Communication

This past Saturday, I arrived at the protest late. I arrived at Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park around 1 o’clock, and found out the protest had moved on to the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak Boulevard. The few of us that were at the Waterwall Park started walking up that way. I ran into a Hispanic family that was also searching for the protest and we walked together up to the group. Before we got there, we encountered a woman who was in tears. She said that as she pushed through the crowd of protestors, she was called a racist and bigot. The family and I tried to console her, but she was so distraught, our words did little to make her feel better. While we were talking to her, a fellow protestor walked by us and yelled, “Don’t talk to the bourgeois!” Here we were, trying to provide emotional care for a woman who was visibly upset, and this guy is labeling her as the enemy.

I really wanted to berate that gentleman. I wanted to yell, “Hey! She’s upset! Don’t be a jerk!” But, since I was wearing a clerical collar, I thought better of it.

Now that I have had several days to think about it, I would probably yell something like, “Hey! She’s upset! Don’t be a jerk!”

And that has been a problem with the protests here in Houston. If you have seen me at the protests, then you will have noticed that I tend to stay pretty quiet. I have explained that in a previous post, and it is a big part of my presence. A part of this silence is silent prayer. A part of this silence is a reverence for the voice of the black community. A part of this silence is observation and learning.

What I have seen here in Houston is a lot of justified anger mixed with destructive behavior. There is definitely reason to be shouting right now. There is reason to be out on a busy street corner with signs and loud voices. In fact, if you are not out there, screaming and/or demanding justice, then I think you are not paying attention.

But there is a difference between yelling “No Justice, No Peace!” or “Black Lives Matter!” and yelling “F–k the Police!” or “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” when police are trying to communicate with protestors. There is also a stark difference between a black, or other person of color (POC), yelling these things and a white protestor yelling these things.

I have a tendency to not question what a black, or POC, protestor yells. But when a white dude is the one up front, yelling, “No Cop Zone!” and jumping around like a soccer hooligan, I question their motive. Please do not misunderstand and think that white people should not be involved in this movement. We definitely should. But should we be leading these chants? Should we be leading the protests in general? What does that say about us if we are the ones confronting police officers at the front of the gathering?

White people acting out aggression, to me, is out of place here. Our place in this movement should be a one of support and communication. We should be standing with our brothers and sisters of color all the time at these protests. We should be holding signs and chanting when we feel like it, and when it is appropriate. But we should not be telling others not to talk to the bourgeois. We should not be getting in an officer’s face aggressively.

Instead, white people should be willing to communicate with other white people. It is our duty to explain white privilege to those that do not get it or deny that it exists. It is our duty to open lines of communication to eradicate racism. It is our duty to change the system so that it is equal for all. White protestors cannot do this without open lines of communication. By acting out rage in these protests, we only seem like trouble-makers. Further, we need to understand that the system works just fine for us. Therefore, this rage being displayed by white protestors seems out-of-place. Again, I say that we are not out-of-place by being there. We are only out-of-place by taking the spotlight.

Hence, I say to my fellow white protestors: Communicate! Keep all doors of communication open! We have to be able to explain white privilege to those who deny or do not understand this concept. We have to be able to make a system that works for us, work for everyone. Do not discount someone because they are “bourgeois.” Do not yell at people who are not in the protest. Do not call others names. Do not insinuate that someone is less than you because they disagree with what you are doing. If we cut off ties with the people that control the system, we will never be able to change the system.

It is up to us to change the system. If we cannot talk to others, then we cannot change things for everyone.

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