So this is a sensitive but far-reaching subject I’m wading into. Please read with careful discernment.
I tried to write a protest de-brief but this came out instead.
At the Women’s March in LA yesterday there were plenty of different races/colors/ethnicities present, but it was pretty white. There was a large representation of Latinos of course, numerous signs in Spanish, with enough curse words to make my mother faint. A few black folks and Asians were there too.
I’m not surprised, that’s generally the make up of most groups I encounter in downtown Los Angeles. Two miles to the east and the make up would have been heavily Latino, then white, then black. Six miles east northeast is heavily Asian, then Latino, white and black. Ten miles to the south would have been heavily black then Latino, with a few daring whites sprinkled in. Bottom line: Los Angeles is still a bit racially segregated, though largely by social ties rather than zoning regulations (because they’re illegal now).
So part of my experiences from the march yesterday was the Metro clusterfuck to leave: At the Pershing Square platform the crowd was overwhelmingly people from the march calling it a day (crowded so thick Metro workers had to stop people from coming downstairs because there was no more room), but there were a few people who weren’t affiliated with the protest.
Among them were two young black folks, a young woman and a young man. The man was largely quiet except for occasionally agreeing with the woman. The woman…well if she were white it would have been received as hectoring, mocking the crowd for protesting the new President and how it’s just a matter of fact to be lived with. A few people tried to respond, to explain or just note that they disagreed with her point of view, but quickly realized it would be fruitless. What I noted from her comments was that it wasn’t like she likes or supports Trump, it’s that she’s used to people in power who…suck. She’s used to not getting her way. The people in the crowd, they aren’t used to losing. They’re not used to the sting of unfairness. They have rarely if ever had to just shut up and take it. She has. As far as she’s concerned, the way to deal with a bad turn of events is to accept it and push on.
That’s an attitude I keep thinking about when so many white folks, many of my friends among them, declare that this or that political outlook or preference is hurtful to minorities, *especially* when the objection is couched as “you’ll have to explain it to people of color why you don’t care about them”…etc. Several months ago it was “if you vote third party you have to explain why [insert really bad logic about how this supports Trump]”. And today it’s “if you don’t punch a Nazi it’s because you don’t care about minorities” or something like that. It’s still bad logic.
To be sure, I know at least two people of color who are so eager to get their violence on I personally find it nearly obscene. They mean it as testament to their opposition as well as an expression for just how angry they are. They are entitled to their feelings, the same way that it’s my feeling of wishing to avoid being party to their bloodlust. [If you’re reading this and you can’t wait to write, yet again, the details of what you want to do, save it. You already know I don’t want it on my page.] But for the most part, every piece of advice I’ve heard from people of color to others in their own group, when it comes to confronting racial bias has typically gone to “keep your head down, don’t make trouble…” etc. It is, of course, a stark contrast to the “good trouble” Rep John Lewis advocates, but it’s what made the Civil Rights movement so remarkable. When someone is at the mercy of people in power, whether it’s systemic oppression or one person’s abuse of another, that someone learns that objecting just brings more pain. The pain that African American activists took on during the Civil Rights era was spectacular and terrible, but one thing must be remembered at all times: They knew they would receive it, undeserved and unfair as it was, and they chose to take it on anyway.
The thing is, a one-off like punching someone who blatantly stands for offensive policies is merely a viscerally satisfying reaction. Let me repeat that: It’s merely a *reaction*. It’s not a tactic. It’s not a strategy. At best it insults the offensive group he represents. But insults are sloppy things. Again, momentarily satisfying (seriously…heh), but not a real strategy.
And the white knights insisting they’re doing this on behalf of people of color and other minorities Nazis eagerly disparage, because people who don’t like the violence have nothing to lose? Please. They themselves point out that white supremacists regularly target minorities. It is minorities who are going to take the brunt of any backlash. And unlike during the Civil Rights days, minorities en masse have had little say in facing down white supremacists. The difference? When activists march *in favor* of something they declare who they are. They aren’t reacting to a turn of events, but making manifest an existence that has been overlooked or misunderstood. THAT is a strategy.
That woman from the train platform didn’t see that the people around her knew that they didn’t have to sit and take whatever neo-fascist plan comes down. Maybe the badness will come anyway, but it won’t be because it was simply accepted. She didn’t know that many people in the march are energized now to organize and more actively and directly resist objectionable and offensive efforts by governmental powers. She didn’t see the potential for a real, effective strategy within the massive group desire of all the marchers to turn away from everything that Trump and his fellow fascists stand for.
Yes, I want Nazis opposed, I don’t want white supremacy to be even remotely considered viable in my country or anywhere else on the planet. And I largely agree that it can’t be led to enlightenment through reasonable discourse – though I maintain individuals could have been led away from that path if we collectively hadn’t turned them away for being awkward, weird, or otherwise, and left them to be recruited. But punching a guy, or rather, indulging fantasies of punching guys, because that’s what all but one of the anti-fascists have done, doesn’t do a whole lot.
Maybe it encourages them to avoid the folks who punched them, but it doesn’t make them cease to exist. It certainly doesn’t to a damned thing to end the ideology.
I’ve been listening to racist whites say fantastically shitty things about Latinos for my entire life. And while I genuinely believe that as we’re given more opportunity to advance in society we are realizing more of the possibilities we’ve always contained, I’ve never considered a realistic response could be to just go up to someone who’s saying that shit and cold-cock them. In my deepest darkest fantasies, maybe I can see that, but you know what? I KNOW A FANTASY WHEN I HAVE IT. And I know in real life shit like that just makes all the oppressive crap far, FAR worse.
The only time opposing bullshit has gone well for me has been when I have white allies with me. But what drives me nuts – personally, I can’t say if anyone else feels this way – is when my allies jump out ahead of me in an effort to defend me and start claiming it’s in my name. It’s a little bit irksome when other people get mad about offenses aimed my way before I even noticed them. Someone calls me a wetback and friends are crying for blood while I’m still trying to note that I was born here so that’s technically the wrong racist term for me… And in the aftermath all I get is deep fear of ever running into that someone without my friends around.
So anyway, going back to the march from yesterday and how it demonstrated the many, MANY MAAANNYY people who won’t simply accept this Presidency quietly, it’s cool that there is such a strong movement toward justice and inclusivity. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and I want to throw in with it with all my heart. But I keep a weather eye out, and I wonder how unified the movement would be in the face of a storm.
The destructive desires in people who claim to be my allies has me disquieted. Why is World War II their only frame of reference? Why not civil rights marches? Why not come up with something even more effective since we all have the benefit of history? Why not check in with the people mostly likely to be victimized by the enemy?
I espouse non-violence, at least as a personal principle. Although, I maintain the right to self-defense. Opposing Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, or the alt-right in the moment, whether yelling at them or punching them is amusing but reactive. Reconciling my principles with my reaction to that which I detest is how I’ll find a viable strategy. I will definitely not find it from people who do not respect my principles and do not recognize their own reactive desires.