color every day.
It is important that white people participate in the movement to end white supremacy and racist violence. White people have much to gain from this movement, and much to contribute. But the movement to end white supremacy and racist violence cannot be dominated by the feelings and desires of white people, nor by their fears and anxieties, nor – it must be said – by their organizations or “leaders.” So, it is also good that white people conceive themselves as “allies” in the struggle rather than its leaders or central agents.
But it is also necessary to think through what it means to be a real ally in struggle. Real struggle for social change involves risks, it is scary. It involves leaving behind the comforts and the privileges one perhaps takes for granted and committing materially to the struggle. It involves developing multiracial networks of support and solidarity that abolish the segregation and inequality at the heart of our society, if only prefiguratively. It involves then, to one degree or another, becoming a criminal in the eyes of the law – an accomplice to those who are daily criminalized simply for being.
It is one thing to say you are about the movement. It is another thing to put your body on the line. It is one thing to say you are in support of black lives. It is another to show up when you are needed to lend your skills, resources, and support. It is one thing to say you are against racism and white supremacy. It is another thing to undertake its abolition materially and in
your person, to begin to build the other world. Simply put: Don’t talk about it, be about it.
Some white-led, foundation funded non-profit organizations have seized on the opportunity posed by the shooting of young black men in Minneapolis, MN to boost their profile and seek donations from supporters. Ostensibly, these organizations support the movement to end white supremacy and racist violence. This, we must say, is a waste of movement resources and a failure of the principle of mutual aid. Donations are much better sent to black-led organizations on the ground who are struggling to cover funeral costs, medical expenses, bail, and the other expenses of day-to-day organizing.
You can offer support and donations for people on the ground in Minneapolis here or here. Aside from this, educate yourself and begin the work that is so necessary. A starting point for reading try this.