As a White ally, I participated with two incredible friends in the Black Lives Matter rally and march held in Portland, OR at Halladay Park on “Black Friday,” November 27th. My friends usually take me to a “15 Now” rally the day after Thanksgiving, but this year the urgency of racially-based and institutional violence against African Americans took precedent. The speakers were dynamic, passionate and, in terms of my political sensibilities, right on. They addressed most eloquently and honestly the critical issues of our time–institutional racism, police violence and the inherently unjust economic system that, for all practical intent and purpose, preordains poverty for millions of Americans of Color.
As an ally, I was there to listen, learn and give support. Along with others I was asked, as a White person, to surround the Black Lives Matter speakers and participants and to create a protective barrier of White supporters against the hateful speech and threats of the White Racist counter-protesters whose purpose was to disrupt and intimidate the Black Lives Matter rally.
I was scared, period. Scared. I have lived my life within the societal “normalcy” of my Whiteness. I have lived in my White body and experienced the safety that my Whiteness has afforded me without even thinking about it. Talk about White Privilege!
I was scared and felt under threat–for a few hours. A few hours and then I could slip back into the social safety of my Whiteness. However, for the rally’s courageous Black activists and, the millions and millions of Black Americans just trying live life the best they can and get through another day–they can not take similar refuge in the color of their skin.
It would be presumptuous and downright insulting to even suggest that my few hours of discomfort, though real, gives me true insight into the day-to-day experience of being a Black American. How could it? However, what I did get was a glimmer, an insight into and an appreciation for the stress and violence (psychological and physical) that is the status quo for Black Americans.
Black bodies are on the line every day, 24/7, including holidays. They don’t get a break or a day off. It’s time for more White allies to stand up and to support racial justice in America and to put their bodies–their White Privilege bodies–on the line.