white radicals, solidarity, and co-optation in ferguson and beyond

as a white woman who is invested in anti-oppression work, i spend a lot of time trying to figure out my place in the movement against the white heteropatricarchy. i also spend a lot of time feeling anger towards white people who obviously do not know their own places… white people who identify as Allies with a capital A. who don’t know how or when to stop talking. who think that their opinions are always welcomed and needed.

these white people are (as if on cue) showing up both in ferguson and in the national organizing around mike brown’s murder. at the NMOS vigil in pvd, there was a space for people to talk about their experiences with police brutality and the first two people on the megaphone were white. at least one white reporter has given anonymous credit for organizing NMOS when feminista jones actually started it. white anarchists have been coming to ferguson and trying to escalate the nightly protests against the wishes of the organizers who live in the community.

on the facebook page for #march4mikebrown, which is happening in pvd tonight, someone posted this essay in response to a post in the same vein as the one i’m writing now– Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex. It’s an indigenous perspective, but it speaks to the problem of “Allies” in all types of organizing:

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge. In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.

this struck a chord with me. i’m moving to seattle next month and looking to get involved with organizing there. one of the groups i’ve come across is the coalition of anti-racist whites and ever since i’ve been going back and forth with how i feel about it. from what the website says, i think i could get behind it. but we all know that many times what people say they do and what they actually do are very different things. i’m intrigued, but wary. 

they’re having an organizing institute in october and i’ve been thinking of applying. according to their website:

This multi-week Anti-Racist White Organizing Institute (OI) will create a space for white people to:

  • develop and deepen our analysis of racism, white privilege, intersectionality, and accountability,
  • develop and deepen our skills in naming and framing racism, allyship, and taking action for racial justice,
  • build and strengthen a community of anti-racist white people working for the liberation of all people while actively honoring the leadership of people of color in our community,
  • make commitments to apply our racial justice skills in the Seattle area.

i’ve been asking a lot of people what they think about this (including juhee). most of the the white people i’ve asked about it have expressed discomfort with the thought of “a space for white people” and i think that’s valid. but i also want to think that it could be a good thing if it’s done right (and that’s a bit IF).

what are your thoughts on white caucuses? is this organizing institute exactly what the indigenous action essay is calling out? 

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