Fire is both hell and purification and a means of exhibiting valid rage by blazing all that is toxic to declare revelation. Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức publicly burned himself to death in 1963 to protest the persecution of Buddhists at the hands of the South Vietnamese government. When all else has been tried, demolition is a legitimate form of protest. It acts as a hopeful prelude to the dismantling of the tyrannical structures that are being fought against.
In the fervent (mostly peaceful) protests happening across America in the wake of yet another Black life murdered, non-black people looking into the history, institutions and social structures that permitted this to happen is vital.
The present-day slave patrols.
Each part of America created police systems for varying reasons. In the South, the implementation of police forces was constructed to preserve the slavery system, an economic system. Upon the abolition of slavery, Black Americans were arrested in abundance for minor crimes to save a savaged economy because detained Black Americans were used to provide free labour. Years later, nothing has changed.
What’s more, the myth of Black criminality, delinquency and lawlessness has been planted to justify the high rates of incarceration and is rife in the present day. This has led to the over-policing of Black neighbourhoods across America. The illusion of Black chaos and the so-called ‘war on drugs’ spearheaded by the presidency of Richard Nixon garnered support from working-class white people and led to the persecution and mass incarceration of Black people. Today, the prison system is still biased against Black people.
Like slavery, the free labour provided by the prison system has meant that a predominantly unpaid black workforce built the America we have today. Every privilege people are given has been bought with (mostly black) blood.
Race rebellions birthed America and are etched into the country’s history. Ever since the theft of the land that is America today, rebellions against white supremacists and colonists have taken place.
The number of uprisings against brutality against Black people goes on and on. Most notably, the Los Angeles 1992 riots that erupted after four white police officers beat up black motorist Rodney King on tape, the 2014 Ferguson protests after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot and the 2016 Charlotte protests which exploded after Keith Scott was also fatally shot by police. He was mistaken for being a suspect.
Capitalism thrives off of black bodies.
The disregard for Black life is written into American culture. During the American colonial period, Black slaves and whites of low class were both oppressed. However, when they rebelled together, white rebels were afforded the opportunity of a stake in the structure of oppression due to their whiteness and Black people were left at the very bottom of this capitalist pyramid.
Further, the exploitation of Black people allowed the white lower classes social mobility and the opportunity to partake in the myth of the American Dream by contributing to the structure of oppression. In contrast, Black people had no form of escape. In this way, ‘white privilege’ is an intrinsic advantage afforded to white people and racism is a tool of capitalism used to oppress the working classes, keep the rich rich and the poor poor. As long as there is racism amongst the lower classes, the capitalist elite can rest assured they’ll be no radical uprising against them and their repressive structures.
Businesses are being burnt down not because people want to destroy their neighbourhoods, but because capitalism does and shouldn’t come before Black lives. Business is not more valuable than bodies.
Allyship is the only objective that can make this moment sustainable.
This is why allyship is fundamental in driving change as it is the voices of the privileged who are listened to and respected. It is the only method of sustaining long-lasting change towards a post-racist society. The sheer amount of non-black allies is what could make these protests distinct.
Liberal left-wing politics is built on ideals such as freedom and equality yet is predominantly white and excludes the Black rights movement and Black politics. White political groups campaigning for any type of equality and progress need to help finance and uplift Black-led activism and initiatives and thrust them into the spotlight. Movements, including Gay Rights and Women’s Rights must become intersectional if there is to be radical change towards saving Black lives. These movements exclude Black voices and allow no space for Black people.
As a non-black person, educating yourself on Black history and accepting your place in the structure of oppression is only the start. Living in protest means being actively anti-racist, which manifests as showcasing solidarity for Black people every day. Boycott companies who have been outed as racists and defund the racist institute that is the police force.
Moreover, challenge racist white friends and family members, assess your fetishisized dating preferences and partiality for lighter-skinned Black people. Understand the issues faced by Black communities and how white supremacy caused all of it.
Momentary outrage is not enough, and to truly eradicate racism and racial-based murder and violence, your life needs to be an act of protest. Meaning who you vote for, where you shop, what you say and how you act in day to day life holds power. Use this power to protest against the slaughter of Black people.
Where to donate:
Reclaim The Block
Black Visions Collective
UK Black Lives Matter fund
North Star Fund
Justice For Breonna
The Innocent Project