White People Are Cashing Out Their BLM Currency

As the summer faded, so did White allyship

Photo by Barnabas Crosby

Honestly, I tried to not write about Breonna Taylor. My resistance wasn’t rooted so much in my exhaustion with the exoneration of her killers (or just how fucking egregious American racism remains). I wasn’t confident that I could sidestep my own emotions and add vegetables to the conversation or balm atop the fresh pain. Once again, we were back-smacked across the face and told to run along — and we bet’ not cry too loud ‘for we meet the other open palm. This isn’t me being dramatic. America isn’t tending to the victims who are bruised and scarred and inconsolable about Breonna Taylor’s judicial travesty; instead, it’s threatening them. In Kentucky and Illinois, the national guard is on deck for anyone who decides to cry out loud and aggressively. But I won’t use this space to dive into the government’s complicity or the support for pro choice that is Daniel Cameron.

This week, I want to allow the hurt to heal. (Last week was brutal enough.) Instead, I’d like to put the spotlight on a major concern: White people who claim they are BLM allies. They are losing interest in the preservation and protection of Black lives. White support is down and African-American death is up. Yes, a couple cops were fired. Yes, White people are murdering racist White people. But, when it comes to nigger/nigga hunting, from 1619 to summer 2020, the hunters have never trailed on the scoreboard. Today, despite Larynzo Johnson’s efforts, it’s still not close.

White people’s reaction last week to the Breonna Taylor case made me quite uncomfortable. Their outcry after George Floyd’s murder was thunderous. Last week, their collective sentiment was more “That’s unfortunate” than “That’s fucked up!” Does the disparity lie in the fact that we all saw George Floyd expire? Was white activism solar powered by the start of summer warm? Maybe that we only heard and read about Breonna Taylor’s murder (much of the info buried and manipulated from start) played a role. Nonetheless, it’s an awful time for white liberals to recline their efforts. There are no progressive strides made by and for people of color in America without the assistance of White people. For all the sweat John Lewis poured into the Voting Rights Act, it still needed Lyndon B. Johnson’s Hancock to receive life. There is no trailblazing for James Brown without Ben Bart. We don’t get the first Black POTUS without his White mother.

Please don’t confuse my alarm for shock. By no means am I surprised by the shift. Much of the year’s unprecedented White allyship was authored by folks who’ve donned Sandra Bland’s blindfold when facing American racism. Some convinced themselves that they possessed no lineage to American slavery. That psychological privilege is in direct opposition to the trauma attached, in some capacity, to every single African-American. Albeit, a prized possession, that privilege turns the hippie-hearted and disingenuous off to inconvenient fights. These people don’t want the smoke. And the few that do only love it when it stays in the street, clear of the fresh air that occupies their comfort zone. The problem is, their absence becomes a BLM liability. To think, many of the woke feared that Blacks would eventually relax their resistance — whether to fatigue or distraction. Yet it’s White flight that will return the normalcy of knees on Black necks. This all because complexion allows Caucasians to bail on any human fight, whenever they choose, and return to their warm apple pie. Tamika Palmer didn’t have that option. Neither did Esaw Garner or Valerie Castile.

Now, especially after last week’s decision, the 2020 BLM movement is at risk of going down in history as a trend instead of a tipping point. Like so many who up and decided that the pandemic was over, the same will happen with BLM’s White support. For the pale hybrid of interloper and quitter, the protest season has set. Now the progression we’ve felt over the last few months appears more like mirages under the sun. Justice and Politics writer Elie Mystal touched on this poignantly some weeks ago. He referred to the year’s heightened empathy and allyship by Whites as a “summer fling” approaching September conclusion:

“It’s like they went on safari in Ghana, saw some lions, had sex with a Black person who works there, and learned a lot about the transatlantic slave trade. But now playtime’s over, and the white majority has to get back to the serious work of enforcing white supremacy and privilege and reelecting a bigoted president.”

Now ask yourself: Where am I in the statement above?

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.

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