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Dear White People,
For the next few days, stop talking about Ferguson. I’m not saying don’t engage with it, but stop dominating the conversation. Stop your stupid protests with your stupid chants, and your stupid rants against “fascism” and a “police state”, because this is not about you.
It is important that the words that define issues of race be penned by blacks, not whites. Don’t worry, we can handle talking about racial bigotry; we have a lifetime of experience *living* it. Plenty of us are pretty smart; people literally pay me to put words on (e-)paper and I’m told I do a decent job of it.
So if you happen to think you can talk about Ferguson better than the people of color around you, or in a way that provides some unique insight, go ahead. I’m not going to stop those who speak truth to power. But if all you’re doing is rehashing the same tired statements that have defined Ferguson from Day 1, there’s no need for you to be doing that, especially if you’re doing it to the detriment of the black voices around you.
I don’t literally mean stop talking about it. Just be mindful of whose voices are dominating a discussion, and if those voices are really the voices that should be defining it.
You don’t have to speak with black voices because in our society there is no way for white voices to speak in tandem with black voices without unintentionally speaking over them. You aren’t boosting the signal; you’re drowning it out and replacing it with the narrative that radical liberalism is about white hipsters in bourgeoisie cities. Educated black voices need to be heard to overcome the stereotype that black culture lacks them.
And for the love of god, if you find yourself at a protest over the events of Ferguson, the only appropriate chant is #BlackLivesMatter.
Appeals to violence or the death of cops only serve to further the fear of conservative whites that blacks are dangerous, even when they are uttered by whites on behalf of blacks.
“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is meaningless on white lips and tongues when the Aurora shooter can walk out of a theater after having killed 12 and wounded 70, take his bulletproof vest off, put his hands up and surrender. Hands up is the universal sign for surrender, it’s only when applied to black men that it loses that power.
Police brutality and militarization is a serious issue. But ultimately, Ferguson is problematic because it (along with dozens of other recent cases) has indicated a simple truth: that in the eyes of our society and justice system, Black Lives Don’t Matter.
So if you want to talk about police brutality or capitalism or authoritarianism or foreign wars, go ahead and talk about that. But don’t do so at the expense of black voices, because by drowning out those black voices, you contribute to the same erasure of the black experience as Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman and our justice system.