About Ferguson, White Allies and Speaking Up When It Matters

A change is gon come. It doesn’t come easily and the people in power won’t let it happen without a fight. We’re watching the fight right now in its ugliest form in Ferguson, Missouri.

Tear gas, which the U.S. has banned in actual wars on other soils is now being used in our own land. A 90-year old Holocaust survivor was arrested as she was peacefully protesting. People are being shot with rubber bullets and members of the press have been detained and threatened with bodily harm (or death) for simply trying to document what is happening there.

All of this ALL OF GAHTDAMB THIS is happening because the Governor of Missouri and his fake ass one-minute men police force refuse to arrest one of their own who murdered an unarmed Black boy in cold blood, in the middle of the day in front of numerous people. Ferguson has been in a week-long war zone, with police instigating and perpetrating violence on people for exercising their Constitutional rights.

All of this is happening because as a Black man sits in America’s most valued house, Black people are being used as target practice. A Black man is in the White House and a white man can kill a Black boy because he’s the man in blue with a badge. Because every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by a police officer, security guard or vigilante.

Dont Shoot BYP100

Graphic by BYP100

Michael Brown was one, but we also have Renisha McBride. We got Ezell Ford. We got John Crawford. And we got… and… and. This list is far too long.

So Black people have more than earned the right to be infuriated beyond measure. But WE should not be the only ones who are horrified by what is happening in Ferguson and elsewhere in our country. And WE should not be the only ones raising our voices in angst.

I know that so many people are angered by what is happening but I want to take this time to ask that people who don’t look like Michael Brown or Me or Trayvon to speak up. The more melanin you have in your skin, the less protected you are in this country.

White allies, we need your voices. We need you to say that this is deplorable. Your silence does nothing and if you’re neutral on this, then you’re on the wrong side. Actually, your silence does do something. It says “It’s okay that this is happening.” That hurts us all. Speak up.

Everyone is not a writer, so I’m not asking for people to write essays. There are many ways to speak up (like Facebook, or Twitter) or even to your own family members. You see some of your friends talking sideways, challenge them on their wrongness. Or is that going to make things too uncomfortable? If you were comfortable before about the America you live in, you probably should be less settled after this last week.

Black people are going to continue to fight the system that doesn’t love us with or without the help of white people. That’s not even up for debate. We were manifested from ancestral excellence and we’ve overcome worse so we will overcome this. We bend but we do not break.

We’re not asking you to be white saviors BUT we could use the help of those of you who purport to be allies because it is your fathers, brothers, uncles and sons that are the face of oppressive force in the U.S. It’s your friends who spew the bullshit of “I don’t see race.”

bullshit allergy gif

Everyone can’t stand up the moment something pisses them off and we’re all different in how we react. Some people shut down because they don’t even know where to start. Some people need to know they’re needed before they speak. Some people just need a nudge to be emboldened to speak.

Well if you need that nudge, here it is. If you’re afraid because you don’t want to say the wrong thing, push past that fear. Because right now, your silence about the continued devaluation of Black lives is wrong. Your lack of acknowledgement is not ok. If you need tips before speaking out here’s 3: don’t blame the person who was killed. Don’t say you’re color-blind. Acknowledge the racism at play.

Speaking up when it matters is usually when it’s also the hardest. When your voice shakes, that’s when you’re standing in truth. But that’s usually when it is most needed. And when you do it, someone else might be encouraged to do the same. Do not be silent.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our “friends.”‘ – Martin Luther King Jr.

People I love and respect (journalist Aliya S. King and photographer/videographer Antonio Thompson) went to Ferguson to get the thoughts of residents there on what will happen when the media, Highway Patrol and the National Guard are gone.

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  1. Shani
    August 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    This just made me tear up and shout at the same damn time.

  2. denise
    August 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I’m here. And I have been loud, and I have been angry. I have called out the BS and not cared who unfriended me.

    Was he a good kid? I don’t even care. He was a human being, and he was treated like trash. Everyone with a spark of God’s light in them should be up in arms over this.

    • kirsten
      August 24, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      These are my feelings exactly in a nutshell.

  3. Wild Cougar
    August 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Hello? Gay rights advocates? Remember when you borrowed our civil rights truck to haul your marriage equality? Well it broke down and now we’re stranded, can you come..[click]. Hello? Hello?

    • Milaxx
      August 20, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      Speaking of which, there’s a scene in the movie version of A Normal Heart that resonates with me. At one of the meetings from what has now become Gay Men’s Health Crisis one of the members ask why this is being allowed to happen. Jim Parson’s character responds, “They just don’t like us very much.”

      That’s what it feel like to be a POC in today’s world. It feels like they just don’t like us and want us dead, silent or both.

      • Bayou Creole
        November 24, 2014 at 7:44 pm

        Honey,they didn’t like us the moment they no longer owned us.

    • cjs
      August 21, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Actually, there are quite a few gay rights organizations who have denounced this travesty and miscarriage of justice.

      They should have spoken up sooner.

      I also have gay and lesbian friends, who are white, as well as persons of color, who have been joining in the protests here in Atlanta. Not as many white LGBT folks as there should have been. And not enough speaking out on social media. But police brutality of any kind touches raw nerves among many folks in Atlanta — from APD’s killing of an elderly woman a few years ago, to a subsequent unjustifiable APD raid of a gay bar that resulted in a huge law suit.

  4. August 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    I’m trying!

    I know a lot of us have fears about not wanting to coopt pain or play white savior. And, too, we deal with the frustration of talking to brick walls.

    But we are angry too. I am angry too. And I’ll keep trying.

    • August 21, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Yes. This. So much this.

    • JAMIE
      December 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      THANK YOU!!! No one in their right mind is going to be mad if you’re sincerely trying.

  5. Viccritter
    August 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I will always speak out! I realize that as a white bi chick it is my job to listen, above all else, empathize, respect, and to call out racist, stupid ass bullshit whenever I see it. Probably a good thing I have a big mouth then…

    Honestly, I just want to help, and I have been speaking out via FB, twitter, and real time as much as possible, and if there is anything I can ever do, I will be proud and happy to do it!

  6. August 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Ive been posting on fb and twitter as often as i can. I have unfollowed 2 cousins after they played devils advocate or “believed the police over witnesses”. I do not accept any contrary comments for the sake of conversation. Right is right and wrong is wrong in my eyes. The ferguson pd is so gahtdamb wrong and it hurts to watch from afar. Got me questioning if i really wanna bring mixed babies into this world.

    • cjs
      August 21, 2014 at 8:17 am

      It is truly the month of the rage stroke.

      White gay dude here — numerous white people (in particular, fellow white gay men, who if they keep their mouths shut and try to act “butch,” can hide behind white male privilege just like white heterosexual men) have been shouted at by moi, unfriended, and told off. I have little patience with the ignorant these days.

      I know people should help educate others. But the ignorance levels in this country are so horrible that they lead me to despair and just plain blood-boiling anger.

      I am never going to know, truly, what it’s like to be a person of color in this country and face the discrimination that persons of color face day in and day out. I recognize the white male privilege I hold — when I’m stopped by the police, when I’m being considered for a job, etc. — and try to fight it.

      But I will shout until my voice is hoarse. I’d like to believe I’ve been taught right from wrong by my mother, and had life experiences that have shown me why discrimination still exists and its profound immorality (such as seeing a white mother snatching her young white daughter away from her African-American playmate in a store, having known each other from school, saying “what did I tell you about playing with those people”? These were two little girls, laughing, giggling and just being happy. That mother has a lot of explaining to do when she meets St. Peter.) (also having been a newspaper reporter and told not to investigate an incident into police brutality).

  7. August 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Until now I didn’t think about how important it is for others to speak out. I’ve been so angry and so hell bent on saying as much as I can that I didn’t notice that so many other people of color in this country are silent. Smh, wow.

  8. Lucy
    August 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I’m here, we’re here! I’ve “unfriended” people who I had no idea were god damn racists until this became national. I’m hurting alongside you as a human, as a mother… Words fail me. I’m ashamed to be white, true story. I have zero tolerance for anyone even remotely trying to justify that officers actions. I’m outraged, enraged, and truly from the depths of my soul sorry. Love just love!

  9. Carriecnh12
    August 20, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I am not American, I am a black woman from the Caribbean, so admittedly my perspective of racism is slightly different, but I get all hot blooded and as we say in Bim, “catch somebody’s fire rage” when I see any injustie being done and ignored, epecially by people in power and those who have to power to influence, an example of this has anyone noted how wile all this unrest is happening in their very backyard, most of America is all caught up in the ice bucket challenge? Don’t get me wronf ALS is a very worthy casue and people need to educated about it, but it seems to me that people throwing buckets of ice water on their heads is getting wayyyy mor attention than what is happening in Ferguson. Some may not agree with me but when you have black celebrities like Kerry Washington and others instagraming this foolishness, and not what they feel about the racial disparity happening with their “own people”, the people who can make a change won’t do anything because in their minds’ their probably thinking “if the Ms. Washingtons of the world ain’t bothered, why should I be”? Whoo I know this was a long comment, but I am sick and tired of this low level ignorance happening time and time again, people and say America land of the free and home of the brave, but clearly that freedom only applies to the very few, and those who are truly brave are shot at, stomped on, and tear gased.

    • LeeSp
      August 20, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      This comment is plain wrong. Celebrities who are also long time activists like Kerry Washington, Orlando Jones and Jesse Williams can do the ALS Challenge and speak out and support for Ferguson which they have done. Why do we always point the finger at celebrities and expect them to do more? They are already receiving a barrage of hate filled messages for the support they have posted.

      Why are folks expecting President Obama to react like an Angry Black Man or a Superhero?

      Now is not the time for us to be tearing each other down unless there is a legitimate reason – like some celebrity making stupid uninformed comments (Tyrese, Keke,etc.)

  10. Carriecnh12
    August 20, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Forgive my typos, but I just had to get this off my chest.

  11. Mary Burrell
    August 20, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Yes to all of this. Well said, Great post. You are on the money.

  12. August 20, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    Love it!

  13. August 21, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Fat white woman here! I have been deeply hurt and sometimes driven to despair because of those who seem to think one or both of those traits renders me incompetent to do a job or unsuitable for public view. I know that I can never truly understand what it’s like to be discriminated against and hated because of my race — and would never want to position myself as the great white savior. But being on the receiving end of some cruelty has forced me to find my voice, and I’m doing what I can on Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t (yet) run into the same vitriol and idiocy among the people in my offline life. But when I do, I won’t have a problem being loud about it. I am ashamed and embarrassed to live in a country with a such a large population of the willfully ignorant.

  14. August 21, 2014 at 1:29 am

    The dialogue is ongoing at my Facebook page, for sure. I did not need a formal invitation to stand for justice and civil rights as i have been on the battle lines since i was a child in the 1950s marching beside my mother, but i am glad to stand beside you, and my mother would be here too, if she could. She passed at age 90, another feisty holocaust survivor, and never one to shirk the fight for freedom. We are here, allies, true and strong.

  15. August 21, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you. You’ve encouraged me to speak up and write a post today.

  16. […] As far too many celebrities and people of influence remain silent about the continued devaluation of Black lives, it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone speak truth to power. So salute to Orlando Jones. And Jesse Williams. And Talib Kweli. And Lauryn Hill. I’ve even challenged white allies to speak up too. […]

  17. […] As far too many celebrities and people of influence remain silent about the continued devaluation of Black lives, it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone speak truth to power. So salute to Orlando Jones. And Jesse Williams. And Talib Kweli. And Lauryn Hill. I’ve even challenged white allies to speak up too. […]

  18. August 22, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I am still heartsick about this young man’s murder, about all the murders.

  19. Lola
    August 23, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Aw man Luvvie. I’ve been reading your blog for a very long time and never commented before. But this post right here….I can’t get behind it. True allies don’t have to be “implored” to stand up/speak out. True allies don’t need to be “nudged”. I’m sorry, this one here just doesn’t sit right in my spirit…not feelin’ this at all. SMH

  20. MsOddessa
    August 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Completely agree Luvvie! I found this link today (while randomly looking for diy tutorials on her site).

    I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the link, but was surprised to find an honest, well written piece about her point of view.

  21. September 1, 2014 at 7:39 am

    This great post was just shared with me by one of my Twitter followers who is also a white mom. She opened up a discussion with her daughter about what was going on:

  22. November 24, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I am committed to ferreting the racist beliefs out of myself, to not putting up with racism when it is expressed in front of me, to asking why people of color aren’t represented, to trying to be a support, but I feel like what I do is so insignificant.

    I had really hoped that the election of Pres. Obama would turn this country around and I feel foolish to admit that I had that hope, because anyone with any perspective would have seen all this racist BS coming. It is more out in the open than it has ever been. People feel free to shout “the race card” any time anyone brings up race at all.

    It’s hard to have hope, but I will keep doing my little bits and hope they all add up to something.

    • vanitaapplebum
      November 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm

      I appreciate you. Every little bit counts.

  23. November 25, 2014 at 10:43 am

    A few weeks ago, I tweeted something about how we should be allowed to kick people who dress up like Ray Rice and his abused wife on Halloween out of the country. Somehow it was noticed by some rabid, racist shock jock who RTd it and I was suddenly attacked and called horrible names by a parade of angry, stupid white men. This was just on Twitter, and it was just for a couple of days, and I was still home in my little house, but the vitriol and pure hatred coming at me both surprised me and unnerved me. I know what I got was only a miniscule taste of the racism in this country, and I know I was able to just say “Fuck them” and move on, but it’s made me even more aware of the realities and the things that need to happen for it to stop.

  24. November 25, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    […] About Ferguson, White Allies and Speaking Up When It Matters […]

  25. Kate
    November 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    As the {white} daughter of a former Detroit police officer, I’m going to say I struggle. I’m not saying that there aren’t cops who lie to protect their ass. I’m not saying that black men, women, children don’t face a different normal. And I’m definitely not saying the situation in Ferguson was a fiasco filled with mistakes. However, I will say openly my view is shaped by knowing what is like to worry about your dad coming home safe and should someone reach for my dad’s gun (as the evidence suggests), I want to know he can protect himself without having the world scream injustice.

    I don’t know what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. I wasn’t there and I haven’t seen the evidence. My heart breaks for a mother who lost her son and an 18-year-old who lost his life. That is heartbreaking. But I can not stand with you in this situation. I can not say that Michael Brown is another Trayvon Martin.

  26. Julie Pousson
    November 25, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Thank you for this article. As an ally, I stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, and with the people of color who live in this hell. Our current legal system is no justice system, and the incarceration rates show it, as do the murders of young Black men by police. It is beyond hope that the police will cease the use of illegal agents against protesters, and will be held accountable. But several people saw Darren Wilson gun down Michael Brown, and his body was left in the street for four hours. And grand juries have an abysmal rate of cop indictments. Our (in)justice system is the new Jim Crow.

  27. November 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    I want to call on the Jewish community to speak up more as well. We have similar histories, and the KKK hates us both the same. I spent all of hebrew school learning about how many times we’ve been enslaved over the last 5000 years, and am reminded daily how many countries want us driven into the ocean. What’s happening in Ferguson feels very similar to Germany around the early 1930s. We can not let it go ANY FUCKING FURTHER, and this HAS TO STOP.

    And this reach for the gun bullshit is the new “sprinkle some crack on him” cover. Didn’t the most damning witness account say he ran at the officer? If you’re far enough to go full charge, you’re too far to reach for a gun. What happened to fucking tazers if this unarmed teenager was so dangerous? Can we at least go back to when cops unnecessarily tazed people? What a utopia that was! What kind of shit training do these officers have?

    As someone who just looks white, I could grab an assault rifle, shoot up a movie theater, kill a dozen people, and still have a better chance of not being shot by the cops than a black kid walking home from a convenience store. UNACCEPTABLE.

  28. November 26, 2014 at 8:38 am

    […] About Ferguson, White Allies and Speaking Up When It Matters by Luvvie […]

  29. […] of it is shocking. For my friends who are reading this who may not be people of color, please be an ally. Don’t be complicit in the slaughter and mistreatment of people of color, of […]

  30. […] Speaking up when it matters is usually when it’s also the hardest. When your voice shakes, that’s when you’re standing in truth. But that’s usually when it is most needed. And when you do it, someone else might be encouraged to do the same. Do not be silent.  Awesomely Luvvie  […]