Defund Police message in Madison WI

On “Defund the Police” and the Job of Alliance

Nobody cares if you think Black Lives Matter has branded correctly, or is using a slogan you don’t like. Black protesters tried a lot of other branding: “Please don’t kill us,” “I can’t breathe,” “Black Lives Matter.” The same thing you’re saying now has been said about all of it.

Imagine if allies stopped thinking it was our job to assess the messaging, and started thinking it was our job as allies to carry those messages forward regardless. The job of an ally in these situations isn’t to tell whoever we’re allied to how to run their own protests. It’s to aid in making the protests more effective and safer, however the marginalized group in question decides to run it.

It is not an ally’s job to assess or judge, or think ourselves qualified to rate or grade. Starting from the standpoint of thinking that we can do the job better than they can is an inherently supremacist argument. It’s soft, polite supremacy, sure, but it is supremacy nonetheless.

It normalizes the idea that ultimately, we’re the arbiter of what is appropriate or not in terms of how Black Lives Matter brands, takes action, communicates. It pretends that the idea of rating them and discussing that assessment with friends is some helpful, activist action, when all it does is play fantasy football with other people’s risk.

If Black Lives Matter wants the police de-funded because it saves their lives, are we really going to quibble over branding for the priorities of the people whose lives are at risk, whose shoes we’ve never walked in a day in our lives? Are we going to pretend we can communicate the needs they live every day of their lives in a way that’s inherently superior to the way they’ve decided to do it? Or are we going to show up for the job we’ve been asked to do and ensure that police are de-funded because it saves lives?

Imagine Black people pleading for their lives and telling us what the solution is, and then sitting back and discussing whether doing that in blunt terms is too inept or simple for our tastes. Putting it that way might help you realize how fucking baldly racist it comes off.

Our job isn’t to assess whether BLM’s messages work or not. Our job is to make those messages work the way Black activists have decided through their extensive knowledge, experience, and generations of sacrifice that have determined what these messages need to be.

Think that you know better than movements that have endured things you can’t imagine for generations? We do not know more than BLM. We do not know more than Black protesters about how Black protest needs to be shaped and conveyed. Ease off the ego trip. Recognize that as allies it’s our work that is needed. Our judgment is not work; it treats other people’s sacrifice as a sandbox. Judgment is not an effort; it does no work. Listen to what needs doing and then do it. That is effort, that is work, that is real alliance.

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