Following last week’s no indictment decision by a Missouri grand jury, I took to Seattle’s streets to join the protests. As a white person, I need to be conscientious about several things when taking part in these demonstrations. I am not participating because I am affected by the racial biases present in policing, but rather because I want to stand in solidarity with people of color and help in whatever way I can. Here are some things I’ve considered before marching.
Before heading down to the protests, it is important to recognize your personal intentions and set boundaries for yourself. The police have been responding to the peaceful protests with riot gear and militarized weapons—if you do not have your intentions straight, if you’re not participating for genuine reasons, you should not be there. White privilege allows us to attend these protests with little to no repercussions. Yes, we may be victims of the tear gas and the terrifying flash bangs, but once the protest is done, the likelihood of white people falling victim to police brutality is exponentially less than a person of color.
While walking and chanting with the crowd, it is easy to get caught up in the moment. I constantly remind myself that there are some symbolic gestures and chants that do not warrant my participation or voice. For example, I do not raise my hands nor do I chant “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Nor do I yell “we are Mike Brown.” I do not walk central to the movement, but allow others to lead. My voice should never be the loudest.
As white participants, we must be thoughtful and intentional about our presence at these protests. If not, we risk obscuring the movement’s larger aims.