Yesterday, fast food workers walked off the job in some 190 cities as part of the campaign to raise the wage in the fast food industry to $15 an hour in the United States. People of color (black, latino, native) are disproportionately represented among minimum wage workers, victims of the justice system in all its forms, and the homeless population. What might it look like if those who organize for each concern were able to coordinate and combine their efforts?
Privilege is like an overstuffed backpack on a crowded subway train. Those who carry it rarely realize that just by going about their business without paying attention, and gently turning towards one way or another, they’re actually knocking over people behind them. Educated white people carry this privilege, and sometimes knock people over, whether they know it or not. Some who know what they carry choose to be extra careful not to bulldoze. Others enjoy hefting that weight around and taking up as much space as possible.
I’ve likened privilege to a backpack that knocks people over, but looking for an image to go with this post I came across the works of Peggy McIntosh who said “White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
Read her 1989 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”
Did you talk about Ferguson with your family over Thanksgiving? I did. Like most liberals, they’re sympathetic to civil rights issues but horrified by the looting and vandalism that’s taken place in response. I navigated this with two points of argument. First, I pointed out that there’s nothing unusual about the killing of Mike Brown; the only reason it’s still in the news (and being talked about at white dinner tables) is because the community response hasn’t been entirely peaceful.
Second, I brought it close to home and asked, “When Ireland fought for independence from Britain, would you tell the people fighting for freedom to follow the rules of the game laid down by their conquerors?” I added that in centuries recently passed, whenever Irish tenants attacked a landlord or his property, legislators would say “We are fighting for land reform in Parliament and your violent actions create anti-Irish sentiment that harms our efforts.” But without fear of violent uprising, most members of Parliament had no motive to pass land reform; it happened because rich people feared for their wealth and for their lives.
My points were seen. I love my family.
Thanksgiving afternoon, but I can’t stop thinking about the #IndictBoston action on Tuesday night. I’m thankful I was able to attend, and I’m thankful white people present seemed mindful of participating in the action without trying to direct it, make speeches, etc. I’m thankful to have been there when Daunasia Yancey yelled “white allies to the front” and that I was able to respond. I’m thankful that my eyeglasses got broken and not my skull. I’m thankful for the painkillers that are easing the back ache I walked away with. I’m thankful to have seen dozens of familiar faces at that march, most of them friends from Occupy Boston. I’m thankful for the honor of participating in that action, and I’m thankful that today I’ll be eating food with loved ones. But I’m thankful, also, that I won’t forget Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and millions more souls killed or incarcerated by state-sanctioned violence who won’t be eating a Thanksgiving meal today. I’m thankful, also, to be mindful today of this holiday in the context of white imperialism and native genocide. Am I happy? Am I sad? I don’t know, but I’m thankful.
Last night, I went to an action called #IndictBoston organized by Daunasia Yancey and the Boston chapter of Black Lives Matter. We where there not just to protest the decision not to indite Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, but to also challenge state-sanctioned violence in all its forms against people of color. We shut down several highway ramps in Boston and made a sustained and gutsy effort to physically break the police line on the ramp to I-93. That place is also the site of the South Bay House of Correction where protestors chanted to the prisoners, “We see you…black lives matter!” The prisoners seemed glad to be seen.
2014 Boston Anarchist Bookfair is Nov 23 and 24, and this will be my fourth year attending. Want to be placed on a DHS list with me and all the cool kids? Then I’ll see you there.
I’ve been riding the MBTA since before most of my friends were born, and it never used to suck so bad. My bus today into Boston took so long, at one point I almost forgot I was traveling and, instead, felt like I was living in an extremely crowded trailer home parked at the Dedham Mall. I could have read a book on that bus, if if been able to raise my arms to hold it. It was overcrowded because they run infrequently.
Mind you, almost anywhere you look on the MBTA — the stations, the subway interiors, the inside and outside of buses and trains — there are ads. Aren’t these public spaces? Don’t that station and vehicle, really, belong to you? Maybe you don’t want them to look like that. Why are they so underfunded? Your tax money is going somewhere. All this advertising revenue is going somewhere too.
Public transportation should be free. It should be ubiquitous. It should be awesome. Instead, the MBTA is a source of misery for its riders. When my ride finally got to Forest Hills, I asked that bus full of people “Are we actually at the station? I feel like I’ve been on this bus for ten years. Anyone else?” Dirty looks were the only response offered by my fellow passengers.