Silent Protest

I have had first hand experience with this type of protest and found myself rather frustrated and upset by people wanting to stay quiet while protesting against SB1070-type laws, “even if people say racist shit to you”. Fuck that. I also heard it when hanging a banner over a bridge with information about the May Day March and my brown comrades said the same thing, we are just as bad as them if we yell back. No, we aren’t.

We stand for justice, for people, we are fighting against exploitation, to free our people. They stand for hate, bigotry, white supremacy. We are not the same.

So why the silent protest? Where did this idea come from? I started thinking about it and thought maybe this tactic was once more militant than it is today, maybe nowadays people just use it to not seem as bad, when once it was used as a mighty tactic. I was right.

I looked up the history of the silent protest and found this article by the New York Times called A History of Making Protest Messages Heard, Silently.

This march took place in 1917 against the Ney York Police and their “question and frisk” policy. It was organized after the race riot in East Saint Louis where “Two shooting episodes in East St. Louis had set off a rampage by whites who swarmed into a black neighborhood, beating, stabbing and hanging blacks. At least 40 black and 8 white people were killed. By some accounts, 6,000 blacks were forced out of their homes.”

“The loud, noisy ones do call attention to themselves,” Professor Kornblum added, “but a silent protest evokes feelings of mourning and loss, a deprivation of rights, people who have lost their voice or withheld their voice. This creates a real effect on the bystander and on the people doing the marching.”

For folks protesting against these heinous crimes against black people, they wanted to show their mourning for their people, show their seriousness. Today this tactic is used to not be as bad as the white, bigots we protest against. I’m not down with that.

Atlanta

So here I am sitting in a cafe near my job. It’s a “Mexican Cantina” called No Mas, ironically. They play terrible spanish pop over and over. I can’t get this shit out of my head after leaving. It’s right on the corner of a street called Stonewall which is also ironic to me.

I dread coming everytime I come here, and I do it often right before work to get some coffee and get online before selling my labor down the street at another restaurant that is bullshit from the floor up. My restaurant is known for it’s history in the Civil Rights era. It was one of the first black clubs at nights, and many of the civil rights leaders used to meet up there to eat and talk. Now they hang pictures from black history ranging from MLK to Obama, the owners laughing it up with the Mayor of Atlanta, President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, and others. The people who come are black middle class church goers usually. Full of themselves and full of shit, they treat us like crap and then don’t tip. They expect fine dining, glasses and plates sit on the table when they walk up; high ceilings with ugly red chandeliers hanging, hip music like funk or soul playing, a full bar, and us running around in all black here to grant your every wish.

So here I am at No Mas, watching the sky get full of color from the sunset, drinking my Cafe de Olla and typing on the keys. This whole area is called Castleberry Hill. It was some kind of warehouse district before turning into lofts and cute boutiques and restaurants with overpriced, average tasting food and bars. It’s close enough to downtown but you don’t have to deal with as many homeless people here. The old warehouses were turned into lofts and condos. Near the train tracks there’s a park for dogs.

I can’t help but get disgusted by this place. Atlanta is in the midst of a whole city renewal. Out with the old and in with the new.. money that is. All the affordable housing is gone and the poor black folks are being pushed further and further out of the city. There is a new “beltline” being built which will connect the city with parks and walking and biking paths. How nice! Only problem is it is built on the land of poor black folks. Either they were pushed off the land it would be built on, and if that didn’t get em the prices of housing raise all along this beltline. So in the ads and videos of all the nice white people smiling and having a good time with their families and friends, they fail to show the families who have been kicked to the curb by society – literally.

While I work here I live in an area of town where going out and flyering to defend people’s homes and apartments means people telling you all the horror stories of their landlords, or someone they know. The city is in a state of crisis. The people are the only possibility for change.

The “n-word” word

This is a story I wrote up a while back around a conversation about white hip-hop artist, V-nasty, using the word nigga in her songs. This article is kinda dated now but basically V-nasty was given a hard time about saying nigga, even though this is a word she used in the bay and shit, it is part of her vocab, part of who she is. After a lot of pressure she said she would stop using it – a mistake I think. She could’ve and should’ve defended herself!

Black folks don’t have ownership on the word nigga. There are plenty of brown folks that use it, black folks, even white folks. Growing up I heard all kinds of people saying nigga and no one ever tripped about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in situations with black friends and a white stupid motherfucker will try to get away with saying it – not something they normally say but they think it’s cute to call a black person nigga – and they were called out for it. But no one tried to stop people who were down from talking the way they talk. It’s not until you get out of your own hood, like in V-nasty’s case – where the black and white liberals will say “hey! you can’t say that! that’s offensive!” and instead wanna say “n-word”.

Mistah F.A.B stood up to say “At the end of the day, if we’re talking about abolishing this word, then that’s something I can humble myself to. But if we’re talking about who can say [it], then we’ve got a whole lot of fighting to do,” he said. “Along today’s line of activism…Whites, Mexicans, Latins, Filipinos, Samoans, anybody else says ‘nigga’ more than African-Americans do. You could be like this, ‘You was at Sea World the other day? You see Seamu? That nigga Seamu is a fool’…where it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m racist for calling the whale a nigga?'” lol!
He also stands up for her here:

There is always a lot of conversation around this issue – people using the word nigga, or people “acting” black. For me being black is not a skin color, it is a state of mind. There are plenty of black folks who act just as white as white folks, and there are plenty of white folks who are down as hell!

For black liberation activist and theoretician Steve Biko “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.” Brown people – same goes!

So what is the deal with people tripping on V-nasty’s usage of the word nigga? This is who she is, this is how she talks. I think instead of trying to stop people from using the word nigga we should try to get people to stop using the word “n-word”. I think Louis CK makes a good case for it!:

When I started thinking more about this experience she was having it reminded me of my experience of living in Oregon. When I was 15 my family moved from LA to Oregon for about 9 months. I can’t remember all the reasons my dad decided to drag us to one of the whitest fucking places on earth but one of the reasons was we had an uncle there. I hated it. In LA all of my friends were either brown or black, my culture was a mix of chicanisma and black culture. Now I was in whitesville – and not just in color but in attitude – feeling so out of place and bonded with other black folks who felt the same way I did. Here is what I wrote as my reflection on my experience there:

When I was in LA I had a lot of black friends mainly, and brown friends. I went to Oregon for 9 months and went to high school there – super culture shock! I ended up being friends with two black chicks, two of a handful in the entire school! I would hang out at my friend Jessica’s house a lot. We would always rag on white people. We both felt a lot of alienation at that school standing out of these super pale people (literally and culturally). Jessica really struggled with it because she was really dark and poor. Chioma was more popular than us two – she was light skinned and was kind of a token black person. People would try to get a reaction out of her, get her to raise her voice or whatever, and they’d laugh and shit. It was ridiculous, super fucked up. Well, Jessica was way more low key but she struggled with not fitting in. Hence, we really bonded over talking shit about white people – the way they acted, the way they dressed, even the way they smelled!

So one day I was hanging at Jessica’s house and her mom started talking shit about white people. I joined in and she turned against me! She was like you’re white too. I was like what? No I’m not! She was like, you gotta be a little darker if you wanna roll with us. It really hurt my feelings and I couldn’t really come back with anything. I never once was called or considered white before. And to me this meant a whole lot more than just a skin color. I didn’t understand it very well at the time, but my attitude toward white people came from this alienation I was feeling there in Oregon. I had some white friends, but they were the “cool white people”.

Anyway, my point is, it is interesting how when you approach the world you do so from your experiences, who you are. But sometimes people don’t see you as the sum of your experiences. They take one look at you and put you in a box – what is acceptable for you to say, the way you should or do behave, etc. But in the case of Jessica’s mom, I think it also came from her own feelings of alienation being in Oregon. She just couldn’t see that I experienced that too. I feel like the argument against using the “n-word” is ignoring people’s experiences.