By Arielle Iniko Newton
The energy in D.C. was stiff on Inauguration Day. Trump supporters and opponents were careful to keep their distance from one another. I stared mercilessly into the eyes of every racist I saw wearing a “Make America Great Again” t-shirt or baseball cap. Fuck respectability.
I headed to K & 14th where a hotbed of unrest was ebbing and flowing. A stretch limousine and SUV were destroyed; broken windshields and spray-paint were a spectacle and a statement. In the middle of the street laid burnt rubbish.
The riot police faced off with a chain of protesters who had their arms linked together. I said nothing as I walked down the narrow pathway that had formed between these two rival factions.
I was smoking a cigarette when the alleged white anarchists set the limousine on fire. The air was suddenly engulfed in a thick white clouds of smoke. The police advanced amidst the ensuing frenzy and the protesters’ linked arms were broken.
The crowds soon began to re-form. Nestled within the rank-and-file, some within the People’s Army threw rocks, sticks, and trash at the officers. Shielded by their expensive riot gear, the state agents barely flinched. Someone did manage to hit one of them, and he fell down in apparent agony.
To me his plight looked theatric. The act gave “reason” for the officers to be more aggressive in containing the crowd. When the officers moved forward, the crowd naturally retreated back out of instinctual fear and subservience to perceived authority. I stayed put.
A handful of members from the Free Hugs Project came forward. They were Black and male-appearing. One of them was Ken E. Nwadike, Jr., the founder of the group. They turned their backs to the armed and protected agents and began shouting at the crowd, “Peace! Peace! Peace!”
A Black female-appearing person contested the silencing and control of the People’s Army. They shouted her down still with calls for “Peace!”
I stayed quiet, but watched closely.
In a matter of minutes, the Free Hug Project had the vast majority of the crowd under its control, although some still sporadically threw garbage and rocks at the state agents.
“PEACE! PEACE! PEACE! We are ONE nation! We are ONE race! PEACE! PEACE! PEACE!”
It was at this point that I made strong eye contact with one of the crowd controllers. And I spoke up.
“You should be doing this facing that way,” I said, pointing to the line of officers who remained in place as they witnessed the overall breakdown of energy and restlessness necessary for successful self-organized mass mobilizations. I’m sure they were overjoyed that the People’s Army was tranquilized without much brute force. Yes, they had to use pepper spray, rubber bullets, and flash grenades for rebellion control when the flames of the limo overtook the SUV behind it, but they did not have to reach into their stockpile any further. Now, the weapons could be used at a later date.
Without doing much work, these state agents had garnered self-elected overseers to control and temper the righteous uproar of the enslaved.
Eventually, the standing People’s Army fizzled to a fraction of its original size. Throughout the breakdown, a steady stream of mostly white people shook hands with and hugged the members of the Free Hugs Project, thanking them for their commitment to “Peace!”
I looked on in disgust. White people love a good negro. I told this to one of Free Hug’s members when he approached me to check-in. The conversation was quick. “These white people shake your hand because they think you’re a good negro,” I said.
“These are all my brothers and sisters. And they’re yours too.”
“No, they’re not.”
“We all bleed red.”
“But some of us are bleeding more than others.”
He looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, but I disagree.” He turned to the crowd: “PEACE! PEACE! PEACE!”
The Free Hugs Project is not unique in their good negro-ness. There is a robust cadre of self-appointed Black community activists, organizers, and leaders who promote this dangerous ideology of loving our oppressors, forgiving people who hate us, and ignoring racial realities that define our experiences.
This ironically anti-Black cohort are well-financed, connected, and influential because their disjointed ideology is palatable to white liberals and moderates who are emotionally fragile and socially irresponsible.
I was once a good negro.
I believed it commendable to work with law enforcement during mass mobilizations. I thought forgiveness for the oppressor was a morally righteous act. I was enthusiastic about forging relations with white liberals and moderates to show that I was reasonable and safe. I stayed quiet when these same motherfuckers who I worked so hard to have “friendships” with used the word “nigga” around me. Post-racial colorblindness was an aspiration of mine. I misquoted Martin Luther King, too.
But these portrayals of anti-Blackness deteriorated my spirit and connection to my Community. I felt aimless. When I began to embrace my anger and focus my energy on loving my People, my desire to protect the fragility of white people and their police officers waned. Being mentally and emotionally free from their white supremacist clutches has made me a stronger community organizer and activist. I am no longer afraid of law enforcement and can clearly envision a world without them. I can see my Liberation and I want my Community to see the same.
As Black people, we need not be tricked into believing that law enforcement is helpless and must be respected and protected at all times. We do not have to abide by their orders and protest in a manner that serves their best interests. Doing so isn’t protest at all; it’s complicity.
We must further be cautious of the good negroes who promote themselves as the mainstream voice of our Resistance. They are dangerous. They are the descendants of the enslaved who foiled slave rebellions. They are new age COINTELPRO informants.
The journey to Black Liberation is difficult. Liberation will require extreme divestment and abolition, and a massive cultural shift in how we engage with law enforcement. We will never defeat the violence of white supremacy if we are hugging its state agents. No matter how many white people tell us otherwise.
Arielle Newton aka Iniko is an organizer within the Movement for Black Lives, an Editor of RaceBaitR, and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of BlackMillennials.com. As Head Girl of Ravenclaw, she is an unapologetic mermaid, abolitionist, and radical militant freedom fighter.