In 2016, there was a Black Lives Matter protest in Nottingham and a Black protester laid on the tram tracks. Hell ensued with comments from White people such as “Black Lives Matter is an American thing—it’s not as bad in the UK.”
Fast forward 4 years and it’s absolutely not an “American thing”, not that it ever was. And a shift in perspective has meant White people from the US, UK, and around the world who shrugged it off before are now taking notice but for the wrong reasons.
LA Times staff writer Erin B. Logan wrote an article entitled “White people have gentrified Black Lives Matter. It’s a problem” which addressed this shift and the gentrification of the movement. While it won’t have surprised many Black people who’ve seen first hand how White people have co-opted the protests for their own gains (remember those influencers who took pictures outside buildings pretending to help?), some of the quotes in the article struck a chord.
Historically, when Black people protest, they are responding to intolerable and immediate injustice — say, the water crisis in Flint. In contrast, Jeffries said, white Americans tend to protest over more abstract goals — like the Occupy Wall Street protests against economic inequality or the melting of Arctic glaciers — and are driven by the “fierce urgency of the future.”
“What you’re willing to sacrifice, demand and compromise is going to be different,” Jeffries said. “There is a shared sense of the problem but your immediate objective is fundamentally different.”
This is happening as we speak; Extinction Rebellion protesters have blocked newspaper printing presses, accusing the paper of “failing to report on climate change”. Well, shit, what’s new?
AJ Lovelace, an activist and filmmaker remarked on the motives behind some of the White female protestors:
“It was obvious to me that people were out there to say they were out there. White girls would agitate the police and then cry when they responded. This isn’t how a protest works.”
They should have cans of Pepsi with them.
One of the latest quotes from the piece summaries the involvement of White people for me:
Jeffries told me that if history shows one thing to be true, it’s that white attention and sympathy for Black social justice is fleeting. It wanes when cameras disappear.
Did you notice how attention was high in June but now the cameras are gone, White people have gone back to their regular chitchat? I guess that really was enough activism for one day.
(Thanks to Shakeia Taylor for putting me onto this article.)