White people, even “allies,” always deserve suspicion

By Arielle Iniko Newton

On Friday, when pictures and video of tiki torch-wielding white supremacists appeared on social media, a cadre of Black people immediately called on white allies to put their bodies on the line to stand against explicit white supremacy.

I was unnerved that the visceral response from Black organizers and activists whom I’ve come to know and trust centered white involvement, instead of entrusting Black people to respond in ways we deem necessary and strategic.

Following the death of Heather Heyer, these calls for white solidarity quickly morphed into celebrations of white martyrdom. Some went so far as to suggest that, historically, some white people have done and risked more for Black Liberation than some Black people have, echoing the widely panned and flawed logic espoused by those who defended Rachel Dolezal and her extensively violent form of cultural appropriation.

Further, some of these Black people disassociated white supremacy from white people, and insisted that white supremacy was just as dangerous to white people as it is to Black folk, a position I find dishonest and a fundamental affront to Black people and our legacies.

In this line of thinking, I am reminded of Black people who desperately attempt to appeal to racist whites by illogically reasoning that once Black people get free, racists gain freedom too, once again conditioning our Liberation on whether or not it benefits our oppressors.

I will not link to these public declarations to which I am referring. My personal and individualized critiques of these responses best exist offline and in person, where disagreement about ideologies and principles are more digestible and not easily written off as performative call-out.

I accept that Blackness is not a universal declarative standard of values, and instead exists on a multi-dimensional field. We express our visionary politics in ways reflective and unique to our experiences and environments. Thus, in the wake of such a controversial and emotionally stirring incident, our subsequent responses will range from uninterested to revolutionary.

Yet, I am concerned with those who proclaim radicalism as their springboard for action but condemn radical voices that refuse, in any instance, to lionize whiteness. Black radicalism examines the root causes of white supremacy and does not seek to excuse, minimize, justify, or temper its tentacled methods and behaviors. Thus, a significant facet of my Black radicalism views all white people with nothing less than suspicion.

I suspect that a sizable majority of white people outraged by the events in Charlottesville are not fighting for Black Liberation; they are expressing discontent with explicit white supremacy. They do not wish to overthrow white supremacy in its totality; they seek to keep it wrapped up in euphemisms. White supremacy “#IsNot(Them)”— except it is.

I am even more suspicious of white people who do put their bodies on the line because they do so in a warped sense of self-interest. Many are actively involved with extensive pro-Black organizing because they believe their aspirational “freedom” is attached to ours — but it’s not.

White freedom relies on Black subservience. And when many come to this realization, that they will not see material benefit from Black Liberation, they abandon us and fully embrace white supremacy.

I’ve noticed that many of the Black people who called for us to consider white “allies” (or whatever name for them that is popular now) are embedded within the nonprofit industrial complex and/or the academy, associations that speak firmly to my suspicions of whiteness and its agents. I suspect the close affiliations that many Black self-proclaimed radicals have with monied whites influence these public unironic white-sympathizing sentiments.

We know that this is a longstanding quagmire within our community; that when we are compelled and coerced to rely on white people and their money and social capital for survival, we are tempered and controlled against ourselves.

For me, the only appropriate demand of white people is unconditional monetary reparations to actual Black people. I care little if they organize themselves to stand in front of neo-Nazis and fascists at protests, or if they fuck up Thanksgiving with talks of racial equity. I care not if they consider themselves allies, co-conspirators, or accomplices. I can recognize the tragedy of white supremacy killing one of its own, without posturing that there is a comparable relationship in how white supremacists kill Black people.

And it is my hope that fellow Black radical organizers, activists, and changemakers come to a similar way of thinking. Otherwise we will forever be stuck in a white-centered conundrum that will never get us free.


Arielle Newton aka Iniko is an editor at @RaceBaitR, an organizer within the Movement for Black Lives, and the founder of the Black Giving Fund. As Head Girl of Ravenclaw, she is an unapologetic mermaid, abolitionist, and radical militant freedom fighter.  

Follow her on Twitter at @arielle_newton or send her an email at arielle@racebaitr.com.

 

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  1. So just stay home and not protest?
    Even though this is finally bringing up issues white people need to examine in order to get justice for POC?

    You’re the one who also semi mocked the men who died in Oregon.
    You said they were trying to get the guy to “calm down” instead of fighting him.
    I get what you were saying, but the guy had a damn knife on him.
    Maybe you’d be happier if next time, ,people just stand around and do nothing.

    You make very good points, but you seem to be more concerned not so much about winning the fight, but how it’s done.

    In other words, you’re kind of a jerk

    • I don’t get the sense at all from this piece that the author thinks white people should stop fighting white supremacy, just that we shouldn’t expect that doing so will earn us any trust, praise, approbation or other cookies from Black folks, nor should we expect them to switch their focus to recruiting us, or teaching us, or helping us figure out what to do. Seems perfectly reasonable. If someone isn’t willing to do the work if they don’t reap any benefits from it (whether those benefits are their own “liberation” or recognition as “one of the good ones”) then they’re kind of just proving the author’s point.

  2. “a cadre of Black people immediately called on white allies to put their bodies on the line to stand against explicit white supremacy.
    I was unnerved that the visceral response from Black organizers and activists whom I’ve come to know and trust centered white involvement, instead of entrusting Black people to respond in ways we deem necessary and strategic.”

    So…you *don’t* want help? Many of us would really like to help, and not just from behind keyboards. (Also, you may have noticed the Nazis. Plenty of white folks have their own set of problems with those assholes.) Sorry if you don’t deem that “necessary and strategic.” I’m sure Roosevelt wasn’t crazy about working with Stalin, either, but it got shit done.

    “Some went so far as to suggest that, historically, some white people have done and risked more for Black Liberation than some Black people have, echoing the widely panned and flawed logic espoused by those who defended Rachel Dolezal and her extensively violent form of cultural appropriation.”

    Anyone who says “White people have done more than Black people for Black Liberation” is an asshole. But this argument comes off sounding like a classic FOX News straw man. “Some went so far as to suggest…” (Really? Who?)

    “…when we are compelled and coerced to rely on white people and their money and social capital for survival, we are tempered and controlled against ourselves.”

    I agree that whoever has the money and social capital one has to rely on for survival should be regarded with a certain amount of suspicion. And yes, today, in America, it’s (mainly) white people with the money and social capital. But would the problem magically go away if the whiteness did? Isn’t the color green more the problem?

    “I am concerned with those who proclaim radicalism as their springboard for action but condemn radical voices that refuse, in any instance, to lionize whiteness.”

    I don’t want to be lionized. Nor do I expect “subservience.” I just won’t feel safe, happy and free until you do. That being said, I am concerned with writers who do the “Look at me! I’m agitating!” – thing and call it “revolutionary.” Speaking of which…

    “White freedom relies on Black subservience. And when many come to this realization, that they will not see material benefit from Black Liberation, they abandon us and fully embrace white supremacy.”

    Seriously? We’re all Cassandra #*$ing Fairbanks? Come on. One attention-deprived white girl joining the Outrage Industry does not mean we’ve all got hoods in our closets. (And no, the “many” doesn’t save that sentence. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of cheap trick Cassandra #*$ing Fairbanks would use.)

    “For me, the only appropriate demand of white people is unconditional monetary reparations to actual Black people.”

    Is this supposed to be the shocking part? Well, I hate to break it to you, but…you’re right. Unconditional monetary reparations. I like it. I don’t think it’ll “solve white supremacy,” but it certainly seems fair.

    I know Outrage™ is good business, but it’s flawed thinking. You want to win a revolution? Use every tool at your disposal. Including us.

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