Pounding with a spoon on a metal strainer, I’m yelling at the top of my lungs.
“Divest! Divest! Put fossil fuels to rest!”
Hundreds of students and ex-students and dropouts and community folks have gathered to shout, bang on drums, wave banners, and dance through the UC dorms, spreading the message about divesting from Fossil Fuels. The atmosphere was festive and also a little bit confrontational. For everyone here, UC investing in fossil fuels means spending our tuition money to destroy the future we hoped to inherit.
I casually strike up a conversation with another demonstrator.
“Did you see the anarchist white supremacist here?” they ask, visibly upset. Immediately I look around, angry and confused. Who could they be talking about?
Then I realize they’re looking at Sweetheart. He blowing his trumpet to the beat, sporting a sweatshirt with a patch that reads “White Supremacy Acquitted Zimmermann”.
I giggle, and explain that Zimmermann was the cop who murdered Trayvon Martin, that white supremacy was responsible for that racist murderer getting off the hook. I promise them that Sweetheart is not a White Supremacist. They nod, appeased.
I can understand immediately why this person is upset, why they don’t look closer to analyze the message. Our culture is permeated by subtle and not-so-subtle racism, and it is really helpful to be able to express that anger when we have to encounter it straight on. We may not ever get to look Zimmermann in the eye and tell him what a racist asshole he is, or personally address the people who make horribly appropriative Halloween costumes, or call out our transphobic boss for making demeaning comments at work. And so in moments when we sense racism from folks in our immediate vicinity, all those feelings come rushing to the surface (at least for me).
I wonder, at the same time, how we can begin to have patience with the people we organize around, and are in community with. Sweetheart’s sweatshirt was misinterpreted, but there are also racist comments made by organizers I work with somewhat regularly, or micro-aggressions I experience from men I organize with. Those things need to be called out,and anger is appropriate, but patience is also key to keeping people involved in doing the work needed to decolonize their minds. I’m curious what readers’ experiences with these moments has been like?
Yesterday my blog let me know my stats were booming, and I thought maybe I was finally going to become a famous blogger! I excitedly looked to see where the views were coming from, and realized someone from Reddit was directing readers to my blog, mocking my discussion of gentrification in the Mission in that last blog post. Reading over the post, I could see why people were upset. Gentrification is such a sensitive issue, and so many people are talking about it, and there is so much outrage at the way the conversation has unfolded. For me, a white privileged college student, to be talking about what is happening in the Mission, is definitely liable to rub anyone the wrong way.
At the same time, everyone needs to be talking about gentrification. I hope the tech workers, and the landlords, and the politicians are all talking about what gentrification means to the bay area, just as much as I want everyone who is fighting evictions and facing eviction to be talking about it.
Anyway, I’m not totally sure what my point is. Sitting down to write I feel pretty uninspired, worried that in a few years the feelings I express on here will seem as backwards and outdated as some of the things I wrote in my blog four years ago. I’ve had so many conversations with ex-activists lately who have gotten burnt out and alienated by the readiness of people in our community to dismiss their good intentions and focus on the negative. At the same time, I’ve had so many conversations with people who are tired of having their valid critiques waved aside for the sake of patience and amicability. It’s difficult terrain to navigate, but inevitably, I believe we need more voices, not less, to find respectful ways to talk about these issues.
In the meantime, if anyone has critiques they want to offer, I’m open and appreciative.
Sweetheart and I fell asleep, ears still ringing from the noise demo, bodies entwined, rain pounding on the top of our little sailboat in the Bay. Here is a safe place to end the day.