White People and the Appropriation of Black Uprising Spaces

While we’re on the subject of uprisings, rebellion, and riots, let’s talk about white folks hijacking – at least in part – the current action in the streets of our cities:

Have you seen the video footage of #UmbrellaMan, the masked white man who instigated some of the first damage in Minneapolis, even as black protesters discouraged him? There are varying reports and speculation as to who he is (freelance agent provocateur, undercover law enforcement, white supremacist, or anarchist), but any which way this video is clear.

Speaking of anarchists, I have friends who are anarchists. Some are even Christian anarchists (and a compelling argument can be made that Christ himself was an anarchist). I don’t classify myself that way, but there are plenty of good people who do. My sense is that much of the amazing COVID-era mutual aid going on around the country is being done by anarchists. That is certainly true locally (h/t Birmingham Mutual Aid).

However, the small subset of white anarchists who violently escalate black protests to further their own political ends – further endangering black lives in the process – are exploiting black people and the cause of black liberation. This adds them to a long list of other white folks who exploit black people.

White anarchists who want to support the current uprising need to take their cues from black folks. If there are aspects of their agenda that do not coincide with the stated needs of black folks on the scene, they need to save those for a different space.

Taking advantage of unrest is also straight from organized militant white supremacy’s tactical playbook. I haven’t yet seen trust-worthy onsite documentation of white supremacist violent manipulation of these uprising spaces, but it is certainly plausible that they could be present and active. EDIT – check out link to comments from MSP activists in comments.

If you’ve seen other ways that you think white folks are hijacking the movement or the moment, you are invited to drop them in the comments. I am aware that that charge could be labeled at me. To that I can only respond that my longstanding focus in all of my work is on information and ideas that may be helpful to people who are trying to engage with integrity around these issues – not an agenda about myself or any institution, even my church.

IMPORTANT NOTE: my argument here is also not about further militarizing urban spaces in response. I’m also not taking a position in favor or opposing urban uprisings. My point is about white people not taking up space – and not taking violent actions – at the expense of black agenda, leadership, and bodies, whether that’s intentional or collateral damage.

I also would like to help people who are not familiar with contemporary anarchism to understand that it is no more a monolith than any other political movement – so it’s better neither to have a knee-jerk reaction to the term, nor to group all anarchists as the same in method or commitment.

This is the 3rd post in a series today – and an ongoing series that can be found under the tag race.