By Chelsea Neason
“Where are all the white people who want to help? You should join the front lines of protests and use your bodies to protect Black people!”
I’ve been seeing these words in various forms for a while now, particularly on social media. Even when the details—how exactly white allies should join the front lines, through donating or speaking out or whatever the case may be—change with the form of anti-Black violence we are being assaulted with at the time, it has been expressed in essence so often as to become trite.
Specifically during times when protests and riots are receiving national attention, the directive passionately thrown towards white “anti-racists” lurking in our periphery becomes more poignant: please shield us from anti-Blackness with your bodies.
It makes a lot of sense that with the current events in Charlottesville, VA this particular call is more visible. The “Unite the Right” rally was—is—a terrifying thing, a monster that never died and is yet resurrected from our ancestral memories in the form of pure fear.
Some of us may have thought that the world, on an inexplicably linear track, had “moved past” the time arbitrarily allocated to white men with loud voices, police collusion, torches and terror. Some of us already knew this linear track to be a myth, but still find that the pain and shock does not really get any easier for the knowing, but instead makes us downright apocalyptic.
“They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!'” — Rev. 6:16.
Like the people of the earth during the end of time in the book of Revelation, many of us have taken to calling for landslides in protection from the inexplicable and unthinkable. While an individual white person shielding a Black person from violence can be very useful on a case-by-case basis, there is a glaring issue that springs forth when this becomes the focal point of our collective energies and actions as an ultimate form of protection:
The only logical way for white shields to ultimately neutralize the violence is for their bodies to displace all of ours.
Why is there racial violence in the first place? It’s because Black bodies “attract bullets,” which is a very passive-voiced way of saying that it is our bodies that are always already under active attack, our bodies that need liberation.
Wherever there are black people, white pursuers will follow bringing the thunder and violence. Wherever we sit, wherever we stand, wherever we sleep, wherever we are isolated—and most certainly wherever we are congregated—white supremacy and its agents will surround, pursue, encapture and destroy. This is written into the very physics of the New World—especially in a settler-colonial state which is held together by perpetual anti-Black violence.
According to those same physics, white bodies disperse violence and bring empathy. Like soap in a dish of water and black pepper, the presence of whiteness can make anti-Black violence scatter, seemingly like magic. But it does not disappear. White people putting their bodies between ours and white supremacy would be a fascinatingly fantastic solution were it not for the fact that for the anti-Black violence to go, the Black people who are the targets of attack must go too.
White dispersal of violence and siphoning of empathy are not transitive properties. Whereas violence against white people can be negated rather than dispersed—as was the case for Heather Heyer, for whom a petition was created to have her statue replace Robert E. Lee’s after she was killed by a white supremacist—this is not how anti-Black violence works, family. If it did, there would be news stories and petitions circulating to immortalize the entire Black community in Charlottesville for surviving or dying within what is clearly an anti-Black environment for generations.
There is no sanctuary in whiteness. There is no protection in whiteness. Whiteness is the glaring surgical lighting above the mad-scientist operating table that is settler-colonialism. It is the helicopter searchlights in the night skies, piercing neighborhoods in search of fugitives. It is the torches, tiki or otherwise, carried by white supremacy to light its way to brutality. There are no white shields.
Since anti-Black violence is present wherever whiteness and Blackness are present together, the only way whiteness can bring peace is by displacing us. Displacing all of us. Whiteness attempting to stand between Black people and reconciliation with our attackers through violence is ultimately no salvation as long as these anti-Black physics are in place. Instead of seeking protection through white people, Black people would have to destroy these very basic fundamental laws—destroy the social world on the subatomic level—in order to unfreeze and free ourselves from it.
Chelsea Neason a quiet observer and planner, pushing herself to fall deeper into Blackness with time.