There’s this new hashtag/movement #WhitePeopleForBlackLives, where white allies are supposed to be showing their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. According to their website, White People 4 Black Lives (WP4BL) is “a white anti-racist collective and activist project” whose work is “rooted in showing up for racial justice and acting in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, and more specifically in alliance with Black Lives Matter.”
I will be one of the first to say that non-black allies – especially white allies since they benefit the most from anti-blackness and white supremacy – need to step up to the plate and do more in order to truly be an ally. In both my article Your Silence Is Consent and my YouTube video of the same name, I talk about how silence from supposed allies is consent in situations of oppression. I stand by this statement still, and I do believe that it is with innocent and well-meaning intentions that White People 4 Black Lives is indeed a thing. To have a movement that directly calls for white allies to show their support by actively protesting and talking about the issue of police brutality towards black people means a great deal. It means that the white allies who created this movement and participate in it realized that it is only their active presence in the movement that really does anything – complacent allyship isn’t really allyship. I commend those who support this movement and want to see actual change in the way policing is handled in this country, especially when it comes to the way police interact and handle situations regarding black people.
However, White People 4 Black Lives rubs me the wrong way. It screams of white people (whether unknowingly or knowingly) hijacking a movement meant for black people and making it about white people.
“But Ahtiya,” you’ll say, “there’s no harm done…they’re just trying to help.”
Okay, and that’s great. But we live in a country where black people continually have trends, cultural aspects, and entire movements hijacked by white people. We can see this in terms of how Rock & Roll became a thing, how white rappers are looked at as being better than black rappers, how cornrows somehow became boxer braids.
I pose the question: why is it that white people cannot simply join and support Black Lives Matter without creating an entirely new movement and centering it around white allies?
That is what is happening. When I see the term White People For Black Lives, I see white people as the subject and the focus. Black people are an after-though in this case. The very group of people this movement is supposed to be fighting for has now taken a backseat to the fact that white people are now allies. When I see Black Lives Matter, on the other hand, I see black people put first and being the subject of the movement. In other words, White People For Black Lives makes it about white people supporting another movement, whereas Black Lives Matter makes it about black people. The focus is shifted away from the important topic, and we are instead focused on the fact that white allies have now showed up.
Also side note: how do you have a anti-racist group dedicated to black people without any black people?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Copyright 2017 Ahtiya Liles