Q:”Do white people need to be voicing their opinions at all anymore? Should we just back off and ask, ‘where do you want me/how can I serve your movement?'”
This is a great question. White opinions can be tricky. I think the question is what do we have opinions on?
One thing I know is that we should not be telling communities of color how to process their anger, how to run their protests, what to do in their communities. White people do this all the time and it is super problematic.
Your statement of where do you want me/how can I serve your movement? is spot on! That said, we, as white folks, also need to take some initiative. I have seen this be a cop out for many people. If we continuously ask, “how can we serve?” that is putting the pressure back on people of color to tell us what to do. I kinda think of it like the kid who sees the dirty dishes and asks their parent to tell them how they can be of service. The parent is like, “you fool, do the dishes!”
There are things that we know we can do!
My favorite list (I love lists) is from Alternet. They asked some amazing activist and organizers “11 Things White People Can Do to Be Real Anti-Racist Allies“. The answers come from great folks such as, Brittney Cooper, co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, Andrea Lee Smith, co-founder INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Boarding School Healing Project and the Chicago chapter of Women of All Red Nations, and Daisy Hernández, author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir, Kenan Visiting Writer at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (and some other fab folks!) So read that and put those tips into action.
Joseph Osmundson and David J. Leonard have a great list on Huff Po my two favorite points they make are:
- If You See Injustice Occurring, Do Not Stand Silently or Walk on By. Do you see police officers engaging in a stop-and-frisk interaction? It turns out that it is entirely legal to film police interactions without interfering. Hold police accountable. Watch them. They may be less likely to engage in outright violence if they are being filmed. If not, the video can be critical evidence as police can claim that they were being assaulted, or charge disorderly conduct, when video evidence clearly refutes these claims. There are apps and organizations that accumulate these videos and data. Use them.
- When You Hear Racism From Your Community, Silence Is No Longer a Possibility. We know that it can be uncomfortable to speak up, but it is necessary. We know how white people can speak when no one else is in the room. We know how blatant racism can still be. We choose to speak, even if it is uncomfortable.
The question about our opinions. We all have opinions, the question is how does your opinion work in a system of oppression? Our opinions are often heard above opinions of people of color. Why? Because our whiteness gives us privilege. I have so many opinions. It is personally hard for me to hold them back sometimes. I have been working myself on looking around and seeing if my opinions are being treated like gold, opposed to a colleague or friend of color whose opinions are met with skepticism. In those situations I try to elevate my colleague or friend of color by helping steer the group back to her thoughts.
Final note for now on this. If someone else says something and you want to repeat it, repost it, build on it, CITE IT! White folks have been horrible at not citing where their ideas come from, especially in social media. If you repost something, make it clear that it is not your original thought. Give credit to the people of color, to the trans folks, to the women who are the original thinkers. Especially for us white guys, people will think we said it, remind folks who the original opinion, or thinker is.