I wasn’t able to attend the Ferguson protests on November 25th. because I was sick. Even though most people wouldn’t find that reason entirely disagreeable — depending on who you ask — it will be something I will regret for the rest of my life. This is because, unlike the rest of the country, I get this feeling that there won’t be much protesting continuing in Minneapolis as time goes on, but the murders of young, unarmed black men in America are likely to continue.
I wanted to talk to someone who had been there and seen, heard and felt the goings on of that evening, and I wasn’t looking for warm, fuzzy feelings from people who only wanted to feel good about themselves. I wanted honesty. I had a hard time finding people, regardless of race, who were willing to talk to me. Fortunately, my friend Eva introduced me to Chris Hooks, a young man who was in no way afraid to give me his honest perspective. Here’s what he had to say.
“I showed up with my little sister to the rally. The realization that America’s judicial system allows for people of color to be murdered without repercussion or prosecution is not one that is living well in her heart. She has never been to a rally before so I thought it would be a great learning experience for her. I’m all for consoling your community during hard times and rallies do exactly that along with spreading the message to people who otherwise wouldn’t obtain the knowledge. I’ve been to a few, including the march for Trayvon and one in Louisiana for Jena Six.
Although it was a beautiful sight seeing the community’s voice be heard in numbers, it’s always the day after that frustrates me the most. My mother and grandmother raised me under the teachings of Dr. King, Louis Farrakhan, and Malcom X. From that I learned the oppressed must gather first before uniting with the free, because it’s a daily problem for the oppressed and only a situational problem for the free.
I arrived to the rally around 5 p.m. Shortly after a person drove through the crowd with his car, so from the jump I had a sour taste in my mouth but was still going to remain positive. The crowd uproared with cries of “black lives matter” from people of color and non people of color. This chant became mixed with an “All lives matter” chant, repeatedly drawing confusion.
Once the silence died down, the mixture of chants was for some reason an opportunity for people (young, primarily white females from ages 16-28) to laugh. After noticing the laughter about 5-10 times in-between speeches, I began to lose my patience. While every speech was heartfelt and sincere, I noticed what I thought to be a lot of people who were there for the wrong reasons. Yes, its great to go out and show support, but we are in a time in history where that’s just not gonna cut it anymore. More needs to be done, and living in Minneapolis, where we have a large black population that makes up almost 20% of citizens, I felt like it was a good way for some white “activists” to feel better about themselves in the moment.
This brings me back to my frustration the day after. No one took to the streets again. Hopefully they will [again], but I can’t help but doubt that’s gonna happen. Hopefully, everyone at the rally took a piece of information to share that will make someone’s day-to-day struggle with oppression and systemic racism a little bit better.
Lastly, I hope the white audience that showed up realizes their privilege and uses it to inform others and fight this machine that is systemic racism within the United States of America. The fact of the matter is, it’s not everyone’s immediate problem because it’s only black people that are being hunted. This all transcended very clearly through the rally. Not everyone gave their full attention, not everyone took it 100% seriously, which made me not want to march. How can I march with people that laugh at my struggle? We have to hold ourselves accountable everyday.
Today, I feel like rallies aren’t gonna stop people from dying. I’m no fool when it comes to history and I have seen the tides of time reach into the present.”
Chris’ reaction doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Being a person of color living in a state that tries very hard to sweep racism under the rug while also passive aggressively participating in it is enough to lead one to believe that the majority of white people at those protests were only there to make themselves feel good for doing their anti-racist good deed for the year. Perhaps I’m in no position to judge as I wasn’t able to there at all, but I’m still living in a body covered in black skin.
I’ll still have to tell my children that America has never and likely will never be a safe place for them.
Photo by maryturck