When the white heckler said "No Lives Matter"
This Saturday I was at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in solidarity with the Baltimore uprising against police brutality. We were gathered outside the Mariners game at the stadium and I was with a group of friends and comrades, mostly Black folks. A middle aged white man came up to us and started shouting "what would you do if the police shot a white person? I bet you wouldn't even care."
I figured he was one of the many white people who like to come up and demand that we chant "all lives matter" instead of "Black lives matter". I usually try to talk with these people and pull them away from the crowd so that Black friends won't have to deal with them at the same time they're trying to organize the demonstration.
So I walked up to him, looked him square in the eyes, and asked him "what would YOU do if the cops shot a white person?"
He hesitated for a second and then said "probably nothing."
So I responded: "so I guess you don't really care about Black people OR white people then, huh?"
He said, "the police killing people is natural, it's part of population control".
I responded, asking "what are you some kind of Nazi?"
He puffed out his chest and started reaching for something in his pocket and with a glare he said "are you calling me a Nazi?"
"You're the one talking about population control" I replied, scanning his shoulders and hands for any sudden movements.
Then he just grimaced and walked away, like a pile of wreckage from 500 years of disaster.
I looked around the stadium and thought "cynicism must be America's favorite pastime. "
Noel Ignatiev wrote that before the 1930s labor struggles, workers would have to clean their bosses cars on the weekends in order to keep their jobs. After the strike waves, that kind of behavior was looked down on as demeaning and your fellow workers would mock you if you kept doing it. He said that in the future we will look back and recognize white behavior as similarly demeaning. In fact, whiteness itself is an embodied philosophy of degradation: "I don't want to fight back against my bosses and the rich people who oppress me, I'll accept my miserable lot in life, as long as there are Black people worse off than I am".
This man, slumping toward the scrap heap of history, could not have illustrated that mentality any better.
A bit demoralized, I turned around and saw my friend and comrade standing close to me. They are a young person with pale pink skin like mine, and they've gone very hard in the Black Lives Matter movement the past six months. I realized they were getting my back the whole time. When I thanked them for that they just responded "that's what we do."
Someday, after the revolution, whiteness will no longer matter, and we will all matter to each other. It'll just be what we do.