white contingency

When my cantor sent an email calling on our congregation to support BLM, but was sure to include a paragraph condemning the “fringe” part of the protests and the “looters” and those being “violent” who are “taking advantage” of the moment, I was mad. I knew I was mad. I knew it was wrong. I could not immediately articulate why. When I started to see the same sentiment pop up on my various feeds, I became even more mad. I started to know why.

There is a lot out there on what is wrong with these comments which is best understood through looking back to their origin. And, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s la times piece, says it all.

But what occurred to me today, when I saw the video of the police murder of Rayshard Brooks is what i’m going to now call: white contingency. After George Floyd, many white folks were willing to sign on to BLM; at least more than originally. We are vocal about wanting to fight against racism, and to “listen” to black folks and try to do better. but there is a contingency: The victim must be perfect. Or must have acted perfectly. The resistance must be perfect. Or must be expressed through perfect means. Of course, white folks are the ones defining what is perfect. we define it on twitter and facebook and instagram…which is aggressive and violent in its own way….but also as lawmakers (paid by police unions), prosecutors (see, e.g. Jackie Johnson), judges (qualified immunity anyone?) and jurors (see zimmerman jury, goetz jury.)

When I finally linked these pieces together I realized why I was angry and tired of reading white folk posts purportedly supporting BLM and/anti racism but, in the same breath, being so sure to make sure that everyone is sure that we do not sign onto “looting” and “property damage” and “violent” protests which was being perpetrated by a “fringe” element. It’s white contingency. Dear white people: This Is Not Our Moment. It is not our moment to define what is justifiable use of force. We have done that. That is why we are here in the first place. This is not our moment to define what the most successful means of dismantling racism is. If we knew what that was and we were so committed to dismantling it as we say we are, then why the fuck are our racist systems so perfectly and solidly in place?

The contingencies themselves are so deep rooted in the racism that is the foundation of this country that white folks don’t even know what we are communicating when we repeat what is now a trite statement of an alliance—racism is bad, there is racism in policing, gotta do something about “systemic racism”, i’m with it. If we do not even notice that we are looking for any and every explanation except racism to help us understand why a cop shot a black man in this and any other murder, we have a lot of work to do. Hard same for not even being able to pause or to listen before inserting our voices about what must and should be done to “support” the movement and be allies or to bring about “real change.”

This is not the moment for contingencies white people. If we are going to say or do anything, there better not be a but.

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