Have you ever wondered what you would’ve done during the rise of Nazism in Germany or during the civil rights movement in the U.S.? Well, you’re doing it right now.
I am not being hyperbolic. We are living through one of the most important moments in history, and it’s time for you to decide. You’re either on the side that is actively fighting to end violent, systemic racism or you’re helping maintain the original sin that has always held this country back from actual greatness. There is no middle ground. You are either anti-racist or racist, being “not racist” isn’t a thing.
By saying and doing nothing, you are empowering the fiendish system that has oppressed people of color for centuries. It relies on your silence and your inaction; it cannot survive without your shrugs of indifference or your thankful suburban sighs that say “I’m shocked, but it doesn’t affect me.” Your keyboard cries of “Why can’t they do this more peacefully?” can only be answered by an unemployed Colin Kaepernick, and a 56-year-old Civil Rights Act that has done little to create change.
What’s happening in our streets are not riots. They are explosive exhalations after centuries of holding one’s breath. Or rather, not being allowed to breathe. It is the natural outcome of 500 years of violent pacification, of realizing there is no difference between a boot on one’s neck or a knee. It’s the sound of people who know that nothing will be given to them, and that all progress comes not from asking nicely, but from demanding it with a bullhorn.
There’s a magnificent irony in the fact that the same people who cheer on freedom fighters in Hollywood movies can’t stomach ones in West Hollywood. If you posted on social media about how upset you were at the looting before you publicly expressed anything about the injustice of George Floyd being murdered by the people who were sworn to “protect and serve” him, you should take a step back and think about your priorities. I’m serious. Take a second to really sit with that.
Maybe you didn’t post about it because hell, you’ve seen it happen so many times it feels commonplace at this point. Or because you’re so busy with everything else, it escaped your attention. Or because you were afraid people would say you’re “virtue signaling” or “race baiting.” Well, that is exactly the problem. The killing of black people by The State is so common that stealing goods from stores that have insurance is more shocking. That is how the system works. That’s what these protests are about. Yes, it’s terrible that people are looting, but things can be replaced. No amount of insurance can bring back human lives.
On top of all that, let’s not forget that these protests start out peacefully. More often than not, it’s the police who instigate the violence. Camera phones have probably done more to bring black people justice in the past 10 years than the entire history of law enforcement in this country.
Speaking of police attacking peaceful protestors, Trump had them teargassed on Monday so he could take a photo with a Bible in front of a church. And that’s just one of the many terrifying things he’s done this week. If you thought people were exaggerating about their fear of him becoming a dictator you were painfully mistaken. As the Washington Post reported, even CIA analysts are seeing disturbing parallels between Trump’s actions and “the signs of decline or democratic regression they were trained to detect in other countries.” The more dissent shown towards him and the more pressure he feels, the more authoritarian he becomes. Threatening to turn the military on protesting citizens is literally what fascists do, and trying to get anti-fascists labeled as terrorists is the first step to jailing your opposition.
If you think what he’s doing is wrong, then I’ve got news for you: You’ve just joined Antifa. Hell, you’ve probably been Antifa all along. That’s because Antifa is just short for anti-fascist, and just like racism, there are only two options, fascist or anti-fascist. There is no tepidly-fascist.
The Alt-Right, aka white nationalists, have run a fantastic disinformation campaign getting comfortable white people to be afraid of Antifa. That’s because they hate and fear Antifa since Antifa are the only ones willing to meet the white nationalists in the streets and fight back. Dr. Cornel West even said that Antifa were the only ones who protected him and some clergy members from being “crushed like cockroaches” by white nationalists in Charlottesville. Antifa is your friend, unless you’re a fascist. We are all Antifa.
So now that we’ve established that you’re anti-racist and anti-fascist, and that it’s important that you actively declare yourself so, what do you do next?
Not everyone can be in the streets. Not everyone can risk arrest or teargas or brutality from the police. That’s OK. There are many other ways to help. The first step is to share on social media that what you’re seeing play out is a cancer on society. The more voices we have pointing out evil means fewer people whose silence the perpetrators can rely on as consent. But sharing things on social media isn’t nearly enough. It’s just the start.
Next you need to volunteer your time and donate your money to organizations like the Anti Police-Terror Project who are on the front line of battling state sponsored racist violence. You must also join fights to defund police budgets. Plug into your local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and find out what groups you can be part of and what actions you can take.
You can also help out in the streets. If you’re medically trained you can volunteer to be a medic at protests. If not, use your phone to document what’s going on and show people on the internet that the vast majority of these protests are peaceful until the cops turn them violent. And if you’re ready to put your body on the line you can stand as a buffer between police and black protesters. Cops are less likely to beat up white folks for all the reasons stated above.
Most importantly, take your cues as to how to be an ally and co-conspirator from black people, and making a point of reading books like “How To Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi.
White people: This movement isn’t about us. Our job is to show up and support in the ways we’re told we’re needed, not in the ways we think we are. Trust me, I’m well aware of the irony of getting that advice from a white dude, but I’m just passing on what I’ve learned from many years of anti-racist activism.
And I’m still learning. You’re still learning. That’s OK. The question is “What are you doing now and how can you do better tomorrow?”
Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His column appears every other Thursday. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.