Nina Simone once said, "It's not as simple, as talking jive – the daily struggle to stay alive.
By Alexis Haynie (Writer)
I watched the protestors march past the windows of my workplace. The energy of the people radiated through the glass. I followed this energy when I got off work: the flashing lights, the whirring helicopters, and the powerful chants. I met the people and marched along the Westside Hwy.
Hands up, Don’t Shoot.
How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D
No Justice, No Peace. Fuck These Racist Ass Police.
As I trailed along the end of the party, the lack of black faces confused me. The orders being shouted by various white people who seemed to be directing the march confused me even more. This confusion propelled me to travel to the front of the party to see who was leading this movement I was following. The cold began to seep through my jacket, although I had felt impervious to the elements at first. My knees were aching. My feet were numb. Where is the music? Certainly there should be music.
My Top Songs That Should Have Been Playing during the Protest:
We Don’t Care – Kanye West
They Don’t Give a Fuck about Us – Tupac
They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson
Mississippi Goddamn – Nina Simone
Revolution – Nina Simone
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
As I compared white America's religious acceptance of The Hunger Games to their complete aversion to the Ferguson riots, a white woman in front of me turned and gave me the three-finger protest hand gesture of The Hunger Games series and one of those “You Can’t Say That” glares.
Where the fuck am I?
In front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building where the march had come to an end. The crowd gathers around the base of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. statue and looks up to the “leaders” who give directions for the next days planned protest. Men up on a pedestal, what a surprise. The floor is open to speakers and I wait to hear something. Anything. I needed a word. All I got was a regurgitation of empty rhetoric. No one even seemed to be acknowledging what we were here for.
It seemed the march was an empty gesture fueled by empty rhetoric and empty chants.
I wanted to leave. But I couldn’t. I did not walk my ass all the way down to 125th for nothing. My friend encouraged me to speak. I had nothing prepared. I had no words to give. Only questions to ask.
Where were you two days ago?
Where were you when Zale Thompson was murdered?
Where will you be when there is more on the line than aching feet?
Immediately there was unrest amongst the crowd and vocalized dissent. I looked into a sea of silent white faces, some seated and some standing. Along the outskirts were black bodies who repeated my questions back to me, demanding answers just as I was.
There is space for non-black liberals, non-black revolutionaries, and non-black allies. But it is not at the front of the movement.
As I stepped down, there were shouts about “optimism” and “the rainbow coalition” and “unity” and shit. They just about held hands and started singing Kum-bah-ya.
It’s funny how black is never a part of the rainbow until the other colors try to take it and use it for some depth. They use the cries for black lives to back their own cries for social justice.
Any movement that attacks police brutality without addressing white supremacy/anti-black racism and patriarchy, is an empty one that only attempts to reform one aspect of oppression without actually combating it. Black people cannot afford empty movements. We are dying.
Black transwomen can be legally murdered in 49 states by means of the “trans-panic defense.” And yet when a someone spoke at the protest about transwomen who have been murdered blocks away from where we were standing, they were basically ignored by the crowd.
When I challenged anti-blackness, I was told “not to go there.”
Race is not a card. It is a reality. And those who benefit from racial oppression are the only ones privileged enough not to notice its constant reality.
Solidarity is important and necessary. But there is a way to align yourself with the struggle, without overrunning it. You don’t see black people running movements against anti-Semitism and you don’t hear non-Jewish people saying “my struggles are just like the Holocaust!” That is because “blackness” is expected be all encompassing and all accommodating. Take what you want, and leave what you don’t. Because black people are not valued as much as blackness, blackness is simply extracted while black identities are ignored and erased.
I was told I should appreciate the non-black people in attendance.
You do not deserve accolades for protesting genocide. And if you expect them, you need to reevaluate your position in the movement. You are not supposed to be “optimistic” when black bodies are gunned down and left rotting in the streets. Outrage is the human response. Protest is the citizen’s duty.
Solidarity: To stand with, not in front of, and not in spite of.
My Protest Playlist