Dear White Peers: Protests can be safer because of us

Dear Fellow White People:

You heard me. I can hardly swing an herbal tea bag without some news outlet or pundit expressing shock – yes shock – that the women’s marches all over the country on Saturday were peaceful and that there were zero arrests. Let’s take a closer look at how that happened:

  1. Police officers are overwhelmingly white
  2. Participants in the women’s marches were over overwhelmingly white
  3. White people often assume the best of other white people, don’t view other white people as threatening, afford white people more respect (consciously or sub-consciously). In short, white people are treated differently by the police
  4. There is a long American history of viewing the white female body as sacred, to be protected, as worth special protection from police and the judicial system

Our marches weren’t inherently more peaceful than #blacklivesmatter marches, immigration rights marches, marches on equally/even more pressing political and social justice issues. Don’t misunderstand me – I am GLAD no one was hurt, and that no one was arrested. I want that for ALL political marches and protests.

This couldn’t be a more classic example of white privilege – of being treated differently not because of our actions but because of our white skin color. We didn’t behave any better; police and special forces treated us differently because of who we are. There’s a reason we didn’t see police in full-scale riot gear along march routes; the reason is institutional racism. 

If you still don’t understand, let me say it slightly differently:

Two photos. Top: a black woman with arms out, alone, being approached by police in heavy riot gear. Bottom: a white woman smiling and posing for a photo with two police offers (also smiling) who are wearing pink hats.

Source: @BlackAutonomist

In other words: the problem is not with WHO is doing the protesting but HOW the protesters are perceived and treated by law enforcement.

So enough analysis. What do we do with it?

We show up at marches and protests organized by people of color as support crew.

The more we white people show up at marches and protests, the less likely there will be police intimidation, violence, or arrests for everyone involved in the event. Our presence doesn’t dismantle white supremacy but it helps give people of color a safer platform to be heard. Black and brown people have been repeatedly required to put their bodies on the line to secure basic human rights; it’s our turn to shoulder some of that burden.

When you go, don’t make it about you. Be like this guy:

White man holding a sign that reads "I was going to write my opinion, but it's probably about time white men just shut up and listened."

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