When I accidentally stumbled on a Charlottesville anti-racism rally that happened at Sasscer Park in SanTana this weekend, I felt like an uninvited guest at a primo‘s party. It was doubly strange for me and my friend, both organizers for Orange County Immigrant Youth United, when, for the most part, we know who is organizing what in our city. As we just got to the protest put together by Indivisible OC, Together We Will and the Orange County Racial Justice Collaborative, we saw some activists of color leaving disgruntled and annoyed. We wondered why?
Most of the people in attendance, aside from a few locals, were white residents of Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, and Fullerton. They held American flags, proudly sang patriotic anthems, wore glow stick headbands and bracelets, and took selfies with their Black Lives Matter banner (no one holding the banner was black). They had signs reading “Immigrants are Welcome Here” but argued with two Latino guys from a leftist organization (probably the only two people in the protest who are actually affected by white supremacy).
My friend and I asked ourselves, “Where are your brown and black organizers?” The absence of diversity bothered me. While I just recently found out the group hastily organized the gathering right after the tragedy in Charlottesville, why didn’t they do a tad bit of research to contact groups like ours who’d benefit greatly from a cathartic protest? “Why are you wearing glow sticks around your necks?” I asked the protesters. “Do the aesthetics of revolt coincide with those of Coachella?”
This is not a photo-op moment to gain social capital. This is our reality. We live in fear and the protesters won’t even take the streets.
They chanted “Our streets!” but walked on the sidewalk. They waited for the stoplight to march, because eventually they know that those same feet will walk them back home safely. I criticized the organizers of the march and we disagreed. One of the organizers said her protesters were not used to protesting in this fashion; that for them, peace and unity was the answer to race and class issues. And well, I couldn’t argue with that, because I’d be arguing with the textbook liberals, the moderates, the same people who overlooked deportations under the Obama Administration, and the list goes on.
As a Hispanic womxn who’d like to see the efforts of OCIYU and other marginalized community groups come to fruition, I plea to protesters to give your platforms to people of color affected by white supremacy. Make sure we’re comfortable and safe at protests. Resist the urge to tell people of color how to protest in the first place. Help our communities and protest gentrification. Donate to local groups who need money. Don’t make our struggle about your performance. And read real literature of our resistance.
Only then, will the politics of professed unity come with genuine solidarity.