The Necessity of Intersectional Protest



A few weeks ago, on the heels of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I drove a few blocks from my residence and witnessed three white women standing in front of the Burbank City Manager's Office, holding signs that read: “End White Silence”, “Murdered in Cold Blood” (with the names of the aforementioned victims), and a sign that read, “Black Lives Matter”.

I drove past them about a block marveling at their audacity before I was quickly compelled to turn my car around, park, and have a conversation with my Caucasian sisters in the fight. The conversation was warm and filled with the hope of a new day, and a marked awareness of the danger of complicity in the face of inequality. As an African American woman I have been involved in many protests throughout the years, but I have never witnessed the level of diversity involved in the protests inspired by the callous, slow, gruesome, murder of George Floyd.

Since then, I have literally witnessed an all white, ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest. I have seen a global rebuke of racism and brutality against black skin. In America, people of all races, creeds and colors have stood united in the truth that this is not a Black problem. This is an American problem, and thus so, they have collectively lifted their voices to say: “No more! Enough is enough! We will not stand for the continued police brutality of African American citizens or any citizen for that matter! We will no longer turn a blind eye to wanton hate, murder and rampant injustice!”

This has given me hope in a sea of despair. This has made me think that maybe, this time, things can actually change. Because the minute this dilemma became intersectional, the moment black humanity became our collective humanity, a watershed event took place. The lie America has told from its inception began to truly be examined for the equal opportunity destroyer that it is.

“It is not really a ‘Negro’ revolution that is upsetting the country. What is upsetting the country is a sense of its own identity. If, for example, one managed to change the curriculum in all the schools so that Negroes learned more about themselves and their real contributions to this culture, you would be liberating not only Negroes, you’d be liberating white people who know nothing about their own history. And the reason is that if you are compelled to lie about one aspect of anybody’s history, you must lie about it all. If you have to lie about my real role here, if you have to pretend that I hoed all that cotton just because I loved you, then you have done something to yourself. You are mad.”

-James Baldwin

And this is precisely where we find ourselves isn’t it?

A rude awakening, a necessary reckoning, a repeated history, amidst a united guttural compulsion to raise our voice in brazen indignation to the blood soaked duplicity that allowed four white police officers to publicly murder an African American man in broad daylight, for no other reason, than they could.

American complacency has run its course and is now facing a generation sober with the wounds of our inequity, who dare to chart a new path.

Plus, ‘da Rona’ kept us in the house a day too long, and nobody’s willing to sit nicely in a corner one minute longer. We will be heard!

Before I experienced the writings of James Baldwin, I blindly thought the construct of racism affected only its obvious target, and in my life that meant me and my people, Black folks. I never once considered that the lie of superiority also hurt those who were the primary benefactors under a system created to limit their humanity and education. The treachery of the lie had in deed, and in fact, compromised their ability to see a world where they weren’t draped in innocence or exalted in praise. And in the case of the four police officers, the belief in this lie had made them murderers.

It wasn’t as if this lie had never been challenged, we have been screaming, marching, documenting, using our artistic gifts, and our lives to protest our oppression for over 400 years. But after the abolition of slavery, Jim-crow and the end of segregation, that which could not be readily seen through the lens of privilege, like red lining, police brutality and systemic racism, was discredited under the banner of a black president and the fallacy of a post racial America. So technology became what our testimony alone could not seem to garner, a beacon of justice and the righter of wrongs.

It would not be hyperbole to say that the smart phone has done more to bring awareness to the disparity of 21st Century racial injustice than any movement ever could. I thank God for the invention of the smart phone, currently it serves as educator, police accountability and Karen catcher. Though it began in 1992 with the heart wrenching video-taping of the Rodney King beating, the advent of social media, and 21st Century globalism has solidified the smart phone as the peoples champion in the pursuit of justice.

That said, the fact that we needed the smart phone to illustrate our plight, shows the insanity of our predicament: Our voices alone were not enough.

Yet, recently, I have seen what I have never seen before. Thousands gathered in a peaceful protest march in Portland Oregon on the Burnside Bridge, where one by one, the protesters, majority white, laid face down with hands on their backs to send a powerful message.

I have seen white protestors in Louisville Kentucky, in protection of Black protestors, form a line of defense against the police.

I have seen police officers taking a knee in protest with people of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds to protest the conduct of their fellow officers who have used their power to hurt, harm and divide.

I have driven by rallies, of majority white Gen Z kids yelling “Black Lives Matter”, fully understanding that declaration does not take anything away from the value of their lives, but instead creates an opportunity to use privilege for the empowerment of equitable humanity.

I have seen White police officers washing the feet of African American protestors in a substantive Christian display of atonement and reconciliation. And I am encouraged with the empathy of this generation catching up to the righteous use of the smartphone. That like our phones we are exposing what should not be and demanding a new world that protects and benefits us all.

Intersectional protests are a necessity for change. They are the recognition that a problem exists, and united, we must solve it. The diversity of intersectional protests shows this problem does not only affect some of us, this problem harms all of us. And until we are free from the ravishes of its’ unjust miseducation, we as a nation will remain in bondage to its consequences.

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© 2019 Erin Wiley Sands.